Vaughn Mitchell and his father were arrested in the shooting death of another man. During a videotaped interview with a police detective, Mitchell admitted that he assaulted and robbed the victim, but denied shooting him. The detective had provided Mitchell with a written notice of his constitutional rights, including the right to have an attorney appointed for him if he could not afford one.
Mitchell reviewed the sheet, then said to the detective, “I do have a question. Number 4 [the right to an attorney], that’s not speaking currently – right now?” The detective answered, “Well the question speaks for itself. If I cannot afford an attorney – you probably can – one will be appointed to me without cost by the court. That means down the line.”
In a pretrial motion, Mitchell asked the trial court to suppress the videotaped interview, contending that the detective’s response about Mitchell’s right to counsel was misleading. The trial court agreed that there was “some deception” by the detective, but concluded that Mitchell was adequately informed of his right to counsel. The videotaped confession was played for the jury, which convicted Mitchell of first-degree murder, carjacking, and felony-firearm. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder conviction, a concurrent 15 to 25 years for the carjacking conviction, and a two-year consecutive sentence for the felony-firearm conviction.
Mitchell appealed to the Court of Appeals, raising numerous issues including a challenge to the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress and a challenge to the timing of the Miranda warnings that he was given by the police (informing him of his constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent). On this last point, Mitchell argued that he was subjected to extensive questioning before he was even given Miranda warnings; this questioning, he claimed, rendered the Miranda warnings inadequate. In a split unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded that it could not evaluate these claims on the existing record; the appellate court remanded the case to the trial court for it to conduct an evidentiary hearing. The dissenting judge objected to the remand, concluding that it was unnecessary. In particular, the dissenter concluded that the trial court correctly denied Mitchell’s motion to suppress on grounds because Mitchell was not misled about his right to counsel during questioning.
The prosecutor appeals, contending that the Court of Appeals erred in remanding the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing.