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COA finds man initiated communication with detective

March 2, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress an incriminating statement to a detective because the defendant initiated the discussion and understood his Miranda rights before speaking.

In Brian Scott Hartman v. State of Indiana, No. 68A01-1106-CR-264, Brian Scott Hartman was in jail on burglary charges when a sheriff’s detective asked Hartman about his father. Hartman requested to speak with an attorney, so questioning stopped. The next day, detective Tom Pullins executed two search warrants of Hartman’s property and found the body of the father. Pullins went to the jail to read the search warrants to Hartman and ask if he had any questions. Hartman indicated he wanted to speak to detectives, was advised of his Miranda rights, and Hartman waived his rights and made an incriminating statement about his involvement in his father’s death.

Hartman tried to have the statement suppressed at his trial for murder and Class C felony assisting suicide, but the trial court denied it.

On interlocutory appeal, the COA couldn’t find an Indiana case directly on point with this issue and relied on State v. Person, 104 P3.d 976, 980-83 (Idaho Ct. App. 2004), to affirm the lower court. The facts are similar in the Person case, in which the trial court concluded that police had not re-initiated the interrogation, but had appropriately contacted Person to inform him of the charges he faced by reading an arrest warrant to Person.

As in Person, Pullins didn’t re-initiate the interrogation. Hartman initiated further communication by asking whether the search warrant had been served and whether anything had been found. Hartman then told Pullins he wanted to speak with him and waived his Miranda rights before making the statement. Thus, the trial court didn’t err in denying Hartman’s motion to suppress.

 

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