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Name: Martinez v. Cate
Case #: 15-16433
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/11/2018

Petitioner was entitled to federal habeas relief because the California Court of Appeal unreasonably applied clearly established federal law in concluding a detective honored the petitioner’s request for counsel during a custodial interrogation. Martinez and a codefendant were arrested after the shooting death of a rival gang member. In the interview room, the detective read Martinez his Miranda rights and Martinez invoked his right to have an attorney present. The detective said he would be unable to contact his attorney at that time and, because Martinez wanted his attorney present, the detective said he had no other option but to book him for murder. Martinez said he did not want to go to jail and that he would tell the truth if that helped him walk away. Martinez made incriminating statements, and a jury later convicted him of murder and active participation in a gang. After exhausting state remedies, he filed a habeas petition in the federal district court, which was denied. He appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. Once an accused invokes the right to counsel, he is not subject to further interrogation until counsel has been made available to him unless the accused himself initiates further communication with the police. (Edwards v. Arizona (1981) 451 U.S. 477, 482.) The functional equivalent of interrogation is defined as any words or actions on the part of the police that they should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the defendant. Here, the detective causally linked Martinez’s assertion of his constitutional right to the detective’s decision to book him for murder. The detective should have known that his statement was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. Because the detective continued to interrogate Martinez after he invoked his right to counsel, the detective violated the rule from Edwards. The California Court of Appeal unreasonably applied this clearly established rule when it concluded there was no violation.

Defendant did not initiate further communication or voluntarily waive his previously-invoked right to counsel. Even if an Edwards violation has been established, the statement may nonetheless be admissible if (1) the defendant initiated further communication with the police and (2) voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his previously-invoked right. In every case where the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a defendant initiated the communication with the police, there was some break in questioning. Here, the conversation between Martinez and the detective never stopped, so there was no “re-initiation” of the conversation. Further, Martinez’s question about what the detective wanted to talk about was a direct response to the detective’s assertion that he had to book Martinez for murder because he would not talk. Martinez was still trying to assert his right to counsel as the detective “peppered him with questions.” Based on the record, the only reasonable conclusion was that Martinez’s waiver was not voluntary. Because Martinez’s improperly-admitted statements “were the backbone of the state’s argument against self-defense,” their admission clearly prejudiced Martinez and likely affected the verdict. The judgment was reversed and the case remanded with directions to grant Martinez’s federal habeas petition if the prosecution does not elect to retry him. [Editor’s Note: On 10/12/2018, the federal district court issued a conditional writ ordering Martinez’s release unless the state initiates proceedings to retry him within sixty days.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: