People v. Soto, 2017 IL App (1st) 140893 (January). Episode 291 (Duration 11:45)
Third confession 24 hours after first Mirandaless confession was cured of the taint of the constitutional violation.
Defendant was basically homeless and allowed to voluntarily stay at the police station while the police worked the case.
He was there 2 days and on the third day he finally confesses after the police confront him with another witness’s statement.
After spending two nights at the police station, he made three incriminating statements confessing to the murder of his roommate.
The trial court agreed with Soto that his first two incriminating statements were inadmissible mainly because, although the police had probable cause to arrest Soto for the murder, they failed to give him Miranda warnings before eliciting an incriminating statement and the taint from that statement rendered inadmissible his second statement given minutes after his first.
But the trial court found that Soto’s third incriminating statement, given more than 24 hours later, was admissible based on the curative measures taken after the unwarned interrogation.
The trial court also found that Soto voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, despite his asserted cognitive defects and low intelligence level.
Defendant was basically homeless and allowed to voluntarily stay at the police station while the police worked the case. Defendant voluntarily accompanied police to the police station and cooperated with the investigation. He was there 2 days and on the third day he finally confesses after the police confront him with another witness’s statement.
Probable Cause To Arrest
The police had enough probable cause to arrest defendant after they had talked to a witness who said defendant told him he had beat someone up.
When the police go back to the station to confront defendant they don’t immediately Mirandize him.
He makes an unwarned and unrecorded first statement of “I did it. I hit him.”
The police then immediately Mirandize him and start recording everything.
First & Second Tainted Statements
The trial court also ruled that Soto’s second statement that was recorded after he was advised of his Miranda rights was likewise inadmissible because it was tainted by Soto’s first unwarned and unrecorded statement given minutes before.
Finally, the trial court ruled that Soto’s third statement given to an ASA more than 24 hours later was admissible because the taint had worn off by then.
Issue on Appeal
The appeal only concerned the third statement.
Soto contends that the police investigated his involvement in the murder in search of probable cause while illegally detaining him at the police station.
Thus, the reviewing court revisited the question of whether or not defendant was illegally detained. Courts consider the following factors to determine whether a voluntary interrogation turns custodial:
(1) the time, place, length, mood, and mode of the encounter between the defendant and the police;
(2) the number of police officers present;
(3) any indicia of formal arrest or restraint, such as the use of handcuffs or drawing of guns;
(4) the intention of the officers;
(5) the subjective belief or understanding of the defendant;
(6) whether the defendant was told he could refuse to accompany the police;
(7) whether the defendant was transported in a police car;
(8) whether the defendant was told he was free to leave;
(9) whether the defendant was told he was under arrest; and
(10) the language used by officers.
Evident He Was There Voluntarily
The reviewing court held that it was evident that Soto’s presence was voluntary and became a custodial arrest only after there was probable cause to suspect Soto murdered his roommate after the detective interviewed the witness.
Under normal circumstances, it would likely be infered that a person who slept two consecutive nights in a windowless room on a metal bench was detained.
But that inference was rebutted here by the fact that Soto told police he was homeless, had no place else to go, considered the police station to be warm, and wanted to find out what happened to his friend.
No Indicia of Arrest
The evidence in the record reveals that the door to the interview room was either open or, if closed, was unlocked. Notably, holding cells were located in the building, but the detectives did not place Soto in a cell at any time prior to his arrest.
Likewise, there is no evidence in the record that, after Soto voluntarily accompanied the police officers to the station, that he was
(1) patted down,
(4) photographed, or
Because Soto left the police station to assist the detectives with their investigation, his transportation in an unmarked police vehicle was reasonable and not an indication of a seizure.
No Unlawful Arrest
Soto’s fourth amendment rights were not violated because he (1) voluntarily remained at the police station and (2) was lawfully detained after the police had probable cause to arrest him following the interview with his cousin.
Because Soto was not illegally detained, suppression of his statements given to the detectives during the course of their investigation on the basis that they were fruit of an illegal arrest was not warranted.
“Question First Warn Later”
Soto next claims that the trial court should have suppressed his third incriminating statement because the detectives deliberately engaged in an illegal two-step “question first, warn later” interrogation tactic to elicit his incriminating statements.
In the seminal case of Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 617 (2004), the United States Supreme Court condemned the “question first, warn later” interrogation technique and mandated the suppression of statements that resulted from use of that tactic. Under the “question first, warn second” technique, an officer initially interrogates a suspect, obtains an incriminating statement, then provides the Miranda warnings, and repeats the question until the accused repeats the answer provided before the warnings.
The court reasoned that midstream Miranda warnings given after eliciting a confession would be ineffective in conveying to a defendant the nature of his rights, including the right to remain silent, and the consequences of abandoning those rights.
