People v. Valdez, 98SA214

Docket NºNo. 98SA214
Citation969 P.2d 208
Case DateDecember 07, 1998
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 208

969 P.2d 208
98 CJ C.A.R. 5988
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Dennis Joseph VALDEZ, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 98SA214.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
Dec. 7, 1998.

Page 209

Stuart A. Vanmeveren, District Attorney, Eighth Judicial District, Mitchell T. Murray, Deputy District Attorney, Fort Collins, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Kathryn Gilbert, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for Defendant-Appellee.

Justice RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.

The prosecution brought this interlocutory appeal pursuant to C.A.R. 4.1 to challenge a district court order suppressing statements made by the defendant, Dennis Valdez, during a custodial interrogation by two police officers. The district court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant's statements were involuntary. We reverse the order of suppression.


The defendant is charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child in violation of section 18-3-405, 6 C.R.S. (1998), and one count of enticement of a child in violation of section 18-3-305, 6 C.R.S. (1998). On November 4, 1997, the Loveland Police were called to investigate the allegations of two young girls who claimed that Valdez had sexually assaulted them. In their statement to police, F.J., age eight, and K.S., age seven, reported that they had been playing hide-and-seek in Valdez's apartment building when they decided to ask Valdez whether they could use his bathroom. Valdez answered the door and let them in to use the bathroom. While the girls were leaving his apartment, Valdez stopped them and asked them if they wanted to earn some money. They then followed Valdez to his truck, which was parked near the building. When they arrived at the truck, Valdez gave them seventy-five cents, then proceeded to put his hand inside one girl's pants, touching her genital area. The other child claimed that Valdez put his hand under her shirt and touched her breasts. The girls immediately reported the incident to their families.

On November 6, 1997, the police arrested Valdez on an unrelated warrant. Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing established that Officer Chuck Sutterfield began interrogating Valdez at 8:21 p.m. At that time, Sutterfield was dressed in street clothing and was not armed. Before interviewing Valdez, Sutterfield advised him of his Miranda rights. Valdez signed a written waiver of his rights.

Officer Sutterfield testified that after Valdez waived his rights, Sutterfield advised Valdez that he was a suspect in the alleged assault of two girls in Valdez's neighborhood. For about ten seconds, Valdez sat silently, at which point Sutterfield asked Valdez if he cared to respond to the allegation. Valdez only replied, "No." When Sutterfield asked Valdez if he wished to continue talking, Valdez indicated that he wanted to proceed with the interview. The officer then asked Valdez if the girls' allegations were true. Valdez responded, "I don't think so."

Page 210

After this initial exchange, Valdez began evading Sutterfield's questions. Whenever Sutterfield asked Valdez a direct question regarding the allegations, Valdez responded with unrelated stories about his wife, his children, and his religious life. At one point during this conversation, Sutterfield asked Valdez if he intended to be truthful during the interview. Valdez only responded, "Maybe."

During the course of the interview, Valdez acknowledged that the girls had visited his apartment to use the bathroom on the day in question. However, Valdez claimed that he walked out of the apartment while they were in the bathroom and did not see them again.

Sutterfield admitted that he ultimately became frustrated with Valdez's evasive responses. In fact, Sutterfield testified that he discontinued the interrogation because Valdez was being "deceitful," then walked out of the room. Sutterfield's entire interview with Valdez lasted between twenty and twenty-five minutes.

Five minutes after Sutterfield left Valdez, Officer Steven Crowe entered the interview room. Although Crowe was wearing his uniform, he was unarmed. After reminding Valdez of his constitutional rights, Crowe asked Valdez if he wished to discuss the allegations further. Valdez agreed to speak with Crowe about the allegations. During the interview, Valdez told Crowe that he sometimes allowed children from his neighborhood to play in his truck. Crowe asked Valdez whether he could have touched the girls accidentally. Valdez did not respond to the question and changed the subject. Crowe then asked Valdez if someone could have seen him lifting up the girls and misconstrued it as inappropriate touching. Valdez responded, "It could have happened that way."

When Crowe left the room to get a glass of water for Valdez, Crowe slipped a tape recorder into his jacket pocket. As a result, part of Crowe's interview with Valdez was tape-recorded. During this portion of the interview, Valdez told Crowe that he liked talking to Crowe because he felt that Crowe understood him better than Sutterfield. Valdez further stated that he had "argued" with Sutterfield because Sutterfield was condemning him for something he did not do. Valdez also complained about Sutterfield's interview techniques. He claimed that Sutterfield asked him questions in rapid succession and did not allow him a "chance to try to think about anything."

At one point during Crowe's interview, Valdez expressed a desire to terminate the questioning. Valdez stated, "Just let me get some sleep.... I just want to think about everything." While Crowe acknowledged Valdez's request, he continued to interrogate him. Crowe's interview of Valdez lasted for approximately one hour.

Throughout the course of both interviews, Valdez never admitted any wrongdoing. He consistently denied having had any inappropriate physical contact with either child. Nevertheless, the prosecution seeks to introduce several statements that Valdez made during these interviews, including: (1) his three initial responses to Sutterfield when he was confronted with the sexual assault allegations; (2) his evasive responses to the officers' questions regarding the incident; (3) his admission that the girls had been to his apartment to use the bathroom; (4) his acknowledgement that the whole incident may have arisen from a misunderstanding; and (5) his statement that he sometimes allowed neighborhood children to play in his truck. None of these statements were made after Valdez's request to terminate the interrogation.

Valdez moved to suppress the introduction of these statements on the grounds that they were involuntary. The trial court held that Valdez's statements from both interviews were made involuntarily and ordered...

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    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 24, 2007
    ...denied, 528 U.S. 880, 120 S.Ct. 191, 145 L.Ed.2d 161 (1999); Pilcher v. State, 355 Ark. 369, 376, 136 S.W.3d 766 (2003); People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d 208, 210 (Colo.1998) (en banc); DeJesus v. State, 655 A.2d 1180, 1196 (Del.1995); McDole v. State, 283 So.2d 553, 554 (Fla.1973); Gulley v. Sta......
  • People v. Matheny, 01SA355.
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    ...of constitutional law that a suspect's confession was involuntary has also been subject to our de novo review. People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d 208 (Colo.1998). Finally, we have independently reviewed whether an officer's words and conduct constituted the functional equivalent of interrogation fo......
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    ...facts are undisputed, the legal effect of those facts constitutes a question of law which is subject to de novo review." People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d 208, 211 The Due Process of law guaranteed by the United States Constitution prohibits the admission of involuntary statements into evidence. S......
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    ...deprivation must be used as a means of coercive state action in order for it to make a statement involuntary) (citing People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d 208, 213 (Colo.1998)); Siler v. State, 2005 WY 73, ¶ 25, 115 P.3d 14, 26 (Wyo.2005) (Evidence of intoxication by itself does not render a statemen......
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