This motion was brought in a drug sales case in Ventura County. It is an example of a case in which officers crossed the line in their interrogation of my client.
The defendant brings this motion to exclude the statements obtained by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department personnel and its agent as products of coercion in violation of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I of the California State Constitution.
STATEMENT OF ANTICIPATED FACTS
(This motion incorporates by reference Exhibit A, the certified transcript of the Translation of the Interrogation of Mr. X by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department personnel, Detective Z and Sergeant A, completed by court-certified interpreter ____).
Mr. X’s interrogation is a study in the variety of techniques used by law enforcement in an effort to overcome an individual’s resistance and obtain a confession. From the outset, Mr. X told Detective Z that he was only giving Y a ride and tried to explain that he did not know what the ride was for (Exhibit A, 3:14-15, 17-23.) In response to this reply by Mr. X, Detective Z attempts a number of techniques to try to extract an admission from Mr. X, from the claim that officers have essentially seen him do it, to the exhortation to “be a man”, to the threat to withdraw and leave Mr. X without the ability to explain himself, to repeated questioning on the same points and interruptions which signal to Mr. X that the officers will not accept what he is telling them. First, Detective Z asked the interpreter Sgt. A to tell Mr. X that Detective Z has seen him driving Y around on numerous occasions. (Exhibit A, 3: 27-28 ) This technique proves unsuccessful in intimidating Mr. X as Mr. X questions how that could be. (Exhibit A, 3:1) The interpreter Sgt. A himself adds the additional comment that law enforcement has been watching Mr. X for awhile. (Exhibit A, 4: 7-8). Detective Z then asked Sgt. A to ask Mr. X “if he is going to be a man and tell the truth.” (Exhibit A, 4: 9-10) At this point, Detective Z attempts to pressure Mr. X by asking Sgt. A to tell Mr. X that if he does not “tell the truth” they will not talk to him. (Exhibit A, 4:16.)
Sgt. A also uses the techniques of presuming Mr. X’s knowledge of Y’s criminal activity, pressuring him with the repeated insistence that Mr. X knew Y was delivering drugs, repeatedly interrupting Mr. X as he attempts to give a full answer, and connecting unrelated topics, like the fact of giving Y a ride and the knowledge of what that ride was for. (Exhibit A, 4:25-26). In one exchange, Sgt. A tells Mr. X “okay, so, you already know why you were going from place to place because you were giving him a ride, right?” When Mr. X attempts to explain, Sgt. A cuts him off. This repeated conduct signals to Mr. X that the law enforcement authorities are not interested in what he has to say. Instead, as Mr. X attempts to explain himself, Sgt. A interrupts him, insisting again that Mr. X must have had knowledge of Y’s criminal activity. (Exhibit A, 4: 1-2 at bottom) Even as Mr. X attempts to explain that it wasn’t his business, Sgt. A again interrupts Mr. X and insists that Mr. X knew Y was delivering drugs. (Exhibit A, 4:3; 5: 5-6) In response, Mr. X again denies any knowledge and attempts to explain that he was only taking Y to the liquor store.” (Exhibit A, 5: 8) .
Despite the combined pressure of both Detective Z and Sgt. A, Mr. X steadfastly refuses to admit anything. When both Detective Z and Sgt. A insist that Y must have paid Mr. X, Mr. X denies that he ever received any money from Y. Detective Z asked whether Y would “ kick him down a little cash” and Sgt. A expressed that same question as an already determined fact that “he would give you a little money” (Exhibit A, 5:9, 5:10-13). Despite this combined pressure by two law-enforcement authority figures, Mr. X still interrupted Sgt. A to deny that he received any money from Y. (Exhibit A, 5: 12)
Even when as Sgt. A again repeats this theme of giving Y a ride “to sell drugs,” Mr. X continues to resist and attempts to explain “yes, I would only give him a ride but not……” before he is again interrupted by further questioning. (Exhibit A, 5: 17-20) By consistently interrupting Mr. X, the law enforcement authority figures signal that they are not interested in hearing his version of what really happened; their only agenda is to get Mr. X to agree with the version that they are insisting upon, one in which he either knows that Y is selling drugs and/or receives some personal benefit from Y’s criminal activity.
