INDIANAPOLIS | Asking a police officer during an interrogation, "Am I going to need an attorney?" is not the same as asking for an attorney, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court affirmed the attempted murder conviction of Jason King, of Lake Station, who shot Woodrow McGuire, of Gary, in the face Feb. 3, 2011. The shooting occurred after McGuire complained about King leaning on him while both were at the Warehouse, a South Haven bar.
King, now 38, argued in his appeal that questioning by Porter County sheriff's officers after his arrest should have stopped when he asked about needing an attorney.
Instead, the officers continued to question King, and he eventually confessed to the shooting, according to court records.
Porter Superior Judge Mary Harper permitted police testimony about King's confession during his 2012 trial.
A jury found King guilty of attempted murder, and he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
The appeals court determined Harper was correct in allowing testimony about King's confession.
It said King's question about needing an attorney was not actually exercising the right to demand an attorney be present during police questioning, as permitted by the U.S. Constitution.
"We conclude that King's question, 'Am I going to need an attorney?' does not rise to the level of clarity from which a reasonable officer would understand that an attorney has been requested," wrote Judge Cale Bradford for the appeals court.
The three-judge panel also decided that King's 45-year prison term is appropriate in light of his character and the nature of the offense.
The appeals court concluded King's three prior felony convictions in Indiana and Illinois and his stated motive for shooting a stranger in the face — "because he was black" — justify the lengthy prison sentence.