One concept that is often overlooked by lawyers in the criminal field is the importance of a “Walker Hearing”. Brought to us in the case of People v. Walker (1), a “Walker Hearing” is used when interpreting whether or not a confession was done in a voluntary fashion.
In the state of Michigan, for a confession to be deemed valid, the defendant must have made it in a knowingly, intelligently and voluntary fashion. The element of a coerced confession is one that can be the difference between freedom and incarceration because if a defense counsel can display the confession was done in an involuntary fashion, the statement will be suppressed through the exclusionary rule.
When a defendant claims that the confession was done in an involuntary fashion the judge can hold a hearing to determine voluntariness of confession. The thing that is often misunderstood by practitioners is that the defendant may take the stand and testify for limited purpose of making of record his or her version of facts and circumstances under which confession was obtained. Even with the defendant taking the stand at the “Walker Hearing”, the defendant will still have the option not to take the stand at their trial should the confession be deemed to be admissible because of the protections afforded in both the United States and the Michigan Constitution.
When asked about the importance of a “Walker Hearing”, criminal law specialist Scott Grabel of “Grabel and Associates” was quoted as saying, “It may be the most overlooked tool in our profession. When there is a suspected confession, a strong lawyer should insist upon a hearing to determine whether or not it was voluntary. By not doing so, we provide a disservice to our client. The lawyer has to go the extra mile in this situation because without suppressing a confession we could be suppressing one’s freedom. Criminal law is a dangerous game and the attorney needs to utilize every aspect of a strong defense. For whatever reason, the “Walker Hearing” is one that is truly overlooked”.
Ravi Gurumurthy, a criminal defense lawyer in Cadillac, Michigan that works “Of Counsel” for Grabel and Associates also provided commentary on the issue. Gurumurthy has quickly developed a reputation as a top defense attorney in his geographic area and a main reason for this is his expertise in criminal procedure. Gurumurthy stated, “I think one reason that lawyers, especially younger ones, overlook the “Walker Hearing” is because it was not taught in law school. I never heard of it until I was studying for the Michigan Bar Exam because the issue frequently appeared in Criminal Procedure essays. After being introduced to it, the “Walker Hearing” became a major mechanism of my practice. I have won several cases because of the suppression of confessions and I feel that any decent criminal defense lawyer should become familiar with the topic.”
In the field of criminal law, many people do not realize that there are times when your silence can be used against you and there are other times when one’s words are taken out of context. While it may be the most utilized concept in the field of criminal law, a qualified lawyer can make the “Walker Hearing” one of the most valuable resources in the field.
Bill Amadeo is a partner at the law firm McManus PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and an Associate Attorney at Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. In addition to his legal duties, Bill owns and operates BAT Tutoring with his business partner and fellow attorney Ashley Johnson. Bill can be reached at: WilliamAmadeo@Grabellaw.com.
1. People v. Walker, 374 Mich. 331 (1965)