United States v. Williston

In 2014, an FBI agent served a grand-jury subpoena on Defendant Dakota Williston while he was being held in jail on state charges unrelated to a crime that the grand jury was investigating. Williston appeared before the grand jury. Before the federal prosecutor began asking Williston any questions, he reviewed on the record Williston’s rights with him. Williston affirmed that he understood all that information. The prosecutor then moved on to his substantive questions, starting out by asking if Williston wanted to tell the grand jury his story. The prosecutor’s belief stemmed from Williston’s prior affirmation to the second FBI agent that he planned to testify rather than invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. Williston then gave his account of the death of Payton Cockrell. Six months after Williston’s testimony, the grand jury indicted Williston for Payton’s murder. Williston filed a pretrial motion to suppress his grand-jury testimony. A magistrate judge recommended the denial of the motion, and the district court adopted the recommendation and denied the motion. Defendant argued that Miranda should have applied to protect grand-jury targets who were confined on unrelated criminal charges. Defendant argued that the district court erred at trial by not suppressing his grand-jury testimony, because the government failed to provide him Miranda warnings before that testimony. In rejecting defendant's argument, the Tenth Circuit held that the rule rendering Miranda inapplicable to grand-jury witnesses extended to persons who were incarcerated for unrelated reasons when they are subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. The Court also rejected Defendant’s other challenges to his conviction and sentence based on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, unfairly prejudicial evidence, the evidentiary rule of completeness, and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. View "United States v. Williston" on Justia Law