While delivering mail, Vicki Orr, a postal letter carrier, was approached by Jody Myesha Orso. Jody Orso demanded that Vicki Orr produce her arrow keys, used to open United States Postal Service (“USPS”) collection boxes and group mailboxes at apartment buildings. Vicki Orr surrendered the keys to Jody Orso, who fled on foot.
The USPS began an investigation. After USPS Inspectors Anthony Galetti and Shawn Tiller obtained information that made Jody Orso a suspect, they left their cards at her residence, requesting that she call them. Jody Orso responded to the request and spoke with Inspector Shawn Tiller by telephone.
Shortly thereafter, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Jody Orso for robbery of a postal letter carrier. More than two months later, Jody Orso was arrested by Redondo Beach police officers on unrelated charges and taken to the Redondo Beach Police Department. The arresting officers, upon learning of the federal warrant, notified Inspector Anthony Galetti that they were holding Jody Orso. Inspectors Shawn Tiller and Anthony Galetti took Jody Orso into their custody and drove her to the Postal Inspection Service Office (“office”) to conduct a formal interview.
Jody Orso was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the vehicle for the length of the drive from the police station to the office, which took between 25 and 35 minutes. It is undisputed that Jody Orso was not informed of her Miranda rights at any time before or during the car ride.
For the first 15 minutes of the drive, the inspectors and Jody Orso engaged in conversation unrelated to the actual robbery. About half-way through the ride, Inspector Anthony Galetti began to discuss the robbery with Jody Orso. According to Inspector Anthony Galetti, he preceded his comments by admonishing Jody Orso not to say anything. He proceeded to inform her of the evidence implicating her in the robbery. Inspector Anthony Galetti later admitted that he lied to Jody Orso during this colloquy, telling her that a witness to the robbery thought that she might have seen a gun used, even though he knew of no such evidence. Inspector Anthony Galetti then informed Jody Orso that the maximum statutory penalty for armed robbery of a letter carrier was 25 years incarceration. He also told her that he did not believe that she used a gun, and that the statutory maximum penalty for unarmed robbery of a letter carrier was ten years, but that a more realistic sentence for unarmed robbery would be five years. Jody Orso responded by saying, “Oh, I can do five years.”
Inspector Anthony Galetti then informed Jody Orso that the letter carrier had identified her as being the robber. In response to this statement, Jody Orso said she “had never stood in a lineup before.” Inspector Anthony Galetti continued, explaining that it was actually a picture of her that the letter carrier picked out. Inspector Anthony Galetti then told Jody Orso that others involved in the robbery had identified her. At that point, Jody Orso allowed, “Well, if the letter carrier said it’s me, then it must be me.” Inspector Anthony Galetti also told Jody Orso that an individual named Main was believed to be the driver of the car involved in the robbery. When Jody Orso indicated that she did not know anybody by that name, Inspector Anthony Galetti began to describe Main’s appearance, to which Jody Orso replied, “Oh, the gold-toothed boy.”
Upon arrival at the office, Jody Orso asked the inspectors if they would allow her to see her two-year old daughter. Inspector Shawn Tiller testified that he told her she “probably” could. Indeed, before transporting Jody Orso to the detention center, the inspectors took Jody Orso to see her daughter.
Soon after the inspectors arrived at the office with Jody Orso, and only a little more than ten minutes after she made the statements in the car, the inspectors read her the Miranda warnings, and she immediately waived her rights by signing a standard form. The inspectors then interviewed Jody Orso for approximately one and a half hours, during which time she fully confessed to her involvement in the robbery.
A federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Jody Orso with unarmed robbery of a postal letter carrier. Jody Orso initially entered a plea of not guilty. She then moved to suppress both the statements she made in the car prior to receiving the Miranda warnings and the post-warning statements she made at the office. The district court held a hearing on the motion and, after taking evidence from the inspectors and Jody Orso, denied the motion with respect to both sets of statements. Jody Orso subsequently entered a conditional guilty plea, and was sentenced to a term of 37 months in prison. She timely appealed the district court’s order denying her motion to suppress.
Jody Orso argues that the district court erred by failing to suppress the statements she made while riding in the back seat of the car and before she had been read the Miranda warnings.
Jody Orso also argues that the district court erred by failing to suppress her full confession at the office. Although the inspectors read Jody Orso her Miranda rights prior to receiving her full confession, Jody Orso nonetheless contends that her confession should be suppressed because it was “tainted” by the Miranda violation surrounding her earlier statements in the car.
The United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, reversed the district court’s denial of Jody Orso’s motion to suppress her statements in the car, but we affirm the district court’s denial of her motion to suppress her full confession. Accordingly, because Jody Orso prevailed, in part, in this appeal from her conditional guilty plea, we vacate Jody Orso’s conviction and remand to the district court to permit Jody Orso to withdraw her guilty plea, if she so chooses, and proceed to trial.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
The facts summarized above are excerpted from what was written by the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. More information is available from the source documents: 99-50328, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, September 17, 2001, opinion of Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain with Procter Hug, Jr., Alex Kozinski, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Ronald M. Gould, and Richard C. Tallman concurring.