Maryland’s top court Tuesday unanimously overturned a young man’s felony-murder conviction because his confession came only after police had questioned the 16-year-old for hours and denied more than a dozen of his requests to call his mother.
The Court of Appeals assailed as “deliberate and unreasonable” the seven hours Khiry Montay Moore was in custody without being brought before a magistrate.
The delay was clearly — and unconstitutionally — designed to obtain an incriminating statement from the teenager, the court said in its unanimous decision.
Moore eventually told police he had accidentally shot 18-year-old Maurice Powell near the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro Station a week and a half earlier.
A videotape of Moore’s confession was played at his 2008 trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, where a jury convicted him of felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and using a handgun in a violent crime. He was sentenced to life in prison, with all but 80 years suspended.
The Court of Special Appeals last year upheld the confession, noting that Moore had signed a waiver of his Miranda rights and that, after police finally told him he could call his mother, his first call was to his girlfriend. The intermediate court also said police were justified in denying Moore’s requests to call his mother because they were seeking a warrant to search her home for the gun and did not want to alert her.
But the Court of Appeals, in ordering a new trial, said the “totality of the circumstances” of Moore’s interrogation — particularly the hours he spent under questioning — rendered his confession invalid.
A minor’s request to speak to a parent “does not constitute an invocation of the right to remain silent,” retired Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. wrote for the high court. However, a denial of that request goes toward the determination of whether a confession was voluntary, he added.
“The record clearly shows that [Moore] did not make an inculpatory statement until long after he should have been brought before a judicial officer,” Murphy wrote. “Under these circumstances, the circuit court erred in determining that petitioner’s inculpatory statement was voluntary.”
Prosecutors will be barred from introducing Moore’s confession at his retrial, as well as any evidence that derived from that confession, the high court said.
Brian S. Kleinbord, who heads the criminal appeals division of the Maryland attorney general’s office, was reviewing the decision late Tuesday afternoon, office spokesman David Paulson said. Moore’s appellate attorney, Assistant Maryland Public Defender Allison Brasseaux, also declined to comment.
Moore’s ordeal began around 1 a.m. on March 21, 2007, when he was arrested by Prince George’s County police officer James Seger. Moore had an outstanding arrest warrant in Powell’s killing, which had happened 10 days earlier, the high court said.
Moore arrived at the police station at about 2 a.m., at which time he waived his Miranda rights. Police began by asking for background information and showing him photographs of his suspected co-defendants, whom Moore said he had never seen. At 3:20 a.m. police asked Moore about the shooting, and he denied any involvement.
About two hours later, with Moore still at the police station, officers told him that multiple people had placed him at the scene of the killing. He continued to deny being the shooter.
At 8:05 a.m., Moore admitted he shot Powell. Eight minutes later, he was told he could call his mother, as he had asked to do 13 times in the prior five hours.
In finding the confession inadmissible, the Court of Appeals said it considered “the heavy weight assigned to the deliberate and unreasonable delay to which petitioner was subjected after he denied that he participated in the crime … the crucial factor of petitioner’s age and … the very important factor that petitioner requested to speak with his mother.”
WHAT THE COURT HELD
Khiry Montay Moore v. Maryland, CA No. 113 Sept. Term 2010. Reported. Opinion by Murphy, J., retired. Argued April 7, 2011. Filed Oct. 25, 2011.
Is a 16-year-old’s confession admissible if given after a long interrogation and repeated denials of the teen’s request to speak with his mother?
No; despite a signed waiver of the teen’s Miranda rights, the “totality of the circumstances” shows that the confession was not voluntary.
Allison Brasseaux for petitioner; Cathleen C. Brockmeyer for respondent.
RecordFax # 11-1025-22.