Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hook v. Anderson

The Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed an earlier panel decision and held today that the police can make a limited inquiry of a suspect held in custody who has asked for a lawyer when the police are informed by a third party that the suspect has changed his mind and wishes to make a statement. In this case, the third party was the suspect's mother.

While Hook v. Anderson is a habeas case, the petitioner sought relief more than a year before AEDPA became law. Therefore, the Court dealt with the question of law "old-school" style; arguing about the true meaning of Edwards v. Arizona as a question of law. While it was fun to read, it is a relic of a bygone era - there can't be many more petitioners in the pipeline who got their case into Federal court under the AEDPA bar and whose appeals are still pending. Nevertheless, here is the penultimate paragraph from this decision:

The Constitution protects a suspect from official coercion -- it does not protect a suspect from
himself or his mother. Van Hook asked for a lawyer but later changed his
mind and wanted to talk with the police, as he had the right to do.
Whether he then directly told the police himself or instead indirectly
communicated it through his mother and subsequently confirmed it himself is
of no constitutional moment.

And for those keeping score - the opinion has three dissents. I'll leave it to the experts to say more. :)