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April 1987 Issue [Readings]

Supreme Court Material


From the December 1986 issue of the Champion, the journal of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Each month, the Champion publishes a column by Charles M. Sevilla, “Great Moments in Courtroom History,” from which the following exchange between a judge and an arresting officer was excerpted. The judge is attempting to ascertain whether a statement made by the defendant was voluntary.

judge: Mr. G. cooperated with you in every way?

officer: Very cooperative.

judge: And you had your gun out during this entire period?

officer: That is correct, sir.

judge: Where was the gun pointed, sir—at his stomach, midsection, head?

officer: It was nestled right down the back of his neck.

judge: Did you say anything to Mr. G., by the way, sir, concerning what would happen if he tried to move or get away?

officer: I said I would blow his head off.

judge: It was during this time, when Mr. G. had that .38 special cradled on the back of his neck, that you told him his rights under Miranda? Is that correct?

officer: Yes, sir.

the judge’s ruling: I think it is a very unusual circumstance to have a gun pointed at the back of someone’s head during the course of statement. No question . . .  that it raises a substantial question as to whether any statement was voluntary; however . . . I think the officer acted reasonably under the circumstances . . . . The defendant could just as well have said, “I have nothing to say,” and that would have been the end of it . . . . So I would not find the statement involuntary, even though a gun was pointed at the back of the defendant’s head.

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April 1987

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