The conduct of Detective Z and the interpreter Sgt. A consistently conveys to Mr. X that the only “way out” is to agree with the version with which law enforcement continues to bombard him. This dual strategy of insisting on the story that law enforcement wants to hear and continuing to interrupt Mr. X as he attempts to fully answer the questions that are put to him conveys to Mr. X that he has no choice but to agree with officers. When Sgt. A attempts to get Mr. X to agree that he must have known the dangers of his conduct, Mr. X again attempts to explain “yes but like I said it was only…” before again being cut off by the officers. ( Exhibit A, 5: 3-4; 6: 6-9) At this point, when Mr. X is again bombarded by the officers’ insistence that Y gave him money, he again denies the accusation. (Exhibit A, 6: 11-12) When Mr. X attempts to explain that he works for a living, Detective Z briefly shifts gear in an apparent attempt to curry favor with Mr. X by giving him some recognition and respect, rather than withdrawing that recognition and respect with comments like “be a man” or threats not to talk to him. When Detective Z provides Mr. X with that recognition that they know he works and they know what he does, Mr. X proudly attempts to elaborate on his work before he is again cut off by the officers. (Exhibit A, 6: 15-21)
It is at this point that the interrogation efforts apparently intensify as Detective Z and Sgt. A double their efforts to try to get Mr. X to admit knowledge of Y’s criminal activity. Detective Z asks Sgt. A to ask Mr. X “if he knew how much they were going to deliver tonight” (Exhibit A, 6: 22-23). In translating the question, Sgt. A asks Mr. X “look, honest, did you know how much they were going to take now? How much was there going to be in the trans… how much, how much drug were you taking now?” (Exhibit A, 6: 25-28) Mr. X again explains “no, he only told me, give me a ride, I don’t know how much.” (Exhibit A, 6: 2-3) Mr. X never says he knew Y was delivering drugs that night. Saying he did not know “how much” in response to the question “how much drug were you taking now” is not the same as Mr. X himself independently stating or even verifying that he knew Y was delivering drugs that night.
In an apparent attempt to pin him down, the officers then insist to Mr. X “you didn’t know how much but you knew that he was going to take drugs?” (Exhibit A, Question by Sgt. A, 6: 4-5) It is at this critical moment, before any response by Mr. X and in an attempt to get an admission from him, that Sgt. A tries to minimize the negative consequences and makes a promise that induces Mr. X’s response, telling Mr. X “you can say yes, there’s no problem. It’s not, it’s not like you killed someone.” (Exhibit A, 7: 11-12)
By indicating “you can say yes, there’s no problem”, Sgt. A crosses the line and enters the dangerous territory of essentially suggesting to Mr. X that he will not be in trouble if he admits that he knew what Y was doing. Thereafter, when Sgt. A again insists “but you knew they were going to take some amounts”, he does not in fact specify that he is referring to drugs. (Exhibit A, 7: 15-16). It is only after and in direct response to this statement “you can say yes, there’s no problem” that Mr. X finally says “yes, but I don’t know how much.” (Exhibit A, 7: 15-17)
The remainder of the interrogation is vague and open to interpretation and misinterpretation by the officers. The confusion starts when Sgt. A conveys to Detective Z his interpretation of what Mr. X said, indicating to Detective Z “he said he knew they were going to but not how much.” (Exhibit A, 7: 18-19) Detective Z then asked Sgt. A to ask Mr. X how many times he did this. (Exhibit A, 7: 24) In response, Sgt. A asked Mr. X a question that again does not include the idea of taking Y somewhere specifically to deliver drugs. The question that Sgt. A actually asks Mr. X is “how many times have you done this giving him a ride or each week that you take him, to take him to another place.” (Exhibit A, 7: 25-28) In response, Mr. X says no. (Exhibit A, 7: 1) Sgt. A again demands “how many times a week? How many times did you do it?” (Exhibit A, 7: 3-4) The reference to “it” appears to refer to the previous question about giving him a ride or each week taking him to another place. The question itself does not include the idea that the act of giving him a ride is for the purpose of delivering drugs. In response, Mr. X again attempts to explain himself, stating, before again being cut off by Sgt. A, “no, only one or two times but not…” (Exhibit A, 7: 3-5)
In this exchange, Mr. X is again interrupted as he attempts to give a full and complete answer. Because the question itself is vague in that it is not actually referencing drugs and is instead asking Mr. X how many times he gave Y a ride, it is very difficult to ascertain exactly what Mr. X is admitting to in answering “one or two times”. Further, by continuing this practice of interrupting Mr. X and preventing him from giving a full answer, law enforcement makes it difficult to get a true and accurate depiction of exactly what, if anything, Mr. X is admitting to as far as his conduct. After interrupting Mr. X yet again at this point, Sgt. A says to Mr. X “per week? Two times a week”, to which, it is important to note, Mr. X never responds. (Exhibit A, 7: 6). The next person heard from is instead Detective Z who simply states “three times a week, okay, that’s all I have,” apparently ignoring the fact that Mr. X himself never made that statement. (Exhibit A, 8: 8) In the flurry of questioning and the confusion of translating, it appears that Detective Z believed that Sgt. A’s question “two times a week,” a question posed to Mr. X, was a statement made by Mr. X.
