The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a father’s conviction of child molesting related to his daughter, finding his confession, which was admitted into evidence at trial, was obtained in violation of Miranda protocol.
Detectives from Carroll and White counties went to Ryan Bean’s Lafayette home to speak with him about molestation allegations made by his daughter, H.B., and his niece, M.S. But police told Bean that they wanted to speak with him about an investigation into possession of child pornography. Bean agreed to go to the Lafayette Police station to speak about the child pornography allegations and “something else.” He was not arrested at this time.
He was at the station for more than an hour when police switched their interrogation from the pornography investigation to the claims made by his daughter and niece. Bean had already signed his Miranda rights waiver and was informed he could leave the building if he wanted. Several times, Bean asked about needing a lawyer, and he said he wanted to have a lawyer. The detectives did not stop questioning and eventually Bean confessed to molesting the girls.
He was charged in Carroll County with three counts of Class A felony child molesting of H.B. He was charged in White County with one count of Class A felony child molesting of H.B. The trials involving M.B. are not at issue on appeal. Bean tried to suppress his confession, which was denied. He was convicted in Carroll County of just one count, and convicted in White County on the count charged.
The Court of Appeals found itself in agreement with the 7th, 10th and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in that although the giving of Miranda warnings should not automatically render a suspect in custody, neither should the giving of such warnings be irrelevant in deciding whether one was in custody.
The judges concluded that Bean was in custody when he finally confessed, even if he was not formally arrested at the time, and even if he had been technically told he was free to leave the station at any time and not speak with police, Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Ryan E. Bean v. State of Indiana, 91A02-1109-CR-906.
Bean was taken to the station by police, the officers who spoke to him at his house didn’t tell Bean the real reason they wanted to speak with him, and the questioning in this case was aggressive and lengthy. The crucial factor indicating Bean was in custody was that he had been advised of his right to remain silent and have an attorney, he invoked those rights, and police continued questioning him anyway.
The appellate court rejected the state’s claims that Bean did not unambiguously invoke his right to counsel or that the trial court admittance of the confession was a harmless error. The judges reversed Bean’s convictions in both counties. The state may retrial Bean if it so chooses.