On the afternoon of January 23, 2018 a three judge panel of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District for the State of California heard oral arguments on an appeal filed by attorney Marcia Levine on behalf of Isiah Fowler. In the fall of 2015, Isiah (who was 12 years old at the time of the April, 2013 murder) was convicted of killing his 8 year old sister Leila.
The focus of Tuesday’s hearing was whether or not the 12 year old defendant’s constitutional rights to a Miranda warning were violated by Calaveras County Sheriffs and the F. B. I. The appellant’s argument was that the trial court erred in determining whether or not a custodial setting existed in the four different times Isiah was questioned. The trial court essentially looked at the various situations from the viewpoint of whether an adult would feel that he or she felt free to end questioning and leave versus whether a 12 year old would feel the same way. This concern was amplified because Isiah’s father was in the room during the emotional fourth interrogation with the County Sheriff’s investigators and an F. B. I. agent, trying to get Isiah to confess.
Levine worked with the trial attorneys, Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser, whose efforts leading up to and during the trial to raise the custodial interrogation issues and preserve them for appeal were crucial to arriving at this hearing.
I was fortunate enough to be in court Tuesday with Reichel, Plesser and Isiah’s father, step mother and older brother and sister. We were all surprised by how sympathetic the panel was to the appellant’s position. The result was that we left the court with a sense of guarded optimism that the court may rule to remand the case to the Calaveras County District Attorney who will decide on whether to retry the case, offer a deal or dismiss the charges all together.
Based on the fact that the Appellate Court had a draft of their position drafted prior to the hearing, a final decision is expected to be released within the month. The substance of that decision will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.