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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ninth Circuit: Double Negatives Don't Matter

In an opinion sure to shock the conscience of grammar enthusiasts around the nation, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a defendant's statement, "I don't want to talk no more," was a plain invocation of the defendant's right to silence.

The opinion is Jones v. Harrington, and you can read the whole thing here.

The defendant, Kevin Jones Jr., was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a shooting. During his interrogation, Jones made several inconsistent statements. From the opinion:

As detectives continued to press Jones about his implausible story, the following exchange occurred:
Jolivette: Kevin, do you think -- why don't you stop this man. 
Jones: All right. 
Jolivette: Stop this. The thing is you drove a car, it shows that on the tape and that's all I'm going to put down, as far as what you were doing. You drove the car. You just didn't know it was going to happen like that. Kevin, sit up, man. 
Jones: I don't want to talk no more, man. 
Jolivette: I understand that, but the bottom line is -- 
Jones: You don't want to hear what I'm telling you. 
Jolivette: I'm so sorry.  I can't -- you're mumbling, you got to speak up.  I got bad hearing. 
Jones: I'm telling you all.
From there, questioning continued as normal, and eventually Jones made incriminating statements. (emphasis in original)

The Ninth Circuit concluded that the officers violated clearly established law by continuing to interrogate Jones after he invoked his right to remain silent. The court concluded that Jones's request to remain silent was "unambiguous on its face," and "the only statements that could cast any ambiguity on Jones's initial invocation were statements he made after the fact" -- that is -- after officers continued to question Jones.

"Unambiguous on its face?" That's some pretty disturbing reasoning in light of Jones's statement, the wording of which indicated that he DID want to talk MORE in light of the two negative qualifiers cancelling each other out. But I guess that's the Ninth Circuit for you.

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