813 F.3d 241 (6th Cir. 2015), 15-1442, Bachynski v. Stewart
|Citation:||813 F.3d 241|
|Opinion Judge:||SUTTON, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||SAMANTHA BACHYNSKI, Petitioner-Appellee, v. ANTHONY STEWART, Warden, Respondent-Appellant|
|Attorney:||John S. Pallas, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant. Marilena David-Martin, STATE APPELLATE DEFENDER OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee. John S. Pallas, Elizabeth Rivard, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant. Marilena...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: SUTTON and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges; BECKWITH, District Judge.[*]|
|Case Date:||December 23, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit|
When Michigan police officers arrested Bachynski on suspicion of murder, she invoked her right to remain silent and asked for an attorney. During later interactions between the officers and Bachynski, she changed her mind, eventually pointing to a detective and saying: “I want to talk to you.” She then waived her Miranda rights three times and confessed three times to a slew of crimes, including... (see full summary)
Argued December 9, 2015.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Columbus. No. 2:14-cv-00553--Gregory L. Frost, District Judge.
When Michigan police officers arrested Samantha Bachynski on suspicion of murder, she invoked her right to remain silent and asked for an attorney. During later interactions between the officers and Bachynski, she changed her mind, eventually pointing to a detective and saying: " I want to talk to you." She then waived her Miranda rights three times and confessed three times to a slew of crimes, including murder. A jury convicted her, and the state courts upheld the conviction over her Fifth (and Fourteenth) Amendment challenge to her confession. A federal district court granted her petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the detectives impermissibly interrogated her without an attorney present. Because the state courts reasonably construed the Supreme Court's teachings in this area, we must reverse.
According to the state appellate court, here is what happened. Bachynski's first
two victims were Scott Berels and his pregnant wife Melissa. Bachynski and her boyfriend, Patrick Selepak, an acquaintance of Melissa, came to the Berels' house. At some point, they locked the couple in their bathroom. Then Selepak choked Melissa until she was blue but still alive, all within earshot of her restrained husband. Bachynski " finish[ed] it," pulling a belt around Melissa's neck until she was dead. People v. Bachynski, No. 281550, 2009 WL 723600, at *2 (Mich. Ct.App. Mar. 19, 2009). Bachynski took a break to smoke a cigarette, then returned to Scott. Selepak beat Scott " until there was blood everywhere," and Bachynski " moved a knife across [his] neck" and injected him with bleach. Id. Bachynski put her foot on Scott's head and pulled a belt around his neck, killing Scott. Bachynski took another cigarette break. She and Selepak hid the bodies before stealing the couple's money and driving away in their car.
The next day, they befriended a stranger, Frederick Johnson, at a dance club, and they seduced him later that night and in the days that followed--at a hotel and eventually at Johnson's house. They also spent time with him eating and shopping in Frankenmuth, Michigan. They returned to the dance club with him and his son-in-law the next day. And they spent the next two days after that watching movies at Johnson's house. On the last night, they tortured and killed Johnson, apparently in order to steal his truck and other personal items. They loaded his dead body in the bed of Johnson's truck and stole the truck. Police eventually found Bachynski and Selepak in the dead man's stolen truck, with the dead body in the back. They were arrested.
The police read Bachynski her Miranda rights, and she requested an attorney. They did not ask her any questions. Two detectives from another jurisdiction, Charles Esser and Kenneth Stevens, arrived at the police station about an hour later and reread Bachynski her Miranda rights. She again said she wanted an attorney. The conversation ended, and Bachynski was sent back to her cell.
About thirty minutes later, Esser and Stevens realized that Bachynski had no " tools to get a hold of her attorney." Id. at *9. They went to Bachynski's cell and asked her if " she had been given an opportunity to use a phone to contact her attorney." Id. I don't have one, Bachynski responded. Stevens offered her a phone to call her family and a phone book to find an attorney. At this point, Bachynski said that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life in prison and wondered whether she needed an attorney. Esser reiterated that " they could not discuss anything further with her until her attorney was present." Id. Bachynski responded, " with some urgency in her voice" : " I can change my mind, can't I?" R. 9-5 at 80. Pointing at Detective Stevens, she said: " I want to talk to you." Id.; see also Bachynski, 2009 WL 723600, at *9. The detectives obtained the approval of the prosecutor to continue speaking to Bachynski before taking her to another room.
The detectives read Bachynski her Miranda rights and asked her whether she wanted to talk to them without an attorney present. Bachynski " reiterated that she wanted to talk" to them. Bachynski, 2009 WL 723600, at *9. Acknowledging that she had initially requested an attorney, she said she had " changed [her] mind," " asked to" talk with Detective Stevens, and " would rather just talk to [the detectives]" than get an attorney. R. 9-22 at 6. She signed a waiver of her Miranda rights and confessed to the crimes. Bachynski, 2009 WL 723600, at *3, *9.
About six hours later, Bachynski asked to speak with the officers who had arrested her. The officers administered another Miranda waiver, and Bachynski again confessed to the murders. She did the same thing a third time, this time to Detective Stevens.
Bachynski came to regret her confessions. Her attorney moved to suppress them, arguing that the detectives had " coerce[d]" her into talking through " psychological intimidation." R. 9-5 at 101. As Bachynski remembers the events in her cell, the detectives not only offered her a phone to call her attorney but also mentioned that Selepak had waived his Miranda rights and was talking with other officers about the case and that Selepak's accomplice in a previous case got in more trouble by not talking. All of these statements, her attorney argued, convinced Bachynski to talk and amounted to an improper interrogation.
The state trial court denied Bachynski's motion, making no mention of Bachynski's testimony. It found that Bachynski had initiated the interrogation, not the other way around, and for that reason rejected her claim.
At trial, the jury heard the confessions and observed physical evidence that incriminated Bachynski: her fingerprints were on the duct tape used to wrap the bodies; her sweatshirt had bleach and blood on it; and she was in the driver's seat of a dead man's truck with his dead body in the back when she and her boyfriend were arrested. The jury rejected Bachynski's defense that her boyfriend made her do it...
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