949 N.W.2d 519 (Neb. 2020), S-19-1139, State v. Connelly

Docket NºS-19-1139.
Citation949 N.W.2d 519, 307 Neb. 495
Opinion JudgeFunke, J.
Party NameSTATE of Nebraska, appellee, v. Jeremiah L. CONNELLY, appellant.
AttorneyThomas C. Riley, Douglas County Public Defender, and Leslie E. Cavanaugh, for appellant. Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Stacy M. Foust, Lincoln, for appellee.
Judge PanelHeavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.
Case DateOctober 16, 2020
CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska

Page 519

949 N.W.2d 519 (Neb. 2020)

307 Neb. 495

STATE of Nebraska, appellee,

v.

Jeremiah L. CONNELLY, appellant.

No. S-19-1139.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

October 16, 2020.

Page 520

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1. Motions to Suppress: Confessions: Constitutional Law: Miranda Rights: Appeal and Error. In reviewing a motion to suppress a statement based on its claimed involuntariness, including claims that law enforcement procured it by violating the safeguards established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), an appellate court applies a two-part standard of review. Regarding historical facts, an appellate court reviews the trial court's findings for clear error. Whether those facts meet constitutional standards, however, is a question of law, which an appellate court reviews independently of the trial court's determination.

2. Constitutional Law: Miranda Rights: Self-incrimination. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), prohibits the use of statements derived during custodial interrogation unless the prosecution demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards that are effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.

3. Miranda Rights: Police Officers and Sheriffs: Words and Phrases. Under the Miranda rule, a "custodial interrogation" takes place when questioning is initiated by law enforcement after a person has been taken into custody or is otherwise deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way.

4.: __:__. The term "interrogation" under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.

[307 Neb. 496] 5. __:__: __. A police officer's course of inquiry related to and responsive to a volunteered remark by the accused is not "interrogation" for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

6. Confessions: Appeal and Error. In making the determination of whether a statement is voluntary, a totality of the circumstances test is applied, and the determination reached by the trial court will not be disturbed on appeal unless clearly wrong.

7. Confessions: Evidence: Proof. To meet the requirement that a defendant's statement, admission, or confession was made freely and voluntarily, the evidence must show that such statement, admission, or confession was not the product of any promise or inducement-direct, indirect, or implied-no matter how slight.

8. Confessions: Mental Competency. Mental illness, like age, education, and intelligence, is a relevant factor in the totality test when evaluating the voluntariness of a statement.

9. __: __ . No per se rule invalidates the volunteered statement of a mentally ill defendant. Instead, such statement is subject to the general rule that a statement freely and voluntarily given without any compelling influences is admissible.

Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: Shelly R. Stratman, Judge. Affirmed.

Thomas C. Riley, Douglas County Public Defender, and Leslie E. Cavanaugh, for appellant.

Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Stacy M. Foust, Lincoln, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

Funke, J.

NATURE OF CASE

The appellant, Jeremiah L. Connelly, filed a motion to suppress in the district court for Douglas County, Nebraska, seeking to have statements he made to law enforcement suppressed in violation of his Miranda rights. The district court denied Connelly's motion, finding Connelly's pre-Miranda statements [307 Neb. 497] were not made in response to an interrogation and his post-Miranda statements were made voluntarily. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

INITIAL ARREST

On September 21, 2018, Omaha police officers Kirk Weidner and Mark Pruett were on routine patrol in the area of 90th Street and Bedford Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska. While patrolling the area, Weidner and Pruett observed a car exit a parking lot, cross two lanes of traffic, and run a stoplight. Upon pursuing the car, the officers observed the car parked in an alleyway and saw the driver exit the vehicle and head north. As Weidner and Pruett approached the vehicle, they received information from Omaha police dispatch of a report of a stolen car matching the description of the car they were observing. The officers gave chase on foot and apprehended the fleeing driver, later identified as Connelly.

Sgt. Tammy Mitchell, with the Omaha police's auto theft unit, instructed Weidner and Pruett to transport Connelly to the police station for an interview. Connelly was placed in handcuffs and put in the back of the cruiser, but was not read his Miranda rights.

Once Weidner, Pruett, and Connelly arrived at the police station, they waited in the lobby because all of the interview

Page 523

rooms were occupied. In the lobby, Connelly voluntarily provided the officers with information about the auto theft. He told Weidner, "You guys are worried about this petty auto theft when you should be worried about her life." When Weidner asked, "Whose life?" Connelly responded with a name that Weidner did not recognize. Connelly was then turned over to Mitchell for an interview.

MITCHELL INTERVIEW

Mitchell and a detective entered the interview room where Connelly was seated. Mitchell noticed that Connelly had his jeans rolled up to his knees and that his legs were red and swollen. The interview proceeded as follows: [307 Neb. 498] 5:43:19 P.M.

Mitchell: Are you having an allergic reaction, you think?

Connelly: I don't know. It started Monday.

Pruett: He said it was from a sunburn, being outside all day yesterday, and then he said he had (inaudible) in the knees from running, so.

Connelly: No, it's not from running.

Mitchell: Okay, what happened? 5:43:34 P.M.

Connelly: It's from dumping her body in Fremont, that's what it's fucking from. "Mister-I-nearly-record-everything," piece of shit (referring to Pruett, one of the arresting officers). Hero of the fucking day out there, he don't listen to a damn word.

Mitchell: Well, tell me, I'll listen.

Connelly: He wants to give a shit about fucking cars all day dude, who cares about fucking cars?

