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United States v. Carroll

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 1, 2015

RYAN CARROLL, et al., Defendants.


EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.


On October16, 2008, at roughly nine o'clock in the morning, Ryan Carroll was awakened by Shayla Gearin. Gearin was Carroll's girlfriend at the time, and Carroll was living with her in her parents house in Lynnwood, Washington. Gearin awoke Carroll at the behest of Detectives Cheryl Franco and Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Police Department - who had awoken Gearin by knocking on the door to her house. Franco and Hanson asked Gearin and Carroll if they "would be willing" to join them at the Lynnwood police department for a brief conversation. Gearin told the officers she would not speak with them without her attorney present. The detectives respected Gearin's insistence on having counsel, and provided her with a phone with which to call her attorney. Gearin's attorney asked to speak with Franco, and told Franco he would bring Gearin to the department within an hour. After deliberating with Gearin about whether he should go down to the department without her, Carroll decided it would be "cool." Carroll did not have an attorney and did not insist on having one present. Franco explained to Carroll that things would go "quicker and smoother" if they could talk with him while waiting for Gearin. "[T]hat way when [Gearin] gets [to the department] you'll be done probably." Carroll accepted Franco and Hanson's invitation, and their offer to give him a ride to the department.

Carroll arrived at the department around 9:30 am. There a plain-clothed Lynnwood police officer - Jeff Mason - joined with Franco and Hanson to escort Carroll to a room where the conversation could commence[1]. The room was located on the second floor of the department, in a secured area where unauthorized personnel were not permitted to roam unescorted. Once they arrived, Franco, Hanson, and Carroll crowded themselves into the seven-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot room. Mason stationed himself outside the door to guard against any unauthorized "wandering."

Carroll answered Hanson and Franco's questions inside the interrogation room for the next three hours. At that point Hanson said he would "give" Carroll a "break" while they spoke with Gearin. Hanson specified that Carroll could take that break in the lobby, or potentially smoke a cigarette outside, but made it clear that Carroll was needed for further questioning. After about eighty minutes, Carroll was brought back to the interrogation room for questioning. The interrogation turned accusatory quickly; within ten minutes the officers confronted Carroll with evidence that implicated his involvement in the killing of Rana. From there, Franco repeatedly accused Carroll of being at the scene of the crime, stealing Rana's belongings, and destroying evidence of the murder. When Carroll denied it, Franco told him to stop lying. The accusations and questioning continued for the next hour and a half, at which point the officers agreed to feed Carroll his first meal of the day. Carroll asked to have lunch with his girlfriend multiple times. The officers did not heed his requests. Instead, they took him to a local Jack-In-The-Box for forty minutes, then returned him to the interrogation room for further questioning. All told, Carroll's second interrogation of the day lasted four hours, during which Carroll made numerous incriminating statements.

Carroll now moves to suppress those statements because (1) the officers failed to inform him of his Fifth Amendment rights prior to his custodial interrogation; and (2) his statements were involuntary.


A. Miranda Violation

The Constitution requires that a person be advised of certain rights if they are "in custody" and "subjected to interrogation." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467-468. The government's failure to provide such advisements renders statements made by a person during a custodial interrogation inadmissible. See id.

Here, the parties do not dispute that the detectives (1) failed to provide Carroll with a Miranda warning; and (2) interrogated Carroll within the meaning of Miranda. Thus, the question of whether Carroll's statements must be suppressed turns on whether Carroll was in "custody" at the time he made them.

In determining whether an individual was in custody, a court must inquire as to whether "a reasonable person would have felt that he or she was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave." Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112 (1995). If, considering the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would not feel free to leave the interrogation, then the interrogation was custodial. United States v. Kim, 292 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2002). Generally, a reasonable person would not feel free to leave if "something [is] said or done by the authorities, either in their manner of approach or in the tone or extent of their questioning, which indicates that they would not have heeded a request to depart or to allow the suspect to do so." United States v. Hall, 421 F.2d 540, 545 (2d Cir. 1969); see also Dyer v. Hornbeck, 706 F.3d 1134, 1143 (9th Cir.2013) (M. Smith, J., concurring) (explaining that circumstances and authorities' psychological pressure created custody, despite the fact that detainee was aware of her physical ability to leave during an unescorted bathroom break or out of an unlocked door of the interrogation room).

The Ninth Circuit has set forth the following non-exhaustive list of factors that are particularly relevant to the custody inquiry: "(1) the language used to summon the individual; (2) the extent to which the defendant is confronted with evidence of guilt; (3) the physical surroundings of the interrogation; (4) the duration of the detention; and (5) the degree of pressure applied to detain the individual." Kim, 292 F.3d at 973 (quoting United States v. Hayden, 260 F.3d 1062, 1066 (9th Cir. 2001)) (internal quotations omitted). Other factors may also be "pertinent to, and even dispositive of, the ultimate determination whether a reasonable person would have believed he could freely walk away from the interrogators." Id. at 974.

Here, Carroll was subjected to interrogation for two discrete periods of time. First, he was interrogated from approximately 9:30 am to 12:11pm. After a break lasting nearly eighty minutes, the detectives resumed their interrogation of Carroll from about 1:30pm to 5:30pm. In determining whether Carroll was in custody ...

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