Runner-Up Best Oralist
Hank Susskin, Petitioner v. United States of America, Respondent
(Full Transcript of Record)
In 2000, Hank Susskin was a 21-year-old lacrosse player who attended Old York University. At a party with his teammates, Susskin had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl at a fraternity house. When the girl’s parents found out, they pressed charges and Susskin was convicted of statutory rape under Old York law and sentenced to one year in prison. Pursuant to state law, Susskin registered as a sex offender in Old York three days after he was released from prison.
Looking for a fresh start, Susskin moved to a small community in Old Jersey in 2001. He stayed in his residence in Old Jersey and never moved again. Susskin was a gifted piano player, so he decided to make a living by giving piano lessons to children. Most of his students were children living in his neighborhood. In 2001, Old Jersey law did not require Susskin to register as a sex offender unless he was convicted in Old Jersey, so he did not register there.
On July 27, 2006, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which required convicted sex offenders to update their registration within three days after a change in residence (42 U.S.C. § 16913(c)). Congress made a failure to register a federal crime punishable by up to ten years in prison (18 U.S.C. § 2250). On February 28, 2007, the United States Attorney General announced SORNA would apply retroactively to sex offenders convicted prior to the enactment of the statute.
On June 15, 2008, 14-year-old Simone DeMarque disappeared from her home in Old Jersey. DeMarque lived in the same neighborhood as Susskin. Her body was found a week later in a nearby national park in Old Jersey. Following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the authorities learned that DeMarque had been a piano student of Susskin's. Also, the FBI ran a background check on Susskin and discovered his prior statutory rape conviction in Old York. The FBI subsequently took Susskin into custody.
Special Agent Phineas McFadden informed Susskin of his Miranda rights. Although Susskin verbally acknowledged that he understood his rights, he refused to sign an acknowledgement form. When Agent McFadden began talking to Susskin, however, Susskin responded with a mix of actions. Despite rarely making eye contact, Susskin shrugged his shoulders, laughed out loud, and gave direct verbal answers. At one point, Agent McFadden informed Susskin that the prosecutor planned to seek the death penalty. Susskin started to cry and stated, "I didn't mean for any of this to happen. I don't want to die."
Susskin was indicted for murder under 18 U.S.C. § 1111 and for a failure to register as a sex offender under 18 U.S.C. § 2250. Susskin moved to dismiss his indictment for failing to register because 18 U.S.C. § 2250 violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of Article I, Section 9, of the United States Constitution. Susskin also moved to suppress his confession because it was obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The United States District Court for the District of Old Jersey denied both motions. At trial, his confession was admitted over objection. A jury found Susskin guilty of murder. Susskin received 2 consecutive sentences - ten years in prison for failing to register under SORNA and life imprisonment for murder.
(1) Whether police interrogation after a defendant refuses to sign a Miranda acknowledgment form violates the Fifth Amendment.
(2) Whether 18 U.S.C. § 2250 violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution.