Court Overturns 2010 Homicide Conviction
Milwaukee police clearly violated suspect’s Miranda rights, federal judge rules.
Two Milwaukee police detectives so badly violated the Miranda rights of a 16-year-old homicide suspect in 2008 that a federal judge last week granted a writ of habeas corpus and ordered that the man, now 28, be retried or released from prison within three months.
By granting the writ requested by Ladarius Marshall, U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach found that state court decisions in the case were “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.” Marshall was represented in his federal case by Shorewood attorney Matthew S. Pinix.
Marshall was convicted in 2010 for the slaying of Lavare Gould, who was shot and killed in the 2600 block of N. 37th St. on June 16, 2008.
After his arrest, Marshall, who had cognitive deficiencies, repeatedly told Detectives Gust Petropoulos and Michael Braunreiter that he did not want to make a statement or talk to them, but the detectives persisted in their interrogation, Griesbach said in his ruling.
Marshall was arrested in August 2008 at his grandmother’s house after being implicated by a a co-defendant, Michael Winston. Marshall was taken to the Police Administration Building, where he was put into a small, brick-walled interrogation room. He spent most of the day in that room and one like it, Griesbach said.
First, Marshall sat alone in the interrogation room for more than three hours, Griesbach said. Then Petropoulos and Braunreiter read Marshall his Miranda rights. He declined to make a statement but agreed to answer questions.
The teenager at first said he was at his grandmother’s house at the time of the crime and had nothing to do with it. When the detectives said they had talked to the grandmother and knew that was not true, Marshall said, “Then I ain’t talking no more…I ain’t going to talk no more. I’m through talking. I don’t want to talk no more.”
“Well, so you’re going to let other people talk for you?” asked Petropoulos.
(In 2009, Petropoulos would win an award for a high 2008 homicide clearance rate, according to his Linked In page. “As a member of the Homicide Unit we achieved a 93% clearance in 2008,” the page says.)
“I’m through talking,” Marshall said. “I ain’t going to talk no more.”
“Well, okay,” Petropoulos said. “We’ll take a little break then….”
The detectives left and returned more than two hours later.
“Feel like talking?,” Braunreiter said.
“I got nothing to say,” Marshall responded.
The detectives continued to talk to him and told him that some people were saying he was involved in the killing. Marshall said he was tired and ready to go to sleep, and Braunreiter said they should “get this done in a hurry then.”
Marshall repeated that he was not involved and had nothing to say.
About 4 p.m., he said it again: “I ain’t got nothing else to say.”
“OK,” Braunreiter said. “You want to take a little break?”
“Yeah, that’s what he said,” Petropoulos said.
The two detectives left. Marshall eventually asked to talk to Braunreiter alone.
“By that time, Detectives Braunreiter and Petropoulos had made clear to Marshall that he wasn’t going anywhere until he answered all their questions,” Griesbach wrote. “They had repeatedly ignored his invocation of his right to stop answering their questions first by treating his statements that he had nothing to say to them as requests for breaks and then talking him into changing his mind.”
The youth, talking to Braunreiter, eventually admitted to being with Winston at the time of the killing, but said that Winston was the trigger man.
Braunreiter called for a break about 5:40 p.m. He did not return, as he and Petropoulos apparently left for the day.
Another set of detectives, Matthew Goldberg and Timothy Heier, took over the questioning about 7:40 p.m. They informed Marshall of his rights, and Marshall said he did not want to make a statement. The detectives ended the interview.
They returned a few minutes later to tell Marshall “they were done” and to explain what would happen next. This time, Marshall indicated he wanted to talk and agreed to answer questions.
The detectives again read him his rights and Marshall admitted that he went with his co-defendant, Winston, to commit a robbery. Marshall continued to deny that he shot Gould and finally said, “Well, I’m through. I don’t want to talk no more.”
The recording ended at 9:11 p.m.
Marshall was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a child. He was waived into adult court.
His lawyer, Jean Kies – now a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge — tried to get Marshall’s statements suppressed, arguing that Marshall had invoked his right to remain silent, but detectives ignored it. Circuit Judge Daniel L. Konkol, denied the request. Konkol is now retired.
Konkol ruled that Marshall had not invoked his right to remain silent. Marshall eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless homicide with the use of a dangerous weapon, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18. He was sentenced in May, 2010, to 20 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision.
Marshall appealed Konkol’s suppression decision, but the State Court of Appeals upheld it.
“The Court of Appeals’ analysis regarding whether the detectives violated Marshall’s right to remain silent consists of two paragraphs,” Griesbach noted.
The State Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Marshall did, indeed, initially agree to answer questions, Griesbach wrote.
“Contrary to the conclusion of the state courts, however, it is also clear that Marshall subsequently invoked his right to cut off questioning…,” he said.
Recalling an instance where Marshall said, I got nothing to say, Griesbach wrote: “Absent greater maturity and a much stronger educational background than Marshall had, it is difficult to imagine how he could have more clearly conveyed to the detectives that he did not want to talk to them….”
He continued: “The Miranda violation here was not an inadvertent failure to give the required warning, a technical violation that did not involve coercion or improper tactics. Marshall, a 16-year-old juvenile, was arrested at the home of his grandmother at 6:30 a.m. and taken to the Milwaukee Police Administration Building where, after initial processing, he was placed in an eight-foot-by-eight-foot interview room with no windows to the outside. He was left to sit by himself for three hours before Detectives Braunreiter and Petropoulos began their interrogation.
“After he first exercised his right to cut off questioning, he was left alone in the same room for another two hours before the two detectives returned in response to his attempt to find out what was going on. Other than bathroom breaks, he remained in that same room for more than twelve hours, despite repeatedly telling the detectives he had nothing to say and did not want to talk with them. The detectives ignored or misstated his attempts to cut off questioning and continued talking to him until they convinced him to answer their questions.”
Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.” The group filed filed a complaint against Officer Froilan Santiago with the Fire and Police Commission (FPC), contending he made “irresponsible, unprofessional” comments in a disposition regarding the arrest of Jimmy Harris that were “an insult to the residents of Milwaukee.” The FPC rejected the complaint.