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United States v. Edenso

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division

October 15, 2015




A five-week-old baby boy died under suspicious circumstances while in the care of his father, Christopher David Edenso, Sr. Following his arrest, Edenso was advised of his rights, requested a lawyer and then made statements, in response to questioning, which he now seeks to suppress. Because the statements were unlawfully obtained, but are admissible as impeachment evidence, the Court recommends that Edenso's suppression motion be granted in part and denied in part.


Edenso is charged with second degree murder arising out of the death of his infant son, C.E., on June 15, 2015. He was interviewed the next day, while in custody, at the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Jail. FBI Special Agent Adam Rowland and Kory Provost, a special agent with the Tribe, conducted the interview and recorded it.

Edenso was Mirandized and his handcuffs removed. Once both these tasks had been completed, Agent Rowland gave Edenso this advisement: "[I]f you want to talk to us, um, without a lawyer present, um, sign down there. [I]f you don't, tell us you don't and that you want a lawyer present, and then we will go about our business."[1]

Edenso's response was, "I want a lawyer, "[2] to which Agent Rowland replied, "Ok."[3] The sound of writing and handcuffs then can be heard in the background.[4]

After a moment of silence[5], Agent Rowland reinitiated the conversation saying, "[L]et me tell you this before you go, um, if you want to talk to us before you have a lawyer present, it's better if you talk to us . .. ."[6]

At this point, Edenso interrupted Agent Rowland and asked if he could talk to the agents first.[7] The agent told Edenso he could if he wanted to, but he had to sign the advice of rights form beforehand.[8] Edenso expressed a willingness to sign the form and did so, acknowledging that he would answer questions without a lawyer present.[9]For the next 23 minutes or so Edenso talked to Agents Rowland and Provost, [10] making incriminatory remarks, and ultimately admitting that he caused injuries to C.E. by shaking the baby upside down - while holding his legs - and slamming him on the bed to stop him from crying.[11]

Edenso moved to suppress his June 16 statements, claiming that (1) he was improperly subjected to custodial interrogation after invoking his right to counsel, (2) he did not make a valid waiver of rights to silence and counsel and (3) his statements were not made voluntarily. The Government filed a response to the motion, resisting all three claims. A hearing was held on September 29, 2015, at which Agent Rowland testified and four exhibits were received into evidence. Edenso is scheduled to stand trial on December 1, 2015.


A. Right to Counsel

Edenso first claims that the statements he made to Agents Rowland and Provost on June 16 should be suppressed because he invoked his Miranda right to counsel. It is undisputed that after being advised of his Miranda warnings, Edenso said, "I want a lawyer."[12] He argues that this statement was sufficient as a matter of law to trigger the strictures of Miranda and prohibit any questioning, or its functional equivalent, about the incident involving C.E. until counsel was made available to him. The Government contends that Edenso verbalized a desire to continue talking to the agents, waived his rights (including his previously invoked right to have a lawyer present) and agreed to and did speak with the agents.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."[13]The Supreme Court adopted a set of prophylactic measures to protect a suspect's right from the "inherently compelling pressures" of custodial interrogation.[14] The Court declared that "incommunicado interrogation" in an "unfamiliar" "police-dominated atmosphere, "[15] involves psychological pressures "which work to undermine [the suspect's] will to resist and compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely."[16] According to the Court, "[u]nless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the [suspect] can truly be the product of his free choice."[17]

To neutralize this coercive pressure, the Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers must warn a suspect before questioning him that he has the right, among other things, to the presence of an attorney.[18] If, after warnings are given, the suspect indicates that he wants ...

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