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It is impermissible to penalize an individual for exercising his Fifth Amendment privilege when he is under police custodial interrogation. The court does not regard this tactic, warning of punishment for non-cooperation, as one which makes the confession involuntary per se, but rather as one factor to be considered in the totality of circumstances.
The Kwik Shop on West Cloud Street in Salina was robbed. Defendant Jami Del Swanigan was invited to the police department to answer questions about the robbery. Upon arrival, defendant was placed in a locked waiting room for 30 to 45 minutes before the interrogation began. The lead investigator read defendant his Miranda rights, which defendant indicated he understood. Defendant denied knowing anything about the robberies. The investigator falsely told defendant that his fingerprints had been found at the scene. She also informed him that he had been caught on the surveillance camera. Defendant had no explanation for either fact, except that he had possibly been at the store before. After defendant took a bathroom break, another investigator joined the interrogation. Defendant gave the interrogators several different stories, but each version contained facts that were contrary to what the officers knew from the eyewitnesses. When confronted with the discrepancies, defendant then denied any involvement in the robbery. Another investigator joined who warned defendant of punishment for “non-cooperation.” Eventually, defendant confessed to the robbery. Thereafter, defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements, alleging that the same were not voluntary, knowing or intelligent under the totality of the circumstances. Specifically, defendant alleged that the police used coercive and deceptive tactics, including providing him false information that his fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene and promising that his cooperation in the investigation would help him. The trial court denied the motion, and defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery.
Did the trial court err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress the statements the latter made during police interrogations, thereby warranting the reversal of defendant’s conviction?
The Court reversed the conviction. According to the Court, the police threatening defendant with telling the county attorney of his lack of cooperation was inconsistent with defendant's Fifth Amendment rights. The Court failed to see how the police could be required to advise defendant of the right to remain silent, then be allowed to warn him of punishment for "non-cooperation" when he exercised that right. The Court did not regard this tactic as one that made the confession involuntary per se, but it was one factor to be considered. The Court averred that the factors of low intellect and anxiety should have been considered in determining the voluntariness of the confession. The Court held that in this case, the State failed to show that the defendant's second statement was untainted by the first. The statements were approximately 19 hours apart and there was no evidence of intervening circumstances that would have attenuated the coercive effects of the prior evening. Thus, defendant's second statement also should have been excluded at trial. The Court did note that none of the circumstances alone made the confession involuntary per se.