POINTS AND AUTHORITIES AND ARGUMENT
In analyzing whether a defendant’s statements were involuntary and obtained in violation of his rights under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, courts go through a process that is described as a “weighing of the circumstances of pressure against the power of resistance of the person confessing.” Stein v. People of State of New York 346 U.S. 156, 185. “In determining whether a defendant’s will had been overborn in any particular case, the courts assess the totality of all of the surrounding circumstances – both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation.” People v. Cahill (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 296, 310-311, citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 225-226. As the court emphasized in Cahill, the reason for excluding involuntary confessions is to provide the accused with an “essentially free and unconstrained choice” whether to confess. People v. Cahill (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 296, 311, citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973) 412 U.S. 218, 225-226. That freedom implies freedom from police conduct which is overreaching. Id. at 311, citing Colorado v. Connelly (1986) 479 U.S. 157, 163-164.
LAW ENFORCEMENT PROMISES OF LENIENCY OR THREATS OF INCREASED PUNISHMENT HAVE BEEN FOUND SUFFICIENT TO OVERCOME A PERSON’S FREE WILL AND RENDER THEIR STATEMENTS INVOLUNTARY
“[W]here a person in authority makes an express or clearly implied promise of leniency or advantage for the accused which is a motivating cause of the decision to confess, the confession is involuntary and inadmissible as a matter of law (emphasis added).” People v. Boyde (1988) 46 Cal.3d 212, 238. As the Jimenez court reiterated, before a confession can be used against a defendant, the prosecution has the burden of proving that it was voluntary and was not the result of any form of compulsion or promise of reward. People v. Jimenez, 21 Cal.3d 595, 602, citing People v. Trout, 54 Cal.2d 576; People v. Berve, 51 Cal.2d 286; People v. Jones (1944) 24 Cal.2d 601, 608; People v. Rogers (1943) 22 Cal.2d 787, 804-805; People v. Siemsen (1908) 153 Cal. 387, 394 [95 P. 863].) If a statement is found to be involuntary, the statement and other evidence derived from it are inadmissible for any purpose. Oregon v. Elstad (1985) 470 U.S. 298, 304-309. As the court explained in People v. Atchley, 53 Cal.2d 160, 169-170, this standard applies to all incriminating statements whether they be confessions in the strict sense or only admissions.
As the court explained in People v. Hill (1967) 6 Cal.2d 536, 549, whether the police conduct is sufficient to induce an involuntary statement depends not upon the words used by law enforcement authorities, but rather upon the nature of the benefit that the defendant is led to believe he will get by telling the authorities what they want to hear. If the defendant is given to understand, by the words used by officers, that he could reasonably expect benefits in terms of more lenient treatment by the police, prosecutors, or the court, then the lure of this kind of promise has been found to be sufficient to overcome a defendant’s will and render any statements made in response to this promise involuntary. Statements and promises that have been found sufficient to overwhelm an individual’s free will range from suggestions that a confession would result in a lighter sentence, (People v. Johnson, 41 Cal. 452, 454), to the idea that it would be in some unspecified way “better” to make a full disclosure (People v. Barric, 49 Cal. 342, 344-345; People v. Thompson, 84 Cal. 598, 605-606), to the promise that the law enforcement officer would do whatever he could for the accused if he would only “come out and tell the truth.” People v. Gonzales, 136 Cal. 666, 668. As the court in Hill also explained, the offer or promise of such a benefit does not have to be express or clear, but may instead be implied by equivocal language. People v. Thompson (1890) 84 Cal. 598, 605-606; People v. Barric (1874) 49 Cal. 342, 344-345; People v. Leavitt (1929) 100 Cal.App. 93, 95; People v. Nelson  224 Cal.App.2d 238, 251.
