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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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