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Name: Garcia v. Long
Case #: 13-57071
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 12/21/2015

Defendant who answered “no” after receiving Miranda warnings and after being asked if he wanted to talk to a detective unambiguously and unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent and was entitled to federal habeas relief. After Garcia’s step-granddaughter reported that Garcia had molesting her for years, detectives questioned him. A detective read Garcia his Miranda rights and asked, “Okay, now having [your Miranda rights] in mind, do you wish to talk to me?” Garcia’s complete answer was “no.” However, the detectives continued to ask Garcia “clarifying” questions and they ultimately elicited a lengthy confession and apology letter. At Garcia’s trial for multiple offenses related to the molestation, the court denied his motion to suppress his statements. The prosecution played the entire interview for the jury and Garcia was convicted. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Garcia’s “no” response was equivocal under the circumstances of the interrogation. The California Supreme Court denied review. Garcia filed a federal habeas petition and the district court granted relief. The State appealed. Held: Affirmed. An unambiguous and unequivocal Miranda invocation “cuts off” questioning—even questioning intended to clarify that the accused is invoking his Miranda rights. (Smith v. Illinois (1984) 469 U.S. 91, 98.) Here, Garcia unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent and the context of the whole interrogation did not change this. The state appellate court’s use of Garcia’s statements to call his initial “no” into question was contrary to and an unreasonable application of clearly established U.S. Supreme Court law. The state court’s decision was also based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. The error was not harmless under Brecht v. Abrahamson (1993) 507 U.S. 619.