In 1999, a then-19-year-old burglary and murder suspect named Tio Dinero Sessoms was interrogated by police officers. They did not advise him of his Miranda rights, and after a bit of overly polite small talk, Sessoms stated, "There wouldn't be any possible way that I could have a -- a lawyer present while we do this?"
The detectives began to parry his question, which led Sessoms to meekly mention that his father "asked me to ask you guys ... uh, give me a lawyer."
If that was an unambiguous request for counsel, questioning should have stopped. But the trial court and California appellate courts held that the two statements were not unambiguous (the first was a question, the second was a statement about his father's advice) and let his subsequent incriminating statements into the trial and his conviction to stand.
Now, on its third take on the case, an en banc Ninth Circuit has granted habeas relief.