Whether a defendant's confession was voluntary is a question of law, and as such is subject to de novo review. The government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the confession was voluntary. This entails a showing that the defendant's confession was the product of a rational intellect and a free will. The factors to be considered include the age of the defendant, his education, the nature of the questioning, the use of physical punishment, and the determination of whether he was read his rights.
Defendant was convicted of several drug and firearm charges in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, and 856(a)(1). Defendant claimed the district court improperly denied his motion to suppress incriminating statements, improperly denied his motion for judgment of acquittal, improperly failed to merge two counts of the indictment, refused to give jury instructions, and make evidentiary rulings. The appellate court affirmed the convictions.
Did the district court err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements?
The court held that defendant's statements were made after being properly advised of his rights, after being interrogated for a brief period, and with no coercion. Merger of the charge of operating a "crackhouse" and distribution was improper where Congressional intent was to punish both crimes, and defendant's rights under U.S. Const. amend. V were not violated. Furthermore, the trial court's other actions were not clearly erroneous or an abuse of discretion.