Mitchell: Nobody does.

Connelly: Jeanna Wilcoxen. J-E-A-N-N-A, dude.

Mitchell: How do you know her?

Connelly: She's in Fremont, that's how I know her.

Mitchell: Okay, what's she doing in Fremont? Is she in danger?

Connelly: You can't help her no more.

Mitchell: What do you mean?

Connelly: She's laying out there. You can fly over and find ... (interrupted by Mitchell).

Mitchell: What do you mean? She— how do you spell "Jeanna?" J-E-A-N-N-A? Is that right?

Connelly: Wilcoxen.

Mitchell: Is she missing? Do we need to go help somebody—

Connelly: Don't nobody even know dude?

Mitchell: Nobody knows she's missing?

[307 Neb. 499] Connelly: That's the fucked up part.... They don't even know she's fucking gone.

Mitchell: What do you mean by gone?

Connelly: Like I ain't never getting out of here and just want this shit to stop. I don't know ... I'll tell you whatever you want to know.

Mitchell: I gotta know if she's safe.

Connelly: I'll tell you whatever you want to know.

. . . .

Connelly: No, it ain't what he said, dude. It's her, dude. It's what I did to her.

Mitchell: Alright, it looks like it. What did you do to her?

Connelly: It's coming back threefold.

Mitchell: What happened?

Connelly: Sunday night. From the laundromat on Q....

Mitchell: Yeah. Tell me.

Connelly: She just wouldn't listen man.

Page 524

Connelly: Whatever I do comes back on me three times. (Connelly looks at his swollen legs and says, "Dude, look at that. You ever seen that shit?")

Mitchell: Tell me about Jeanna.

Connelly: She's in Fremont. She's laying there at the end of the road. I don't do drugs.

Mitchell: Alright.

. . . .

Connelly: Half, bunch of her stuff is in Columbus.

Mitchell: Half of her stuff is in Columbus?

Connelly: Just laying out in the truckstop. Some more of it is in South Omaha. Laying in an alley.

Mitchell: So you mean she was moving out? You were helping her move out?

Connelly: That's where I threw it.

Mitchell: Oh, that's where you threw it. Why'd you throw her stuff in an alley?

[307 Neb. 500] Connelly: Why'd I burn the van up the other day?

Mitchell: I don't know. I don't know anything about a van. Tell me about that.

Connelly: My '87 G20 van.

Mitchell: Yeah.

Connelly: That they found (inaudible) torched over there in South Omaha.

Mitchell: Yeah.

Connelly: They seen me running from it with whatever I could carry.

Mitchell: Why did that happen?

Connelly: Because it had her in it. It had her in it.

. . . .

Mitchell: What do you mean you had her? You gave her a ride?

Connelly: I had her in it for 3 or 4 hours. Gave her a ride to Fremont. Dumped her in the fucking ditch. Don't nobody care about that girl, dude?

Mitchell: Is she alive?

Connelly: No, she's not.

At about 5½ minutes into the interview, Mitchell sent the detective out of the interview room. Connelly then stated that his legs were sunburned because he was outside for 2 hours the day before, contemplating jumping off a bridge to his death. The following exchange occurred: Mitchell: Why's that? Why would you do that?

Connelly: ... If I smothered her ... if...

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4 practice notes
  • State v. Castillas, 060821 NECA, A-20-705
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • June 8, 2021
    ...in an analysis that is not necessary to adjudicate the case and controversy before it. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 CONCLUSION The district court did not err in denying Castillas' motion for postconviction relief. Affirmed. ...
  • State v. Johnson, 020521 NESC, S-19-1226
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • February 5, 2021
    ...is a question of law, which an appellate court reviews independently of the trial court's determination. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020). A district court's conclusion whether an identification is consistent with due process is reviewed de nov......
  • State v. Heckard, 031621 NECA, A-20-394
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • March 16, 2021
    ...the evidence adduced at trial overwhelmingly negates the substance of the alleged statement by Swayzer. See State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020) (appellate court is not obligated to engage in analysis that is not necessary to adjudicate case and controv......
  • State v. Khalaf, 051121 NECA, A-20-607
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • May 11, 2021
    ...(2000)). Generally, a statement freely and voluntarily given without any compelling influences is admissible. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020). To meet the requirement that a defendant's statement, admission, or confession was made freely and v......
5 cases
  • State v. Rodriguez, 110921 NECA, A-21-159
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • November 9, 2021
    ...supra. Generally, a statement freely and voluntarily given without any compelling influences is admissible. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020). To meet the requirement that a defendant's statement, admission, or confession was made freely and vol......
  • State v. Castillas, 060821 NECA, A-20-705
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • June 8, 2021
    ...in an analysis that is not necessary to adjudicate the case and controversy before it. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 CONCLUSION The district court did not err in denying Castillas' motion for postconviction relief. Affirmed. ...
  • State v. Johnson, 020521 NESC, S-19-1226
    • United States
    • Nebraska Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • February 5, 2021
    ...is a question of law, which an appellate court reviews independently of the trial court's determination. State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020). A district court's conclusion whether an identification is consistent with due process is reviewed de nov......
  • State v. Heckard, 031621 NECA, A-20-394
    • United States
    • Nebraska Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • March 16, 2021
    ...the evidence adduced at trial overwhelmingly negates the substance of the alleged statement by Swayzer. See State v. Connelly, 307 Neb. 495, 949 N.W.2d 519 (2020) (appellate court is not obligated to engage in analysis that is not necessary to adjudicate case and controv......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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