Superior Court declines to adopt bright line rule for determining when defendant invokes his right to remain silent

Commonwealth v. Lukach, 2018 PA Super 100 (April 11, 2017)

Following a murder, suspicion focused on Mr. Lukach. He was questioned on the day of the murder, and arrested the next day. When administered his Miranda rights and asked if he wanted to answer questions, he replied, “I don’t know, just, I’m done talking. I don’t have nothing to talk about.” The police chief speaking to him said, “You don’t have to say anything, I told you that you could stop,” and then continued to question him until nine minutes later Mr. Lukach asked for a lawyer. The suppression court suppressed the statement and all evidence recovered as a result of its exploitation, and the Commonwealth appealed. In the face of the Commonwealth’s argument that a defendant had to clearly and unambiguously evoke his right to remain silent, the Superior Court declined to adopt such a bright line test, and found that Mr. Lukach’s words were enough to evoke the right. It also rejected the Commonwealth’s contention that Mr. Lukach nevertheless made a full and free statement. The police chief’s questioning immediately after Mr. Lukach said he was “done talking” was enough to undercut any argument that the right to silence was waived. The circumstances were coercive, the time not attenuated, so the confession was coerced.

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