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Name: Mays v. Clark
Case #: 12-17189
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 12/08/2015

Murder suspect who asked detectives to call his step-dad to arrange for his lawyer to be present during custodial interrogation unambiguously invoked right to counsel. Police suspected Mays murdered Scott. During Mays’s custodial interrogation, Mays said, “My – my step-dad got a lawyer for me . . . . I’m going to – can – can you call him and have my lawyer come down here?” The detectives did not call Mays’s step-dad and continued to interrogate him. They ultimately administered a fake polygraph test. When confronted with the fake results, Mays made incriminating statements. At his trial for first degree murder, Mays moved to suppress his statements, but the trial court denied the motion. The jury convicted Mays, the Court of Appeal affirmed, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Mays sought federal habeas relief. The district court denied the petition and Mays appealed. Held: Affirmed. If a suspect invokes his right to counsel during custodial interrogation all questioning must cease. (Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436.) In Davis v. United States (1994) 512 U.S. 452, 459, the Supreme Court clarified that a suspect’s request for counsel must be unambiguous and unequivocal from the perspective of a reasonable officer in light of all the circumstances. The Ninth Circuit found that Mays’s statement to detectives to call his step-dad to “have my lawyer come down here” was an unambiguous and unequivocal invocation of his right to counsel. The Court of Appeal unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it concluded otherwise. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit agreed that habeas relief was not warranted because the Miranda violation was harmless under Brecht v. Abrahamson (1993) 507 U.S. 619, 637, due to eyewitness and other testimony that identified Mays as the shooter.