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Name: Thompson v. Runnel
Case #: 08-16186
Court: US District Court
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/08/2010
Subsequent History: Opinion withdrawn 6/9/2011

A deliberate two-step interrogation strategy by police in which Miranda is administered post-confession may result in a Miranda violation for both pre and post statements by defendant. Following the stabbing death of the victim, Thompson was questioned at the police station. Only after he confessed was he advised of his Miranda rights. Following a second advisement after a night of confinement, Thompson assisted police by providing a re-enactment of the crime. At trial, the court suppressed Thompson’s statements made after the interrogation became custodial and before a first Miranda admonition was given, but admitted his re-enactment of the crime done after a second Miranda admonition was given. Thompson was convicted of first degree murder with a weapon and mayhem and sentenced to prison. Finding the factual situation presented here to be similar to that in Missouri v. Seibert (2004) 542 U.S. 600, the Ninth Circuit reversed. Although the State argued that the emergence of new Supreme Court authority following the denial of Thompson’s petition for review (i.e., Seibert) rendered Thompson’s claim unexhausted, the 9th Circuit disagreed. Seibert “was not such a fundamentally new rule that we should require re-exhaustion of a legal position already fully presented to the state court,” as was Thompson’s. Here, in a factual scenario similar to that of Seibert, the evidence supported the conclusion that the police deliberately withheld giving Miranda warnings until Thompson had confessed. When Thompson confessed, he had been at the police station for six to seven hours, the police had started the investigation, and Thompson was viewed as the prime suspect. Under the circumstances, the trial court’s suppression of the initial pre-Miranda confession was correct. Although Miranda warnings were then given midstream in the investigation and interrogation, absent requisite specific and curative steps, the Miranda advisements could not accomplish the intended effect of advising a suspect that he has tangible and real rights and can invoke them. Because Thompson had already incriminated himself, it was incumbent on the police to give an additional warning that explained the likely inadmissibility of the pre-warning custodial statements. Accordingly, it was error to admit the post-Miranda statements, as well as the pre-Miranda ones. The error was prejudicial as Thompson’s confession was the heart of the prosecution’s case.