Friday, August 15, 2014

COA - AKM - Right against self-incrimination during school questioning

A.K.M. v. Commonwealth, 212-CA-1190 (not yet final)(not to be published): 

AKM was interrogated twice while at school regarding an alleged theft of $20-$40 from the teacher’s lounge.  The first interrogation was conducted by the school principal while an officer, who was at the school initially on an unrelated matter, was in the next room. After AKM admitted to taking the money to the Principal, he was brought to the police officer who informed him of his Miranda rights and questioned him again, yielding a second confession. During the second interrogation AKM repeatedly stated that he did not want to tell on himself.  

The Appellant raised several issues on appeal, including that the first interrogation violated Miranda under N.C. and Welch because the purpose of the questioning was to gather evidence for a criminal prosecution, that the second confession was tainted and coerced, and that the Appellant asserted his right to remain silent during the second interrogation.  The Court of Appeals found that Miranda warnings were not necessary for the first interrogation because, distinguishing from N.C., the principal was “acting only as a principal investigating a school disciplinary matter” and there was no evidence that the principal was acting in concert with the police officers.  As to the second interrogation, the Court found that AKM was in custody at the time of the police interrogation and had invoked his right to remain silent by stating, “I don’t want to tell on myself” and that continued questioning violated the 5th amendment.  The Court found this statement to be a clear articulation of the desire to remain silent and reversed.  Judge Thompson wrote the opinion with Dixon concurring and Caperton dissented (no written dissenting opinion).

Contributed by Renee VandenWallBake