Beavers v. State, No. S-8399.

CourtSupreme Court of Alaska (US)
Writing for the CourtMATTHEWS, Chief Justice.
Citation998 P.2d 1040
PartiesTimothy BEAVERS, Petitioner, v. STATE of Alaska, Respondent.
Decision Date10 March 2000
Docket NumberNo. S-8399.

998 P.2d 1040

Timothy BEAVERS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Respondent

No. S-8399.

Supreme Court of Alaska.

March 10, 2000.


998 P.2d 1041
Margi A. Mock, Quinlan Steiner, Assistant Public Defenders, Barbara K. Brink, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Petitioner

John A. Scukanec, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General, Juneau, for Respondent.

Before MATTHEWS, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, FABE, BRYNER, and CARPENETI, Justices.

OPINION

MATTHEWS, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The superior court dismissed Timothy Beavers's robbery indictment on the ground that his confession was involuntary. The court of appeals reinstated the indictment, finding the confession voluntary under the "totality of the circumstances." Beavers argues that his confession was presumptively involuntary because it was partially induced by a police officer's threat of harsher treatment. Because we agree with Beavers, we reverse the court of appeals decision and vacate Beavers's indictment.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

The facts of this case are uncontested. On November 1, 1995, Alaska State Troopers Gerald Graham and David Tullis questioned Beavers, then sixteen years old, during their investigation of two Anchorage robberies. At approximately 2:00 p.m. the troopers arrived at the restaurant where Beavers worked. They identified themselves and informed Beavers of their desire to question him outside the restaurant in order to avoid the noise inside. At Graham's invitation, Beavers entered the troopers' vehicle and sat in the passenger's seat; Graham and Tullis occupied the driver's and rear seats, respectively. The interview that followed lasted twenty-one minutes.

998 P.2d 1042
Graham asked Beavers his age, and Beavers responded that he was sixteen. The troopers then informed Beavers that he was not under arrest, had not been charged with any crime, and remained free to terminate the interview and exit the vehicle at any time. However, Graham emphasized to Beavers the importance of Beavers's cooperation: "But, I do need to talk to you, it's real important. I think you know what it's about. And, I think you need to talk with me about it. Okay?"

Graham explained that he had recently interviewed several of Beavers's friends who were also implicated in the robberies under investigation and that the troopers now desired to obtain Beavers's "side of the story." The discussion shifted toward various burglaries committed by one of Beavers's friends. Beavers answered a few questions indicating his knowledge of his friend's involvement in the crimes. Graham then reiterated his earlier admonition concerning the importance of Beavers's cooperation in the interview:

And I want to make sure that uhm, I mean, if you're involved in the burglaries, you need to tell me. If you're not, that's fine, but if I later come back and find out that you are involved there's going to be some problems here, you understand? Okay. I want to get this cleared up now.

He also repeated his previous assurance that Beavers was not under arrest and could leave at will. Graham then directly questioned Beavers about his involvement in the burglaries. Beavers denied any participation.

Following Beavers's initial denial, Graham asked him several questions concerning his friends and the location of various stolen items. After Beavers had answered the questions to the troopers' satisfaction, Graham spoke the words that form the basis of Beavers's present appeal:

Okay. Well I know you're telling the truth because it's the same stuff we've already been told. I, but I have to confirm it. I mean, there's stuff I know and stuff I don't know. That's how I we do an interview. And, if you're telling me the truth, you'll be telling me stuff that I already know and I'll know that you're telling me the truth. This is important, okay? It, it's very important. I know that when you're young, you do some stupid stuff, make a, make a wrong turn somewhere, okay. And, and you do some crazy stuff, okay? But, if you're, if you try and hide it from me you're really going to get hammered. I mean it's, you gotta come out and tell me the truth on this stuff, okay? I know some stuff that you're into and we're going to have to talk about that, okay?

(Emphasis added.)

Beavers responded affirmatively. Graham then asked Beavers if he understood. Beavers replied "[n]ot really. Like what kind of stuff?" Graham indicated his desire to discuss one of the robberies under investigation and showed Beavers a lineup containing photographs of Beavers and one of the other youths implicated in the robbery. Graham asked Beavers to identify himself and the other youth in the photograph, and Beavers complied.

Graham then asked Beavers if he understood what the lineup photographs were used for. Beavers gave a brief, inaudible answer, after which Graham responded:

That's right. You walk up to a victim and you say, "See anybody in here you recognize?" and they go (smack) "I recognize this person, this person was there. This person was one of the guys that robbed me." Now if you want to lie to me and get in more trouble, that's fine, okay? That's your decision. This is the only chance I can help you. You're young, you need to get this cleaned up now, okay? You want to tell me the truth?

Beavers immediately admitted his participation in the robbery. Responding to Graham's request that he describe the incident "in [his] own words," Beavers provided a detailed account of the robbery and explained how the youths had disposed of the stolen property. When Graham subsequently inquired about the other robbery under investigation, Beavers likewise admitted his involvement and described that incident for the troopers.

Graham acknowledged Beavers's forthrightness during the interview. He asked

998 P.2d 1043
Beavers to submit a palm print and to assist the troopers in retrieving the stolen property. Graham repeatedly informed Beavers that his cooperation in these matters was voluntary, providing Beavers with the opportunity to refuse. Beavers indicated his willingness to assist the troopers in retrieving the stolen property, but expressed reluctance at submitting a palm print. Graham responded by suggesting that the officers would obtain a search warrant if Beavers refused, and also informed Beavers that he might ultimately be arrested notwithstanding his cooperation. Beavers eventually acquiesced, was taken to the troopers' station for a palm print to be taken, and was later returned to his mother's residence by the troopers

B. Proceedings

In presenting its case to the grand jury, the prosecution relied in part upon Beavers's confession to Trooper Graham. The grand jury returned an indictment for first-degree robbery against Beavers.