The cases of Vasila and Brommel graphically illustrate the kind of promises and threats that have been found to cross the line. In People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, the defendant was repeatedly encouraged by the investigators to tell the truth and was given to understand that a truthful statement would be to his advantage. This type of encouragement is allowed. However, the court points out that where the investigators crossed the line was in their promise to the defendant that they would not institute federal prosecution and that the defendant would be released on his own recognizance if he told them where the guns were hidden. People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 874.
Similarly, in the case of People v. Brommel, 56 Cal.2d 629, the officers presented two possible scenarios to the defendant, “options” which can best be summed up by the officer’s comments: “You either take it the hard way or you take it the easy way.” Id. at 633. In the speech that follows, the officer presents the details of “the hard way” to the defendant, including being put before a jury, bringing in testimony from medical doctors, neighbors, and the grandparents of the child, who would all testify about the defendant’s violent temper and the number of times he’d beaten the child. The officer emphasizes to the defendant that before he faces the judge, the judge will want to know about his ability to tell the truth. He also elaborates on what will occur if the officers tell the judge that the defendant refused to tell the truth. The officer finally concludes with a warning “Now if you want to meet that judge that way, if you want to meet your maker that way, well, brother, that is up to you.” Id. at 633. In analyzing the course of this interrogation, the Brommel court explains that these statements by law enforcement combined to create a two-headed threat/promise monster: one side offered the potential that, by confirming the scenario insisted on by officers, the defendant could expect a “break” from the court, while on the other lurked the threat of being branded a liar and getting no leniency. Id. at 633-634.
Similarly, courts have found that statements that held out the promise of less punishment, warnings that only through cooperating would the defendant’s conduct be put in the best light, and threats that the defendant would be somehow damaged by continuing to resist law enforcement’s version of events, are all capable of overwhelming an individual’s free will. In People v. Jimenez, 21 Cal.3d 595, law enforcement suspected that the defendant had participated in a robbery, but had not committed the murder that took place in the course of the robbery and had not been armed. There, law enforcement told the defendant that he could get the death penalty and that his codefendant probably would not. The court found that that representation communicated to the suspect that, if he cooperated, he could possibly avoid getting a worse punishment than his codefendant because either the jury or the court might treat him with leniency and not sentence him to death. Id. at 610-611.
Similarly, in People v. Cahill, 22 Cal.App.4th 296, the officers insisted that they already had all the evidence, suggesting to the defendant that there was no way out. Id. at 305. They tried techniques of minimizing the defendant’s alleged conduct and suggesting sympathetic scenarios to explain how it might have happened. Id. at 305. They insisted “you’re stuck” and told him they had to hear some mitigation or all they could take back with them was the “cold-blooded premeditated murder of this little lady.” Id. at 306. The defendant was told that this opportunity to speak with law enforcement was for his own benefit and promised that he could only help himself by talking. Id. at 307.
The pattern of the interrogation and crucial statements finally made to Mr. X all combined to create a scenario that closely parallels the law enforcement conduct found to be unconstitutional in Vasila and Brommel. In Mr. X’s case, Detective Z and Sergeant A repeatedly bombard Mr. X with urgings to tell the truth, upbraid him to “be a man,” continue to insist on the version of events they want to hear and repeatedly interrupt Mr. X as he attempts to explain. The conduct of Detective Z and Sgt. A consistently conveys to Mr. X that the only “way out” is to agree with the version with which law enforcement continues to bombard him. This dual strategy of insisting on the story that law enforcement wants to hear and continuing to interrupt Mr. X as he attempts to fully answer the questions that are put to him conveys to Mr. X that the officers are not interested in hearing what he has to say. It indicates to him that he has no choice but to agree with officers.
