A statement that a 21-year-old Great Falls man made to police in March, describing how he stabbed his mother to death, cannot be used against him, a Fairfax County judge has ruled, because detectives started their interrogation with this question:
"Do you know why we're here?"
That inquiry, by Fairfax homicide Detective David W. Allen, elicited this answer from Jayant Kadian:
"Yeah, because I stabbed my mom in the neck."
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Kathleen H. MacKay ruled last week that Kadian should have first been told of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present. The detective's question "makes no particular sense except as an attempt to [elicit] an incriminating response," MacKay wrote. As such, the judge concluded, everything that came after was "unwarned" and must be suppressed.
After Kadian blurted out that he had stabbed his mother, Allen said he immediately read Kadian his Miranda rights, which Kadian waived in writing. He then explained to Allen the background and circumstances of the death of his mother, Kiran V. Kadian, on March 24 in her kitchen on Thompson Ridge Court.
Kadian's trial, which was scheduled to start today, will be delayed while Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. appeals MacKay's ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that police may not "question first, warn second." And Kadian's attorney, Peter D. Greenspun, argued in a hearing last month that the high court's ruling in Seibert v. Missouri prohibited police from asking questions of suspects in custody until they are given a Miranda warning.
In that case, police officers testified that it was their department's policy in interrogations to question a suspect and obtain incriminating information, then seek a Miranda waiver and obtain the information again "on the record."
The Supreme Court said that was unacceptable.
"When Miranda warnings are inserted in the midst of coordinated and continuing interrogation," wrote Justice David H. Souter, "they are likely to mislead and deprive a defendant of knowledge essential to his ability to understand the nature of his rights and the consequences of abandoning them."
Greenspun said that appearing to first banter casually with suspects "is a time-honored technique of the police. Under Seibert, that conduct is clearly prohibited. . . . If they want to chitchat, there's a significant risk that the statement's going to be inadmissible."
Experts said the Kadian case was unlikely to further restrict police interrogation methods. Instead, if MacKay's ruling is upheld, it is likely to reinforce the Supreme Court's warning that police must "Mirandize" before venturing close to the case.
When Kiran Kadian's husband discovered her body the day she was killed, he told police that his son was a likely suspect. Jayant Kadian had expressed "psychotic tendencies" and had threatened his mother in the past, according to court records.
He was found the next morning in a parking garage at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., sleeping in his car. Campus police found marijuana in the car, arrested him and read him his Miranda rights. He was held while Fairfax detectives Allen and Robert Bond sped to Harrisonburg.
Allen testified that the first thing he said when he walked into the room where Kadian sat was that "his father and sisters were concerned about his welfare." Allen said Kadian did not respond.
Next, Allen asked if Kadian knew why Fairfax police were there, which Kadian acknowledged vividly. Allen said, "I then asked him if the [JMU] officers who had arrested him had advised him of his rights, and he advised that they had."
But Allen said he felt the need to make a new set of Miranda warnings to Kadian, for the homicide. He did so, and Kadian waived his right to an attorney and proceeded to describe stabbing his mother in the neck. Kadian felt his mother was pressuring him to see a psychiatrist and harassing him over another recent marijuana arrest.
MacKay wrote that Allen "asking such a question, then giving a defendant Miranda warnings, then asking about the incident in question makes a hash of the whole process of giving a defendant notice of his rights."
Ronald Bacigal, a criminal law professor at the University of Richmond, said he thought Horan had "a good shot" at getting MacKay's ruling overturned because it didn't appear police schemed to evade the Miranda warning and because they gave the warning moments after Kadian's outburst.
George Washington University law professor Mary Cheh agreed. "This was an off-hand comment," she said. "Who knew he would blurt that out?"
But Cheh noted that "the police have to be a bit more careful about questions that are directed toward the investigation."