Kadeem White was arrested and charged with first-degree felony murder, armed robbery and felony firearm, for the shooting death of Ben Willard. Before taking the 17-year-old defendant to be arraigned, Detective Brett Stiles placed him in an interrogation room. The room was equipped with a camera and the interrogation was videotaped.
The detective read White his Miranda warnings, informing him that he had the right to remain silent. White told the officer, “I don’t even want to speak.” The officer said that he understood, and wished him good luck. The officer then said, “The only thing that I can tell you is this, and I’m not asking you questions, I’m just telling you. I hope that the gun is in a place where nobody can get a hold of it and nobody else can get hurt by it, okay? All right?” Upon hearing this, White said, “I didn’t even mean for it to happen like that. It was a complete accident.”
White filed a motion to suppress his statements to the police. After reviewing the video recording of the interview and considering the parties’ arguments, the trial court ruled that the statement should be suppressed, citing Rhode Island v Innis, 446 US 291; 100 S Ct 1682; 64 L Ed 2d 297 (1980). The trial court held that White had invoked his right to remain silent; the officer’s question was the functional equivalent of express questioning designed to elicit a response as to the location of the gun, the court said.
In a split published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. The majority held that there was no questioning nor its functional equivalent, and that the officer could not have known that White would “suddenly” make a self-incriminating statement in response to the officer’s remark about the gun. The dissenting judge said that the detective’s remarks could constitute express questioning or were the functional equivalent thereof. Since the remarks were addressed directly to White, the detective should have known that his comments would likely elicit a response, and constituted interrogation in violation of White’s assertion of the right to remain silent.