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COA: admitting teen's confession was a fundamental error

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An Indiana Court of Appeals decision today places a burden on police officers to make sure interview room video cameras don’t infringe upon meaningful consultation when a juvenile is involved.

The appellate court reversed a teen’s adjudication for committing what would be felony child molesting because he wasn’t given meaningful consultation with his guardian as required by Indiana’s juvenile waiver of rights statute. They found the video cameras that recorded the consultation between the two was an improper police presence and infringed on privacy necessary to any meaningful consultation.

S.D. was accused of molesting one of the children his guardian watched in her home daycare. He went with his guardian to the police to speak with Detective Chris Lawrence. He and his guardian were initially alone in the small interview room and noted the cameras in it. S.D. told the detective he didn’t care if his guardian was present during questioning, so she left. Detective Lawrence told S.D. he wasn’t under arrest and was free to go at any time. He questioned S.D. about the incident, said he didn’t think S.D. was telling the truth, and sat close to S.D. and spoke to him in a low voice near the end of the interview.

S.D. changed his story several times, eventually confessing to molesting the girl. He was then put in handcuffs. At his hearing, S.D. moved to suppress his videotaped statement. S.D. was found to have committed Class C felony child molesting if committed by an adult.

In S.D. v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1004-JV-442, the appellate court addressed the admission of the confession as to whether it constituted a fundamental error. S.D. claimed he wasn’t afforded meaningful consultation as required by Indiana’s juvenile waiver of rights statute because the consultation was videotaped. The issue was whether he was subject to a custodial interrogation when he confessed. The judges agreed that Detective Lawrence interrogated him and found the evidence supported a reasonable person in similar circumstances wouldn’t believe he was free to leave, so S.D. was in custody when he confessed. Because of this, the juvenile waiver statute applies and he was entitled to meaningful consultation with his guardian, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“Consultation can be meaningful only in the absence of police pressure,” she wrote. “Privacy is essential to a meaningful consultation. The meaningful consultation requirement is met only when the State demonstrates actual consultation of a meaningful nature or the express opportunity for such consultation, which is then forsaken by the juvenile in the presence of the proper authority, so long as the juvenile knowingly and voluntarily waives his constitutional rights.”

S.D. and his guardian were videotaped during their consultation and they were aware of the video cameras. This constituted an improper police presence and infringed on the privacy necessary to any meaningful consultation. The burden is on the state to demonstrate that S.D. and his guardian were afforded meaningful consultation; the burden isn’t on the juvenile to ask for it, she continued.

“We acknowledge that our decision places a burden on police officers to ensure that interview room video cameras do not infringe upon meaningful consultation when a juvenile is involved. However, in light of the purpose of the meaningful consultation requirement – to provide a juvenile with a ‘stabilizing and comparatively relaxed atmosphere in which to make a serious decision that could affect the rest of his life’ – we cannot say that such a burden is too onerous,” wrote Judge Vaidik.
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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