People v. Neal (2003)

In People v. Neal (2003) 31 Cal.4th 63, the California Supreme Court was faced with truly extraordinary circumstances. There, a law enforcement officer threatened the defendant and intentionally continued to question him even though he had invoked his right to counsel nine times. The officer then placed the defendant in custody overnight without access to counsel, and without food, drink, or toilet facilities. The following morning the defendant was questioned again, and he confessed. (Id. at p. 68.) The California Supreme Court ruled that the repeated Miranda violations, the threats, and the circumstances of the defendant's confinement combined to render his confession involuntary. (Id. at pp. 81-85.) The 18-year-old defendant did not have extensive experience with legal matters, failed to graduate from high school, and had "quite low" intelligence. (Id. at p. 84.) In addition to these circumstances, there was evidence that, after his arrest, he "was placed in a cell without a toilet or a sink, he did not have access to counsel or to any other noncustodial personnel, he was not taken to a bathroom or given any water until the next morning, and he was not provided any food until some time following the third interview, after more than 24 hours in custody and more than 36 hours since his last meal." (Ibid.) More importantly, he asked to speak with a lawyer, but the detective refused. The court concluded that the totality of the circumstances indicated that the confessions were involuntary. (Id. at p. 85.) In People v. Neal (2003) there was no break in custody. During a properly Mirandized interview, defendant, an immature 18-year-old with minimal education and low intelligence, repeatedly invoked his right to counsel and to remain silent, but police continued questioning him at length promising him leniency if he cooperated. (Id. at pp. 73, 78.) Defendant was then arrested, placed in a jail cell, and held incommunicado overnight without food, water, or any opportunity to use the bathroom. The next day, defendant agreed to talk, was again given his Miranda rights, and proceeded to confess. (Id. at p. 74.) He remained in custody and not until after a third interview several hours later, was he given anything to eat--"after more than 24 hours in custody, and more than 36 hours since his last meal." (Id. at p. 76.) The Court held that a statement is involuntary when "it 'was " 'extracted by any sort of threats . . . [or] obtained by any direct or implied promises, however slight' " ' " (People v. Neal, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 79), the circumstances leading to the defendant's involuntary confession included "the officer's deliberate violation of Miranda; defendant's youth, inexperience, minimal education, and low intelligence; the deprivation and isolation imposed on defendant during his confinement; and a promise and a threat made by the officer." (Id. at p. 68.) The officer "continued interrogation in deliberate violation of Miranda in spite of defendant's invocation of both his right to remain silent and right to counsel" (id. at pp. 80-81) approximately seven to 10 times, promised to "make it as best as I can for you" if the defendant confessed, and threatened that "the system is going to stick it to you as hard as they can" if he did not. (Id. at p. 81.) The defendant in that case made his confession only "after a night in custody without access to counsel or other noncustodial personnel and without food or drink or toilet facilities." (Id. at p. 82.)