On January 22, 2013, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided Rashid v. State [i] which among other things, involved the admission in court of a recorded conversation between the suspect and family members in the police interview room after a Miranda violation. The facts of Rashid, taken directly from the case are as follows:
Rashid immigrated to the United States from Pakistan following the death of his wife. After he remarried, his four children, including Kanwal, emigrated from Pakistan and began living with him. Upon the insistence of Rashid, in 2005 Kanwal married her first cousin in order to permit the cousin entry into the United States. The cousin arrived in Georgia in 2008, stayed briefly with Rashid and his family, and then moved to Chicago without Kanwal. Kanwal contacted an attorney to seek a divorce. When Kanwal’s family learned of her intention to divorce her cousin, the family “started to force her not to do anything, not to leave the house, not to go and work. Trying to cut her off from everything.” Kanwal and Rashid argued frequently. Kanwal asked a friend to “try and get her out of the house” and to take her to a physician so that she could attempt to convince her father that she was not having any affairs and that she was not pregnant. In a telephone call to the friend, Kanwal confided that Rashid had found out that she filed for divorce, and that she feared her family would “take measures against her,” including poisoning her food.
On July 6, 2008, Clayton County police responded to a 911 call at Rashid’s residence. One of Kanwal’s brothers told the responding officer that he thought Kanwal was dead inside the house because Rashid told him so. The officer found Rashid sitting on the ground behind a vehicle in the driveway, and asked him what had happened. Rashid responded that his daughter was dead, and when the officer inquired how she died, Rashid “dropped his head down between his legs.” The officer entered the home, which had an acrid smell like that given off from an electrical or plastic burn, and discovered Kanwal’s body in an upstairs bedroom; there were darkened marks around her neck. Remnants of a burned cord were found in the garage. At the scene, Rashid appeared to suffer a medical emergency and was taken to a hospital. Following his release from the hospital, Rashid was transported to the police department where detectives conducted a videotaped interview of him with the aid of an interpreter fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. Rashid’s statements during the interrogation were ultimately suppressed based upon the trial court’s finding of a Miranda violation.
At the conclusion of the police questioning, Rashid asked to speak with his family. The recording equipment in the interview room was still on when Rashid met with family members. Rashid, speaking in Urdu and Punjabi, repeatedly admitted to killing his daughter because she was defying him by pursuing a divorce, stating, inter alia, “I could not tolerate it, that my daughter confronted me in this way.” Describing the act of the murder itself, he said, “There was no noise; those who want to get things done, do it silently.” He further explained, that had his daughter survived his attack, “she was so filthy, she would have put me in jail.” Multiple times he expressed his belief that he had done the right thing by killing his daughter because she was bringing dishonor to herself, to him, and to the entire family. [ii]
The statements that Rashid made to his family in the police interview room were admitted in court and Rashid was convicted of malice murder. He later appealed, among other things, the admission of that recorded conversation at trial. Rashid argued that his statements to his family in the interview room should not be admitted because (1) he possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the interview room under the Fourth Amendment when he was speaking only to his family and (2) because the statements were the fruit of the poisonous tree based upon the police interview which was later held to be a Miranda violation.
Issue One: Did Rashid have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the police interview room as he spoke to his family?
Regarding this issue, the court first noted that to establish a Fourth Amendment violation, Rashid must establish (1) that he had a personal or subjective expectation of privacy and (2) that his expectation of privacy is one that society is willing to protect.
Then, noting that there was no similar case in Georgia directly on point, the court looked at cases from which analogies could be drawn. The court observed that in Burgeson v. State [iii], they previously held that statements made in the back of a police car were admissible because a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy at that location. The court in Burgeson, noted that a police car is much like a jail cell where no reasonable expectation of privacy exists.
Rashid argued that the intimate subject matter of the conversation gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his case. To this the court stated:
[T]his confuses the demonstration of a subjective expectation of privacy and the reasonableness thereof. While the subject-matter of the defendant’s statements might evidence a subjective expectation of privacy, the location in which the incriminating statements were made, and other circumstances surrounding the conversation determine the reasonableness of that expectation. See Preston v. State, 282 Ga. 210, 214 (4) (647 SE2d 260) (2007). There is no evidence that the police did anything to foster a belief that Rashid’s conversation with his family would be private. In fact, Rashid requested the family meeting without any prompt from law enforcement. Furthermore, Rashid had admitted committing the murder to police and plainly knew that what he had done was against American law and that he was subject to punishment for his crime. In fact, he was handcuffed in the interview room throughout the conversation with his family, further evidencing the reality of his custody and the unreasonableness of any expectation of privacy. [iv]
As such, the court held that Rashid did not possess a reasonable expectation of privacy in the interview room during the private conversation with his family.
Issue Two: Was the admission of the conversation with his family fruit of the poisonous tree based on the preceding Miranda violation?
Regarding the exclusion of evidence based on the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, the court noted that, if the evidence the government seeks to admit in court is attenuated, the evidence will still be admissible. Attenuation occurs when there is some intervening circumstance between the illegal police conduct and the discovery of the evidence sought to be admitted. To this issue, the court stated:
First, Rashid’s personal request to visit with his family amounts to an intervening cause. Second, the asserted illegality was a Miranda violation, for which the trial court excluded Rashid’s statements as the result of the police questioning. Miranda warnings are required only in custodial interrogations, not familial conversations; Rashid’s conversation with family members occurred while he was in custody, but they were not the product of interrogation. Preston v. State, 282 Ga. 210, 213 (4) (647 SE2d 260) (2007). Nor was the purely family conversation tainted in any way by the prior interrogation merely because following the family meeting, police re-entered the interview room and asked Rashid for some contact information concerning his brother and the victim’s husband. Simply, the subject conversation between Rashid and his family did not flow from the found illegality. What is more, there is no evidence that Rashid’s statements to police or to his family were coerced in any manner and the “fruit” of a voluntary statement obtained in violation of Miranda and Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U. S. 477 (101 SC 1880, 68 LE2d 378) (1981), is not subject to the exclusionary rule. Taylor v. State, 274 Ga. 269, 276 (4) (553 SE2d 598) (2001). [v]
Thus, the court upheld the admission of the recording of the conversation that took place between Rashid and his family in the interview room.
Note: Court holdings can vary significantly between jurisdictions. As such, it is advisable to seek the advice of a local prosecutor or legal adviser regarding questions on specific cases. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice on a specific case.
[i] S12A1698, 2013 Ga. LEXIS 63
[ii] Id. at 2-6
[iii] 475 S.E. 2d 580 (1996)
[iv] Rashid at 11-12
[v] Id. at 13-14