Against this backdrop, Sergeant A, who is acting as the interpreter in the interrogation but who sometimes makes statements to Mr. X that go beyond the exact questions asked by Detective Z, makes one fateful promise to Mr. X that is not made by Detective Z; he assures Mr. X in Spanish “you can say yes, there’s no problem. It’s not, it’s not like you killed someone.” (Exhibit A, 7: 11-12, emphasis added) With this pivotal representation that “you can say yes, there’s no problem,” Sgt. A made a representation that held out the promise that Mr. X could escape criminal liability, even by admitting what the officers wanted to hear. This representation is strikingly similar to the impermissible representation made in Vasila, when the officers promised the defendant that he could avoid prosecution and be released on his own recognizance if he only told them where the guns were hidden. It goes even further than the police conduct in Jimenez, with its promise of a potential lesser sentence. It evokes one side of the theme in Brommel, in which the defendant was led to believe that, by confirming the scenario insisted on by officers, he could expect a “break” from the court. People v. Brommel, 56 Cal.2d 629, 633-634. The approach here also echoes the law enforcement strategies in Jimenez and Cahill, in which law enforcement makes a promise that suggests to the suspect that he cannot be hurt by speaking to law enforcement. After all, it’s no problem.
MOTIVATION AND CAUSATION: DID LAW ENFORCEMENT STATEMENTS TRIGGER THE DEFENDANT’S CONFESSION OR ADMISSIONS?
For a defendant’s statements to be considered coerced, the promise of leniency must be a motivating cause of the decision to confess. People v. Johnson (1969) 70 Cal.2d 469, 478. As the court noted in People v. Vasila, an improper promise of leniency only makes the statement involuntary if, given all the circumstances, the promise was a motivating factor in the defendant giving the statement. People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 874. In the case of People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 876, the court considered what factors show that the threats or promises were the “motivating cause” of the defendant’s statement. In Vasila, the court emphasized that to determine whether statements made by law enforcement motivated the defendant statement, it is necessary to look at all the surrounding circumstances – both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation’ ….” People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 876, citing People v. Benson, 52 Cal.3d at p. 779. These characteristics of the accused include his “age, sophistication, prior experience with the criminal justice system and emotional state.” People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 876, citing In re Shawn D., 20 Cal.App.4th at p. 209.
A. Overwhelming the Defendant’s Resistance
In cases where the statements by police were found to overwhelm the individual’s free will, the defendant consistently refuses to admit anything under a barrage of questioning until officers finally turn to the threat or promise that turns the tide in their favor. The court in People v. Brommel, 56 Cal.2d 629, reviewed the entire course of the interrogation and the duality of the threat/ promise that finally triggered the defendant’s admissions. In Brommel, the defendant persistently refused to admit ever beating or striking the child victim, despite what the court described as “various types of vigorous urging and suggestions from the officers that they knew that defendant had severely beaten his daughter and wanted him to acknowledge that fact.” Id. at 633. Faced with constant resistance by the defendant, the officers then resorted to their “easy way or hard way” scenario. In Vasila, the court pointed out that the defendant consistently refused to give the officers what they wanted until that “turning point” when they suggested that he could avoid prosecution and be released. People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 876.
Similarly, in Cahill, despite being confronted by repeated questioning and the insistence that he must have been involved in the murder, the defendant steadfastly refused to make any statements admitting his presence in the home of the murder victim. He maintained this position until such time as the officers told him that if he cooperated he might not be accused or found guilty of first-degree murder. People v. Cahill (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 296, 313. In Cahill, the court noted that “to someone unskilled and uncounseled in the law it might have offered a hope that since no money was taken in the robbery and if, as he claimed he did not do the shooting, that he might be cleared of any serious charges.” Cahill at 317, citing People v. Johnson (1969) 70 Cal.2d 469, 479. In pointing out that, in light of the felony murder rule, his statements really amounted to a confession of first-degree murder, the court pointed out that “it stretches the imagination to believe that he knowingly and intelligently waived his right to be free from self-incrimination.” Id. at 313. There, the court held that “where the dominant focus of an interrogation is an implied promise of leniency and a confession ensues, absent adduction of countervailing evidence, e.g., a substantial time lapse between the implied promise and the incriminating statements, the confession must be attributed to that implied promise.” Cahill at 316.
