Idaho appeals court: Don't equivocate when seeking attorney

Don't do any hemming and hawing if you're trying to invoke your right to an attorney. That's the message in an Idaho Court of Appeals ruling handed down in the case of a Missouri man convicted of robbing a northern Idaho business.

The ruling was issued Tuesday in the case of Samuel J. Davis, a Vienna, Missouri, man convicted of robbing a check-cashing business in Post Falls, Idaho.

According to the ruling, Davis had traveled to Spokane, Washington, for a child custody hearing and was headed back home when he realized he didn't have enough money to complete the trip. Prosecutors said that's when he robbed the Post Falls business.

Police arrested Davis when he returned to his hometown, and Idaho investigators traveled there to interrogate him. They advised him of his right to an attorney. But later during the interrogation Davis said, "I think I need to talk to a lawyer before I say anything else," according to the ruling.

The three-judge appellate panel said that statement — particularly the "I think" portion — wasn't enough to compel police to stop the interrogation because it wasn't definitive.

Citing earlier case law, Idaho Court of Appeals Chief Judge David Gratton wrote, "Phrases such as 'I think,' and 'maybe I should' are equivocal ... Because Davis did not unequivocally invoke his right to counsel, the officer was not required to stop questioning."

When Davis later confessed to the robbery during the same interrogation, his confession was voluntary and able to be used in court, the judges found.

___

This story has been corrected to show Post Falls is in northern Idaho, not eastern Idaho.