BB&K Police Bulletin: Civil Rights Action For Miranda Violation Not Barred If Conviction Reversed


Incriminating Statements in Violation of Miranda Rights Were Used in First Trial, Which Resulted in Reversal

Overview: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal recently held that a criminal defendant convicted of murder at his second trial, whose first murder conviction was reversed based upon Fifth Amendment violations in his first trial, is not barred from filing a civil rights action. The court reasoned that the incriminating statements in violation of the defendant’s Miranda rights were used in his first trial, which resulted in a reversal, not his second trial, which resulted in a conviction.

Training Points: This case is a reminder that providing suspects who are “in custody” and who are being “interrogated” with their Miranda warnings is not only essential to the successful admission of incriminating statements at the criminal trial, but the failure to provide the requisite warnings can also negatively impact any civil rights case that may be brought by the criminal defendant. California and federal law both have ways to prevent convicted criminals from bringing civil rights lawsuits after the fact. But those bars may not apply if the civil court finds any substantive problems with law enforcement’s role in developing the criminal case. The actions of law enforcement can have a dramatic impact on future proceedings, often years into the future.

Summary Analysis: In Jackson v. Barnes, et al., Frederick Jackson was convicted of rape and first degree murder. At his first murder trial in 1995, the prosecutor admitted a taped interview conducted by a sergeant who did not provide Jackson the required Miranda warnings. During the interview, Jackson admitted he “happened to be” at the scene of the murder. He was convicted of first degree murder.

In 2004, Jackson appealed and his conviction was reversed based upon the Miranda violations. Before the second criminal trial, but after the first, Jackson filed a civil rights suit related to the Miranda violations. The district court dismissed the action under the ruling in Heck v. Humphrey, where the Supreme Court held that a criminal defendant (plaintiff in civil suit) who has been convicted or sentenced in a criminal matter is precluded from seeking damages in a civil action if success in their civil action would invalidate their criminal conviction or sentence (commonly referred to as the Heck bar). During Jackson’s 2005 re-trial, the jury, without the admission of the illegally obtained evidence, found Jackson guilty of first degree murder. 

The court held Jackson was not barred by the holding in Heck and could maintain his civil rights action since the incriminating statements used against him in violation of Miranda were used in his first trial, not his second trial which resulted in his conviction. The court found that a judgment in Jackson’s favor (in the civil suit) would not invalidate his murder conviction (from the second trial) since the conviction from the first trial had been reversed.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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