Vermont State Troopers (VSP) received a call informing them that a 14-year-old girl from New Hampshire was missing and that she would be found in a hotel in Vermont. VSP then learned that the girl was spotted in the company of an adult male and identified that person as the defendant in this case (Carpentino).  The girl indicated that Carpentino had kidnapped and assaulted her and Carpentino was arrested and taken to the station for questioning.

In the interrogation room, Carpentino was Mirandized and he initially waived and told the investigators that he had driven alone from New Hampshire into Vermont. When he was challenged on the truthfulness of this assertion, the defendant said he wanted to end the interview and talk to his lawyer. The investigators immediately terminated the interrogation and returned Carpentino to his holding cell. On the way to the holding cell Carpentino asked to place a call to his lawyer.

About forty minutes later, Carpentino waved at the camera to get the guard’s attention. When the guard approached the cell, Carpentino told him that he wished to speak to the investigators who had interviewed him. They came to his cell and confirmed that he wished to speak to them and took him back to the interview room. Once in the room, Carpentino asked “How much, would, uhm, the maximum time be for something like this?” When the officer told Carpentino that he would have to re-mirandize him before they could talk to him, Carpentino again mentioned calling his lawyer. The investigator then sought clarification as to whether he was reinitiating contact to speak to them or if he was requesting a lawyer. At that point, Carpentino confessed to transporting the girl across state lines and having sex with her.

Prior to trial, Carpentino moved to suppress his confession on the ground that the second interview violated of his Miranda rights (impermissible re-approach after invoking right to lawyer). The district court denied the motion to suppress concluding that, although the defendant had invoked his right to counsel during the first phase of the interview, he subsequently initiated an investigation-related conversation with the troopers; that the defendant did not unambiguously reinvoke his right to counsel during the second phase of the interview; and that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights before confessing.  Carpentino was convicted by a jury and appealed the district court’s ruling.

In an eloquent opinion written in a style that only Judge Selya could produce, the First Circuit disagreed with Carpentino and affirmed the conviction.  The court found that a reasonable officer in the troopers’ shoes could have understood the defendant to be seeking to resume a generalized discussion of the investigation.  The court noted that the defendant sought out further communication with the troopers by waving at the camera in his cell and then confirmed that he wanted to speak to them. Then, when they escorted Carpentino to the interview room, his very first question zeroed in on the crime that the troopers were investigating: “How much, would, uhm, the maximum time be for something like this?” A reasonable officer could have interpreted this case-related question from the defendant as demonstrating that Carpentino wished to discuss the investigation. When the troopers attempted to confirm this desire, Carpentino suggested that he might want to call his lawyer. Faced with an ambiguity, the troopers sought to resolve it by explicitly asking the Carpentino whether he wanted to speak to them or to his lawyer. The defendant replied that he needed to call his lawyer “too.” In light of the dual purposes for initiating communication, a reasonable officer could have interpreted this statement to mean that the defendant wanted both to speak with the troopers about the investigation and to call his lawyer. The court held that although the defendant may subjectively have intended that the conversation with the troopers take place with his lawyer present, his words did not make any such intention clear. Accordingly, the court held that that the troopers did not violate Carpentino’s right to counsel by subsequently seeking a Miranda waiver and resuming the custodial interrogation without an attorney present.

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