Maryland Court of Appeals Throws Out Confession

In a 5-2 opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals found that a man’s confession of sexual abuse of his own son was inadmissible. The Maryland high court tossed the confession because his request for an attorney after the first of two interrogations was never granted, despite the fact that two years and seven months had passed after the first and before the second interrogation from police.

Making a long sick story short, the man apparently was already at Hagerstown for one sexual offense; they interrogated him about one child and then over two years later interrogated him about another child.

In his dissent, Judge Harrell wrote that two years in a correctional facility constitutes a break in custody. Judge Harrell also contended that under the majority’s opinion, police will essentially be “strictly liable for failure to discover that a suspect previously had invoked the Fifth Amendment right to counsel in connection with any outstanding criminal investigation.”

I doubt Judge Harrell is right that anyone would will interpret this holding that way. (Maybe I’m kidding myself.) But I certainly think Judge Harrell is on the right side of this issue. I really do understand, as much as it pains me, the idea that we have to let guilty people go to uphold the integrity of the system.

If you took an opinion poll of Marylanders as to how this case is going to be decided, 98% are going to keep this confession. I understand that we don’t run our judicial system by opinion poll and there is a very good reason for that. But when reasonable arguments can be made on both sides – and Judge Harrell is making quality legal arguments that the opinion is a disaster – shouldn’t the tiebreaker be in favor of protecting our children?