It has just been revealed that all six of the criminally charged Baltimore police officers, who were involved in the arrest of now deceased Freddie Gray, provided statements to law enforcement investigators. At the time of this posting, the contents of each of the officers’ statements is unknown. It’s possible that everything that flowed from each of the officers’ lips assists their defense. On the other hand, what is also possible is that some of the statements made by some or all of the officers will be words that prosecutors will seek to introduce against them at trial. The question that many are asking is, “Can the officers’ statements be used against them?”
Whether their statements can be introduced against them at trial hinges upon the facts and circumstances surrounding how the statements were obtained. Let’s assume that all six officers were questioned while an investigation into the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray was being conducted. Assuming that investigators read every officer their Miranda Rights. If that were the case, then I don’t believe their attorneys could prevent prosecutors from introducing their statements. If their rights were read to them, they would know that anything they said could be used against them in a court of law.
Let’s now suppose that Miranda Rights were not read. Let’s also assume each of the six officers were told by law enforcement investigators that they were conducting a criminal investigation. My conclusion would be that the statements would still be admissible at a criminal trial. The prosecutors will argue that when the officers were questioned, they were not under arrest. They will further argue that the officers were free to leave and could have walked out of the interrogation room at any time. Therefore, because they weren’t “in custody,” no Miranda rights had to be afforded.
Let’s change the facts one more time. Let’s say the officers were placed under arrest and then asked to give statements. If they weren’t read their Miranda Rights, then the statements should be suppressed (thrown out of court). There’s no “Police Officer Exception” to the Constitution. Every citizen who is in custody and not free to leave, including police officers, must be informed of their Miranda Rights prior to being interrogated.
So, can the officers’ statements be admitted against them in their criminal trials? The answer is, “It depends.” Like most legal decisions, the facts determine whether evidence should be admitted. In this case, assuming the officers were not under arrest and/or not free to leave when being questioned, I believe their statements will be admissible against them. Whether prosecutors want to introduce their statements is an entirely different issue.