In Illinois, the relevant framework is to first determine if the police deliberately engaged in a “question first, warn later” technique during their interrogation of a defendant. If there is no evidence supporting a finding of deliberate conduct, then the Seibert analysis ends.
On the other hand, if the evidence supports a finding of deliberateness, then a court must consider whether curative measures were taken before the accused made a post warning statement.
Curative measures include a substantial break in time and circumstances between the unwarned statement and the post warning statement to allow the accused to distinguish between the two contexts and alert the accused that the interrogation has taken a new turn.
Didn’t Mirandize Him When They Should Have
Importantly, the trial court found it ludicrous that the detectives did not consider Soto a suspect based on all of the information that the detectives had after the interview with Soto’s cousin.
The trial court believed that the detectives deliberately confronted Soto about lying, including lying about his name, to see what would happen, and then they would be able to investigate further based on Soto’s response. The trial court’s statements make it clear that it considered the detective’s conduct in failing to immediately administer the Miranda warnings after the interview with Soto’s cousin to be deliberate.
Adequate Measures To Cure The Violation
Nonetheless, adequate curative measures were taken before Soto’s third incriminating statement.
Specifically, more than 24 hours elapsed between Soto’s tainted statements and his third statement, which was a sufficient period of time to disrupt any continuum between Soto’s first two statements and his third.
Moreover, unlike his prior two statements, Soto gave his third statement to an ASA and not to the same detective.
In Illinois, advice to the accursed regarding the “likely inadmissibility” of an earlier statement may be enough, even in the absence of other curative measures, to offset “ask first/warn later” misconduct.
The court said it did not view the law as requiring both curative measures and advice to the accused as to the admissibility of earlier statements.
The court found it significant that when Soto made further incriminating statements to the ASA, Soto had received Miranda warnings in Spanish twice and waived his rights both times. In sum, because the curative measures taken between Soto’s second and third incriminating statements—the substantial lapse in time and change in personnel—clearly conveyed that the third interrogation was not part of a continuum but a new and distinct phase of the investigation, the Miranda warnings given prior to his third interrogation presented Soto with a genuine choice of whether he should proceed with the interrogation and make additional statements.
Can’t Expect ASA To Give Legal Advice
We further observe that a requirement that the accused be given what is essentially legal advice regarding the admissibility of earlier statements is problematic where, as here, the later questioner was not present for and thus has no personal knowledge of the circumstances under which the prior statement was made. The most that the ASA could have told Soto before his third statement was that there may be some issues regarding the admissibility of the earlier statement. The utility of such equivocal advice to inform a suspect’s decision to give a further statement appears negligible. But the ASA would have run the risk of providing incorrect legal advice to Soto had she affirmatively represented to Soto that his earlier statements were inadmissible. Such advice, if later determined to be inaccurate, could have called into question the admissibility of Soto’s third statement.
Consequently, the trial court properly determined that Soto’s third incriminating statement was admissible. See the dissent for a strong case that time alone does not cure the error.
Police Interrogation in Murder Case in Illinois
The applicable law here falls under the Illinois Compiled Statutes Code of Criminal Procedure section 725 ILCS 5/ 103-2.1(b). Surprisingly, the code does not use the language we would expect. One would expect to find the language “shall be” somewhere in a “requirement” section of law.
That’s not how this law is written up. Here is exactly what the code says:
“An oral, written, or sign language statement of an accused made as a result of a custodial interrogation conducted at a police station or other place of detention shall be presumed to be inadmissible as evidence against the accused in any criminal proceeding brought under [listed] Section …unless (1) an electronic recording is made of the custodial interrogation; and (2) the recording is substantially accurate and not intentionally altered.”
The law simply sets up a presumption of inadmissibility in all cases involving an interrogation of a murder suspect that is done without a recording. This presumption is slowly being broadened to include other listed charges.
This is not necessarily an outright ban of the interrogation as evidence.
What Happens When the Interrogation is not Recorded?
The code further states that:
“The presumption of inadmissibility of a statement made by a suspect at a custodial interrogation at a police station or other place of detention may be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was voluntarily given and is reliable, based on the totality of the circumstances.”
So when a murder interrogation is not recorded, there is a presumption of inadmissibility as evidence of that statement.
However, if the prosecution can establish that the statements made in the interrogation were still voluntary then the statements can be admitted in evidence despite the fact that they were not recorded.
Section (d) says…
“(d) If the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was subjected to a custodial interrogation in violation of this Section, then any statements made by the defendant during or following that non-recorded custodial interrogation, even if otherwise in compliance with this Section, are presumed to be inadmissible in any criminal proceeding against the defendant except for the purposes of impeachment.”