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United States v. Duran

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 8, 2017



          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Patrick Duran's Motion to Suppress Statements filed January 8, 2017. [Doc. 73] The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties, the record, the evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing held on April 6, 2017 and August 29, 2017, and the pertinent law. The Court, being otherwise fully advised Grants the Motion in-part and Denies it in-part.


         Defendant Patrick Duran is charged with one count of abandonment or abuse of an Indian Child on the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation, causing great bodily harm in violation of NMSA 1978, Section 30-6-1(D)(1); 18 U.S.C. Section 13; and 18 U.S.C. Section 1152. [Doc. 1] Briefly summarized from an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint, and provided only to place the Court's discussion in context, [1] the factual allegations underlying the charge are the following.

         Defendant's girlfriend was the mother of 8 month old John Doe, (the alleged victim in this case, hereinafter “Child”). [Doc. 1 ¶¶ 3, 5-6] Defendant's girlfriend left Child with Defendant while she went to the store. [Doc. 1 ¶ 6] When she returned, Defendant told her that there was something wrong with Child. [Doc. 1 ¶ 6] Defendant explained to his girlfriend that Child had been crying when she left, and that he had placed Child in a crib to let him “cry it out for a while” but, when he checked on Child, he noticed “something different” about Child's breathing and his eyes. [Doc. 1 ¶¶ 6-7] Defendant's girlfriend checked on Child and found him unresponsive. [Doc. 1 ¶ 7] Child was transported by ambulance to the hospital. [Doc. 1 ¶ 7] He was vomiting and he had a bite mark on his arm. [Doc. 1 ¶ 7] At the hospital, an emergency room doctor discovered what appeared to be bleeding on Child's brain. [Doc. 1 ¶ 4] These events occurred on September 28, 2014. [Doc. 1 ¶ 3]

         The next day, September 29, 2014, FBI Special Agent William Hall and Criminal Investigator Samson Cowboy interviewed Defendant at the Jicarilla Police Department. [Doc. 1 ¶ 8] During the interview Defendant stated, among other things, that he lost his temper because Child was crying, and he picked Child up “too rough” from a bouncy chair and put him in a crib. [Doc. 1 ¶ 9] He also stated that when he checked on Child later, and found Child unresponsive, he bit Child's arm to elicit a response. [Doc. 1 ¶ 9] Based on these allegations, among others, Defendant was charged by criminal complaint, as noted earlier. [Doc. 1]

         Presently at issue is the admissibility of two sets of statements made by Defendant to FBI agents, Defendant's statement to S.A. Hall and C.I. Cowboy on September 29, 2014, and another statement made by Defendant after he was arrested on October 20, 2014. [8/29/17 Tr. 5, 39-40; Doc. 73 p. 3; Doc. 77 p. 2-3 ¶¶ 4, 6] Defendant seeks to suppress these statements on the ground that Defendant did not receive proper Miranda warnings before speaking with the agents. [8/29/17 Tr. p. 40] Additionally, he argues that his September 29, 2014, statements are inadmissible on the ground that they were not given voluntarily. [Doc. 73 p. 4]

         The Law Pertaining to “Miranda” Warnings

         Pursuant to the Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966), an accused person subject to custodial interrogation must be advised of his right to remain silent and the right to have counsel present at the interrogation, among other warnings. The accused may waive these rights, “provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently.” Id. If the accused “indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking there can be no questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him.” Id. at 444-45. Unless the prosecution demonstrates that it has abided by these procedural safeguards, any statements stemming from the custodial interrogation are inadmissible in a criminal proceeding. Id. at 444.

         Miranda only applies in the context of a custodial interrogation-meaning “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” Id. at 444. “[P]olice officers are not required to administer Miranda warnings to everyone whom they question. Nor is the requirement of warnings to be imposed simply because the questioning takes place in the station house, or because the questioned person is one whom the police suspect.” Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495 (1977). Thus, Miranda does not apply to a circumstance in which a suspect goes voluntarily to the police station, is informed that he is not under arrest, and, having been interviewed by the police, is permitted to leave. Id.

