By Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Theon Monday agreed to clarify how long a suspected criminal’s request for a lawyer during police interrogation should be valid, taking on a case where a child molester asked for a lawyer almost three years before admitting to the abuse.
Theagreed to consider the state of Maryland’s appeal of a decision throwing out child molester Michael Shatzer’s confession.
Shatzer was imprisoned at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown for child sexual abuse in 2003 when police started investigating allegations that he had sexually abused another child. Shatzer requested an attorney and the case was soon dropped.
Three years later, the boy was old enough to offer details. According to court documents, when a different police officer questioned Shatzer again about the case, he was advised of his rights and signed a form waiving them before confessing.
After Shatzer was charged, he filed a motion to suppress his statements, arguing that he had asked for an attorney in the case before. A lower court did not accept his argument, but theagreed with his position and threw out the confession.
“After a substantial period of time, however, the presumption that a defendant wishes to proceed only in the presence of counsel is not reasonable,” said Douglas F. Gansler, Maryland‘s attorney general.
State and federal courts have differed on how long a request for a lawyer is valid, Gansler said.
Shatzer’s lawyers say the request is permanent.
“A prior request for counsel prohibits further interrogation,” Shatzer’s lawyers said in court papers. “Even if it did not, this court should recognize, as other courts have, that a police officer who is resuming an investigation has a duty to determine, before questioning a suspect, if that person has previously requested an attorney.”
The Supreme Court likely will not hear the case until the fall.
The case is Maryland v. Shatzer, 08-680.