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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 just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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