         The Law Pertaining to Involuntary Confessions

         “The Government bears the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a confession is voluntary.” United States v. Lopez, 437 F.3d 1059, 1063 (10th Cir. 2006). The question of voluntariness turns on “whether the confession is the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice by its maker[.]” Id. (alteration omitted). If so, the confession may be used against him. Id. However, if the defendant's confession was not freely made, that is-“if his will has been overborne and his capacity for self-determination critically impaired, the use of his confession offends due process” and must be suppressed. Id. In making a voluntariness determination, the Court is required to consider “the totality of the circumstances, considering both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation.” Id.

         Our Tenth Circuit recognizes five factors that are particularly relevant in this inquiry: “(1) the age, intelligence, and education of the defendant; (2) the length of detention; (3) the length and nature of the questioning; (4) whether the defendant was advised of his constitutional rights; and (5) whether the defendant was subject to physical punishment.” Id. at 1063-64. Additionally, with respect to the details of the interrogation, the Court should particularly consider whether the government induced a confession by acts, threats, or promises, that were so inherently coercive as to cause the defendant's will to be overborne. United States v. Fountain, 776 F.2d 878, 885 (10th Cir. 1985). In that vein, misrepresentations of law, such as a promise of leniency in exchange for a confession, are considered particularly coercive; whereas misrepresentations of fact, such as an overstatement of the strength of the government's evidence, are generally tolerated. Clanton v. Cooper, 129 F.3d 1147, 1158-59 (10th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds, Becker v. Kroll, 494 F.3d 904 (10th Cir. 2007).

         Findings of Fact

         From evidence adduced over the course of a two-day evidentiary hearing held on April 6, 2017 and August 29, 2017 at which FBI Special Agent William Hall (S.A. Hall), and FBI Special Agent Mark Buie (S.A. Buie) were called as witnesses for Government; and at which Defendant and Doctor Clifford Morgan, Ph.D were called as witnesses for the defense, the Court finds the following.

         1. S.A. Hall is an FBI supervisory special agent who has been with the FBI for 19 years.

         2. On September 29, 2014, upon S.A. Hall's request, a Jicarilla police officer went to Defendants residence and asked Defendant whether he was willing to speak with S.A. Hall. The request was made in person because S.A. Hall did not have Defendant's phone number. Defendant responded to the interview request by driving himself to the Jicarilla Police Department in Dulce, New Mexico.

         3. The Jicarilla Police Department has interrogation rooms and a conference room. The interrogation rooms have non-rolling chairs for suspects, an area to handcuff a suspect to a bar, and no windows; the conference room has dark brown leather rolling chairs, a long table, a window, and is the part of the police station in which the chief and his staff meet. Defendant, S.A. Hall, and Criminal Investigator Samson Cowboy met in the conference room instead of an interrogation room and, for approximately twenty minutes, S.A. Hall interviewed Defendant. The conference room door remained unlocked for the pendency of the interview.

         4. Defendant was age 26, he appeared to S.A. Hall to be sober, not injured, and to have no difficulty speaking, communicating, or understanding.

         5. The interview was tape recorded. Having listened to the tape recording, the Court finds that, in speaking with Defendant, S.A. Hall spoke in a calm tone of voice, and was not aggressive.

         6. After S.A. Hall asked Defendant some preliminary questions (for example, date of birth and address), S.A. Hall said to Defendant, “When we're done, you're going to walk out the door.” He also told Defendant “you're not under arrest”; and “Since you come over on your own power, you're sitting over there, and you can just-you know, you can basically get up and walk out.” [Gov. Ex. 1 p. 3-4] Defendant understood these comments to mean that he could leave the conference room at any time.

         7. Defendant responded by saying, “Well, I have nothing to hide, ” whereupon, S.A. Hall began to discuss, and ask Defendant questions about, the circumstances of the previous day that led to Child's injury. [Gov. Ex. 1 p. 4-6]

         8. In this interview, Defendant stated, among other things, that he had “picked [Child] up . . . too damn rough”; and that he had bitten Child when Child “wasn't responding.” [Gov. Ex. 1 p. 13-14, 16]

         9. Throughout course of the interview, S.A. Hall and C.I. Cowboy (who remained in the room, but did not interact with Defendant directly) were polite and professional toward Defendant; they did not threaten him, promise him leniency in exchange for a confession, physically punish him, or otherwise act overbearingly.

         10. After the interview, Defendant left the Jicarilla Police Department.

         11. S.A. Buie is a supervisor for the Santa Fe resident agency of the FBI who has ...

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