The course of the interrogation and the kind of promise made in Mr. X’s case closely parallels what was offered by law enforcement in Vasila and Cahill. In Mr. X’s case, Mr. X steadfastly denied any knowledge of what his nephew was doing. Despite repeated exhortations by the officers ranging from urgings to tell the truth and be a man, to the repeated insistence that they knew Mr. X knew about his nephew’s criminal activity, Mr. X resisted the officers attempts to get him to agree with their version of events. A review of the course of his interrogation reveals that he resisted their efforts right up until that moment when Sgt. A said to Mr. X “you can say yes, there’s no problem. It’s not, it’s not like you killed someone.” (Exhibit A, 7: 11-12) With this pivotal representation that “you can say yes, there’s no problem,” set amidst an effort to minimize the suspect’s alleged conduct by saying “it’s not like you killed someone,” Sgt. A made a representation that held out the promise that Mr. X could escape criminal liability. This representation was strikingly similar to the impermissible representation made in Vasila, when the officers promised the defendant that he could avoid prosecution and be released on his own recognizance if he only told them where the guns were hidden. It was in direct response to this promise that Mr. X finally said “yes, but I don’t know how much.” (Exhibit A, 7:15-17.)
B. Characteristics of the Accused
The Vasila court, looking at the individual characteristics of the accused combined with the details of the interrogation, found that the admissions by the defendant were the result of unconstitutional coercion. In Vasila, the defendant had a professional license, had some college education, was married to a physician, owned extensive property, and had prior experience with the criminal justice system. There, even though the defendant was a person who was empowered by all he had – property, status, education, and prior experience with the criminal justice system – the court still found, based on the course of the interrogation and the nature of promises made by law enforcement, that those law enforcement promises overwhelmed the defendant’s free will and triggered the defendant’s statements. Based on a review of the interrogation itself, the Vasila court ruled that the impermissible promises made by the investigators were the “turning point in the interrogation” and clearly motivated the defendant’s statement. People v. Vasila, 38 Cal.App.4th 865, 876.
Similarly in Cahill, the court looked to the individual characteristics of the accused, in concert with the details of the interrogation and the timing factor between the promise made by law enforcement and the subsequent admission by the defendant, to determine whether the conduct of law enforcement triggered the defendant’s statements. People v. Cahill, 22 Cal.App.4th 296. There, the court reflected on the facts that the defendant was a young person raised in other states and whose education extended only to the eighth grade. Cahill at 317. There, The court noted that, to a person in that defendant’s position, someone “unskilled and uncounseled in the law,” it was very possible that the representations made by officers could have offered him hope that if he confessed but denied premeditation he might escape the most serious charges against him. Cahill at 317, citing People v. Johnson (1969) 70 Cal.2d 469, 479.
As in Vasila and Cahill, the individual characteristics of Mr. X, in concert with the details of the interrogation and the timing factors involved, also illuminate the coercive effects of the interrogation and especially of that one pivotal promise made by law enforcement. In contrast to the defendant in Vasila, who possesses education, property, citizenship, and past experience with the criminal justice system, Mr. X is a far more vulnerable subject for the officers’ interrogation. Mr. X is not a citizen of the United States. Although he is a legal permanent resident, he grew up in a foreign country where the justice system did not afford the same protections for individual rights as under our system. He has no education beyond high school in (country). Like the defendant in Cahill, Mr. X has limited education and was raised in a different society. Both factors create an even more uneven power dynamic in his interactions with law enforcement than that experienced by the average suspect who speaks English, who is a citizen of our country, and who shares in a common cultural experience.