Beavers moved to suppress his confession in superior court, alleging that it had been involuntarily given and obtained in violation of his Miranda rights.1 The state opposed Beavers's motion. After an evidentiary hearing, the superior court ruled that the troopers had not violated Beavers's Miranda rights because Beavers was not in custody during the interview.

However, the superior court also found that Beavers's confession had been involuntary. The court noted the "politely confrontational" tone of Graham's interrogating tactics; that Beavers was only sixteen at the time of the interview; that the interview had occurred in the troopers' vehicle; that the troopers had subjected Beavers to "coercive suggestion" by identifying themselves as law enforcement officers; that Graham had represented to Beavers his alleged knowledge of numerous details surrounding the crimes; and that Graham had dominated the conversation through his constant questions. The court also emphasized Graham's statements that Beavers would be "hammered" if he tried to conceal the truth from the troopers, that Beavers "need[ed] to get this cleaned up," and that he should tell the troopers the truth about the robberies.

Based upon Graham's statements to Beavers and the circumstances surrounding the interview, the superior court found that Graham had excessively pressured Beavers and essentially indicated to him that he lacked any choice but to confess. As a result, the court concluded that Beavers's will had been overcome and that his confession was coerced. The court thus granted Beavers's motion to suppress the confession and dismissed the indictment against him.

The state appealed the superior court's disposition of the voluntariness issue to the court of appeals,2 which reversed the lower court's determination. After reviewing the circumstances surrounding Beavers's confession, the court of appeals concluded that his age, the troopers' tactics, and the tone of the interview were insufficient to overcome Beavers's will.

The court of appeals also held that Graham's statement to Beavers that he would be "hammered" if he lied did not render Beavers's confession involuntary. Analogizing the trooper's threat to a promise of more favorable treatment, the court of appeals analyzed Beavers's confession under the "totality of circumstances" approach and determined that his statement was voluntary notwithstanding the threat. The court of appeals thus reversed the superior court's order and reinstated Beavers's indictment.

Beavers seeks reversal of both the reinstatement of his indictment and the determination that his confession was voluntary. We granted Beavers's petition, directing the parties to address, inter alia, the issue of whether an officer's threat of harsher treatment should be analyzed in the same manner as a

998 P.2d 1044
promise of leniency when evaluating the voluntariness of a suspect's confession

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review the trial court's determination concerning the voluntariness of Beavers's confession as a mixed question of law and fact.3 Our review reflects the three-part nature of the lower court's inquiry: "First, the trial judge must...

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32 practice notes
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 22, 2021
    ...the prosecutor of a suspect's refusal to cooperate violates [the suspect's] fifth amendment right to remain silent''); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 (Alaska 2000) (‘‘A criminal suspect's right to remain silent in the face of police interrogation represents one of the most fundame......
  • People v. Humphrey, No. 05SA364.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • April 17, 2006
    ...of simple historical fact. See, e.g., Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 287, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1044 (Alaska 2000); People v. Jablonski, 37 Cal.4th 774, 38 Cal.Rptr.3d 98, 126 P.3d 938, 965 (2006); State v. Fields, 265 Conn. 184, 827 ......
  • Munson v. State, No. S-10444.
    • United States
    • Alaska Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2005
    ...to suspect in custodial interrogation right to counsel and right to remain silent). 25. Id. at 439, 86 S.Ct. 1602; Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 n. 25 (Alaska 2000); see also Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 435, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 26. See, e.g., United Stat......
  • State v. Swanigan, No. 88
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • February 18, 2005
    ...that you cooperated with me, or I can go back and tell the district attorney that you did not cooperate with me"); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 (Alaska 2000); State v. Blakley, 204 Ariz. 429, 436, 65 P.3d 77 (2003) ("most worrisome part of this interview was Detective Siebrecht'......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 22, 2021
    ...the prosecutor of a suspect's refusal to cooperate violates [the suspect's] fifth amendment right to remain silent''); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 (Alaska 2000) (‘‘A criminal suspect's right to remain silent in the face of police interrogation represents one of the most fundame......
  • People v. Humphrey, No. 05SA364.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • April 17, 2006
    ...of simple historical fact. See, e.g., Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 287, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1044 (Alaska 2000); People v. Jablonski, 37 Cal.4th 774, 38 Cal.Rptr.3d 98, 126 P.3d 938, 965 (2006); State v. Fields, 265 Conn. 184, 827 ......
  • Munson v. State, No. S-10444.
    • United States
    • Alaska Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2005
    ...to suspect in custodial interrogation right to counsel and right to remain silent). 25. Id. at 439, 86 S.Ct. 1602; Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 n. 25 (Alaska 2000); see also Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 435, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 26. See, e.g., United Stat......
  • State v. Swanigan, No. 88
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • February 18, 2005
    ...that you cooperated with me, or I can go back and tell the district attorney that you did not cooperate with me"); Beavers v. State, 998 P.2d 1040, 1045-46 (Alaska 2000); State v. Blakley, 204 Ariz. 429, 436, 65 P.3d 77 (2003) ("most worrisome part of this interview was Detective Siebrecht'......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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