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Justices rule defendant’s confession came under ‘increasing coercive pressure’

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Incriminating statements made to detectives during an early morning interrogation in the county jail have been thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because the defendant had invoked his right to counsel at an interrogation two days before.

Brian Scott Hartman had been taken into custody on burglary charges. After detectives read Hartman his Miranda rights, he requested to speak with an attorney. The following afternoon, detectives executed two search warrants at a residence and discovered the body of the defendant’s father.

At 1 a.m. the next day, Hartman was brought to the jail’s intake area where he was read the search warrants. After Hartman indicated he wanted to speak with the detectives and was re-read his Miranda rights, he essentially confessed to his role in his father’s death.

During the trial, Hartman moved to have his confession suppressed on the grounds that the statements were obtained after he had invoked his right to remain silent and consult an attorney.

The trial court denied the motion to suppress, concluding Hartman was not coerced but rather voluntarily chose to initiate the conversation with detectives.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial and remanded for further proceedings in Brian Scott Hartman v. State of Indiana, 68S01-1305-CR-395.

Although the Indiana justices cited Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98, 130 S. Ct. 1213, 175 L. Ed. 2d 1045 (2010), where the U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend Miranda protections, they noted the circumstances surrounding those cases were different from Hartman’s.

In Shatzer, the suspect had been released from custody and likely had been able to seek advice from an attorney, family members or friends. Moreover he knew from earlier experience the he could stop the interrogation by demanding counsel.

The situation was different for Hartman.

“Here, despite the defendant’s request for counsel, he had not been provided the opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to the police approaching him to read the search warrants,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court. “Nor had he consulted with family members or friends, nor been released from custody. Further, there is nothing in the record showing his knowledge from his earlier experience that a demand for counsel would bring dealings with the police to a halt. In fact, the defendant’s experience two days earlier, when his request for counsel was unproductive, could well have led him to the opposite conclusion – that a request for counsel would not be honored prior to further police dealings. This has the likely effect of increasing coercive pressure on the defendant.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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