Pace Law School Professor Bennett Gershman, an expert on criminal procedure and ethics, is available to speak to the press about Howes v. Fields, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“The Miranda decision once again is before the Court, this time in the context of an interrogation of a prison inmate by police deputies who did not first warn the defendant of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, and after which he confessed to having sex with a child. This confession was used to convict him, and he was sentenced to prison for up to fifteen years.
The Court in another case decided last term involving Miranda custody (JDB v. North Carolina) held that a minor’s age should properly be considered in determining whether he was in custody. The defendant in the present case — Howes v. Field — was isolated from the general prison population and questioned by police for 7 hours before he confessed. Although some lower courts have held that the mere fact that a person being questioned is a jailhouse inmate does not necessarily trigger Miranda warnings, as long as the confinement is de minimis, or there is some nexus between the questioning and his confinement. But in the present case, the very long duration of interrogation, the fact that the defendant was isolated from the prison population, and the fact that there was no nexus between his confinement and the subject matter of the interrogation suggest that the Court will find that the failure to advise him of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney violates Miranda and will doom his conviction.”