In the entire 20 year period of time that he has resided in the United States, Mr. X has never had any contact with law enforcement or with our criminal justice system. Instead, he has raised a family and has worked hard at the same job at (company). Mr. X’s interactions with law enforcement, which are all first experiences for him, must also be seen through the prism of a language barrier, which adds to the sense of inequality, fear, and confusion which a suspect must overcome. Immediately prior to his interrogation, Mr. X was seized at gunpoint by multiple detectives. (RT, 18: 11-27) He was put under arrest and detained by the side of the road. (RT, 19: 10-15) From that point on, he was never out of the custody and supervision of multiple officers. As Detective Z explained at the preliminary hearing, even as Mr. X was undergoing the interrogation by Detective Z and Sergeant A, Mr. X had one hand handcuffed to the table in the interrogation room. (RT, 19: 23-27) The impact of these individual factors, in concert with the sequence of events surrounding Mr. X’s arrest, made Mr. X even more susceptible to the interrogation techniques that were to follow.
EXCLUSION: THE REMEDY FOR STATEMENTS OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF MR. X’S FIFTH AMENDMENT RIGHT AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION
A statement by the defendant that is motivated by law enforcement promises or threats is involuntary and a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In such a situation, where police conduct clearly crosses the line and holds out a kind of poisoned apple to the defendant, which promises leniency and sometimes even escape from the worse possible consequences but results in drawing damaging statements out of the defendant’s own mouth, the remedy is exclusion. The court in Jimenez, 21 Cal.3d 595, discussing what kind of remedy is appropriate in a coerced confession scenario, addressed the necessity of excluding such a coerced confession as the only truly effective remedy. Specifically, the court pointed out that even if the defendant is allowed to present evidence that the confession was coerced, the defendant “may not always be able to convince the jury to disregard this most devastating evidence of his guilt which emanated from his own mouth, even when this evidence should, in fact, be viewed with distrust.” People v. Jimenez, 21 Cal.3d 595, 608. According to the court in Jimenez, excluding a coerced confession is therefore the only truly effective remedy. Such exclusion bolsters the integrity of the fact-finding process and presents no risk of harm to the prosecution. Id. at 608.
As the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Quinn v. United States:
It has been said that the privilege against self-incrimination is the “essential mainstay” of our system of criminal justice (Malloy v. Hogan (1964) 378 U.S. 1, 7), and reflects many of the fundamental values and most noble aspirations of our society, including: “our unwillingness to subject those suspected of crime to the cruel trilemma of self-accusation, perjury or contempt; our preference for an accusatorial rather than an inquisitorial system of criminal justice; our fear that self-incriminatory statements will be elicited by inhumane treatment and abuses; … our respect for the inviolability of the human personality …; our distrust of self-deprecatory statements; and our realization that the privilege, while sometimes “a shelter to the guilty” is often “a protection to the innocent”. Quinn v. United States, 349 U.S. 155, 162. (Murphy v. Waterfront Comm’n (1964) 378 U.S. 52, 55.)
As the court held in, in finding that the voluntariness of a person’s confession must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the privilege against self-incrimination is rooted in our respect for the individual and in our ideals about the kind of society we all want to share. People v. Jimenez, 21 Cal.3d 595, 605-606 Every factor surrounding Mr. X’s interrogation, from the circumstances leading up to and during the interrogation, to the characteristics of Mr. X, to the pattern of questioning and the pivotal promise made by law enforcement officers to Mr. X in an attempt to extract statements from him, to the clear connection between that promise and the admissions made by Mr. X in response, all lead us to the inescapable conclusion that the statements obtained from Mr. X were the products of coercion. As such, they must be excluded. It is in such seemingly small ways that our constitutional rights are either championed or eroded. As Supreme Court Justice William Douglas reminds us, as nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become the unwitting victims of the darkness.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendant respectfully prays this court grant his motion to suppress his statements.
LAW OFFICE OF JENNIFER ZIDE
Attorney for Defendant X
As the great criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow reminds us, “you can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can be free only if I am free.” At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we believe in those words and in your freedom. We do what it takes to protect your Constitutional rights. If you have concerns about the kind of interrogation you were subjected to or questions about whether officers crossed the line in your case, call The Law Office of Jennifer Zide today. We are on your side.
By Criminal Defense Attorney Jennifer Zide
ph: (805) 477-0327/ 477-8024