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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > November 2015 > State v. Lawson, 2015 Ohio 4394

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State v. Lawson, 2015 Ohio 4394

Question: Did a suspect unambiguously waive his right to remain silent when, during a custodial interrogation, he responded that “nothing was bothering him and that he had nothing else to say?”

Quick Answer: No. If a suspect’s invocation of his right to remain silent is not unambiguous or unequivocal, or he makes no statement, police are not required to end the interrogation or ask questions to clarify whether the accused wanted to invoke his Miranda rights.

Facts: Lawson was suspected of killing his grandfather and taken into custody for questioning. Lawson was given Miranda warnings, signed a valid waiver, and initially denied being involved in the shooting.   Approximately 45 minutes later, the detective prompted Lawson by saying, “[I]f you would tell us what happened…you would feel better….because it’s got to be eating you up and bothering you….” Lawson replied, “there ain’t nothing bothering me. Ain’t nothing eating me up. I ain’t got nothing else to say.” Soon thereafter, Lawson admitted to killing his grandfather and planning to kill his father. Lawson challenged the use of the incriminating statements claiming that before he confessed, he asserted his right to remain silent by stating, “I ain’t got nothing else to say.” The court found that Lawson did not unambiguously invoke his right to remain silent. The court reasoned he did not say he was “done talking” or that he did not want to continue talking. He did not unequivocally indicate that he wished to remain silent and cut off all further questioning.

Keep in Mind: Once a suspect has received and understood Miranda warnings, law enforcement officers may continue questioning until and unless the suspect clearly invokes the right to remain silent. Invocation of the right to remain silent requires at minimum some statement that can reasonably be construed to be an expression of a desire to cease all questioning.