Monday, June 16th, 2014

Circuit Affirms Terrorism Conviction for Plan To Bomb New York City Subways

United States v. Medunjanin, No. 12-4724-cr (2d Cir. May 20, 2014) (Kearse, Wesley, and Droney), available here

Adis Medunjanin was convicted, following a jury trial, of nine terrorism-related crimes involving a plan to carry out coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system.  He was sentenced to life plus 95 years of imprisonment.
The defendant’s sole argument on appeal was that the district court (Judge Dearie) erred by denying a pretrial motion to suppress certain of the defendant’s post-arrest statements on the grounds that questioning by the government violated his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and his Fifth Amendment right to substantive due process.
The Circuit affirmed. Its key holdings were:
1. Assuming Miranda rights may properly be asserted by a suspect prior to his being in custody and prior to his being questioned, the defendant did not clearly and unambiguously invoke his right to counsel before his arrest. The defendant’s statement — asking whether his counsel had been notified about the issuance of a search warrant — was “at best unclear and ambiguous.”
2. The defendant did not show that his signed Miranda waivers were involuntary. The district court committed no clear in finding that the waivers were knowing and voluntary based on the totality of the circumstances — including evidence that the defendant was eager to speak with the agents, that he was given breaks to attend to his personal and religious needs, and that the atmosphere of the interrogations was “friendly and open.”
3. The government did not improperly interfere with the attorney-client relationship prior to indictment. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a criminal proceedings does not attach until criminal proceedings are initiated. Here, after the indictment was handed down, the defendant was promptly notified of the charges and allowed to see counsel, without any additional questioning. Contrary to the defendant’s assertions, no pre-indictment conduct by law enforcement “ripened into” a cognizable post-indictment violation of the Sixth Amendment. 
4. Finally, the government did not deny the defendant substantive due process by declining to disclose his whereabouts to his lawyer, failing to inform the defendant that his lawyer was trying to reach him, and refusing to deal with the defendant solely through his counsel.  The Court held that the Sixth Amendment, not the Fifth Amendment, provides a right to counsel. Since the defendant’s rights under the Sixth Amendment — and to freedom from compulsory self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment — were not violated, he could not prevail by recasting his claims of attorney-client interference as violations of substantive due process. 
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