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State v. Brown

May 16, 2008

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLANT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. BROWN, APPELLEE.



Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 37 Kan. App. 2d 726, 157 P.3d 655 (2007. Appeal from Shawnee district court; NANCY E. PARRISH, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Appellate courts apply a dual standard when reviewing the suppression of a confession. In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress a confession, the appellate court reviews the factual underpinnings of the decision under a substantial competent evidence standard. The ultimate legal conclusion drawn from those facts is reviewed de novo.

2. When a defendant claims his or her confession was not voluntary, the prosecution has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it was voluntary. The essential inquiry is whether the statement was the product of the accused's free and independent will. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession and determines its voluntariness.

3. The privilege against self-incrimination may be raised in any proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where testimonial evidence may incriminate the individual in future criminal proceedings.

4. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is violated when the State compels testimony by threatening to inflict potent sanctions unless the constitutional privilege is surrendered.

5. In some situations, an individual is not required to assert the right against self-incrimination and the right is self-executing. In such situations, the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination may be asserted at a later time to suppress the statements made under State compulsion.

6. The privilege against self-incrimination becomes self-executing for a defendant in a classic penalty situation. A classic penalty is a substantial penalty capable of coercing incriminating testimony.

7. If a parent is compelled to admit to criminal acts or face the loss of his or her parental rights, the incriminating statements will be excluded from evidence when the parent becomes a defendant in criminal proceedings.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosen, J.

This case comes before us on the State's petition for review of the Court of Appeals decision in State v. Brown, 37 Kan. App. 2d 726, 157 P.3d 655 (2007). The State sought interlocutory review of a district court decision suppressing Brown's statements to law enforcement officers, in which he confessed his involvement in injuring his 1-month-old child, because the statements were not freely and voluntarily made. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court.

The Court of Appeals set out the underlying facts as follows:

"On December 11, 2002, Brown's baby was taken to a Topeka area hospital with a skull fracture, a subdural hematoma, a lacerated liver, and fractured ribs. When questioned about the injuries, Brown stated he found the baby with a 3-year-old brother on the floor beside the crib. The baby's injuries, however, were not consistent with this explanation, and an investigation was initiated. On December 20, 2002, the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) completed its investigation, finding that the Browns were 'substantiated as . . . perpetrator[s]' of child abuse. All three children were removed from the Brown home.

"Throughout the child in need of care (CINC) proceedings, the Browns maintained their innocence. Because of this perceived conspiracy to withhold the truth about the baby's injuries, SRS did not recommend reintegration and persistently pressured the Browns to 'admit how the injuries to the children were sustained.' Finally, on the date the Browns' parental rights were to be relinquished, Brown went to the sheriff's office, sought out a detective who had been involved in the investigation, and told him he was ready to make a statement. After being Mirandized, Brown gave a statement admitting that on the night in question, the baby would not stop crying, was driving him 'freaking crazy,' and Brown 'squeezed him too hard.'

"Brown was then charged with aggravated battery and abuse of a child. Before trial, the court held a partial Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 12 L.Ed. 2d 908, 84 S.Ct. 1774 (1964), hearing to determine whether the confession was voluntary. The district court initially ruled the confession admissible; but on reconsideration and after review of the records of the CINC proceedings, the court found that 'the circumstances under which the . . . statement was given violated the Fifth Amendment [to] the United States Constitution and . . . was not freely and voluntarily given.'"

Standard of Review

Appellate courts apply a dual standard when reviewing the suppression of a confession. In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress a confession, the appellate court reviews the factual underpinnings of the decision under a substantial competent evidence standard. The ultimate legal conclusion drawn from those facts is reviewed de novo. The appellate court does not reweigh evidence, assess the credibility of the witnesses, or resolve conflicting evidence. State v. Ackward, 281 Kan. 2, 8, 128 P.3d 382 (2006).

When a defendant claims his or her confession was not voluntary, the prosecution has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it was voluntary. The essential inquiry is whether the statement was the product of the accused's free and independent will. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession and ...


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