The court of appeals reversed a district court judgment denying a petition for writ of habeas corpus. The court held that the California Court of Appeal unreasonably concluded that detectives did not violate a 14-year old suspect’s Miranda rights when they continued to question him after he asked for a lawyer, and later badgered him into revoking that request.
Fourteen-year old Jessie Rodriguez was arrested as a suspect in a fatal drive-by shooting. During a recorded interrogation, Rodriguez asked for an attorney. The detectives agreed, but then promptly told Rodriguez that he was going to be charged with murder. One detective explained that he had “tried to give [Rodriguez} the opportunity to straighten things out,” but since Rodriguez had asked for an attorney, there was nothing else he could do for him. The detectives then showed Rodriguez a photograph of the apparent target in the drive-by shooting, who had survived, and twice asked Rodriguez if he recognized him. Rodriguez answered “no.” After being booked, Rodriguez agreed to speak with the detectives. During that interview, which was not recorded, Rodriguez wrote out a statement confessing to being the shooter. He was tried as an adult and convicted of murder and attempted murder, and sentenced to 84 years to life in prison. The judgment was upheld on appeal, and Rodriguez’s state habeas petition was denied.
The district court denied Rodriguez’s petition or writ of habeas corpus.
The court of appeals reversed, holding that Rodriguez’s written confession was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. The California Court of Appeal credited the detectives’ version of events over that of Rodriguez, and concluded that the detectives honored Rodriguez’s invocation of his right to counsel. The videotape and transcript of the first portion of Rodriguez’s interrogation rebutted that factual determination by clear and convincing evidence. The transcript and videotape reflected that the detectives did not cease their interrogation when Rodriguez invoked his right to counsel, but instead advised him that he was going to be charged with murder and then explicitly asked him about the case. This express questioning was clearly custodial interrogation in violation of Rodriguez’ right to counsel. The state court’s finding to the contrary was unreasonable. Reviewing the remaining issues de novo, the court concluded that Rodriguez’ subsequent waiver of his right to counsel was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Rodriguez was 14 years old, had a “borderline” I.Q. of 77, and suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His age and intellectual limitations made him particularly susceptible to suggestion and coercion. Additionally, the detectives pressured Rodriguez to talk by suggesting that cooperation would result in leniency. They effectively told Rodriguez that he would be penalized if he exercised his constitutional rights. Because this pressure followed Rodriguez’s invocation of his right to counsel, it constituted “badgering” in direct violation of Miranda and Edwards. In the absence of any physical evidence linking Rodriguez’s to the crime, the court found the erroneous admission of Rodriguez’s confession was not harmless.