State v. Evans, No. 96-104

CourtWyoming Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBefore TAYLOR; GOLDEN; THOMAS
Citation944 P.2d 1120
Decision Date19 August 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-104
PartiesThe STATE of Wyoming, Petitioner, v. Tammy EVANS, Respondent.

Page 1120

944 P.2d 1120
The STATE of Wyoming, Petitioner,
v.
Tammy EVANS, Respondent.
No. 96-104.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Aug. 19, 1997.

Page 1122

William U. Hill, Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Sr. Assistant Attorney General; Thomas L. Lee, Special Assistant Attorney General; Mary Beth Wolff, Special Assistant Attorney General, for Petitioner.

Sylvia Lee Hackl, State Public Defender; Peter H. Froelicher, Assistant Public Defender, for Respondent.

Before TAYLOR, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, GOLDEN and LEHMAN, JJ.

GOLDEN, Justice.

Petitioner State of Wyoming seeks review of the district court's suppression of the admissions of an accused. Following an evidentiary hearing on respondent Tammy Evans' motion to suppress a statement, the district court ruled that the prosecution had not met its burden of proof that the statement was given voluntarily and granted the suppression motion.

We affirm.

The State presents this statement of the issue:

Did the district court judge misapply the law when he found that:

(1) the Respondent, Mrs. Evans, knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived her rights under Miranda;

(2) the interviewing officer, Officer Jane Everett, did not coerce Mrs. Evans' statements; and

(3) Mrs. Evans voluntarily initiated the interview during which she made inculpatory statements;

Yet ruled that, under the totality of the circumstances, the State failed to prove the statements were made voluntarily?

Evans presents these issues for our review:

I. Is the issue in this case one which is reviewable under Rule 13.02, W.R.A.P.?

II. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in finding that the Petitioner had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent's statement to law enforcement was voluntary and therefore inadmissible at trial?

FACTS

Eighteen-year-old Tammy Evans took her two and one-half month old son to the emergency room for medical treatment of symptoms not otherwise related to this case. X-rays were taken and two fractures of the baby's ribs in different stages of healing were discovered. In the opinion of an examining physician, one of the fractures was seven to ten days old and the other older but not yet healed. After these discoveries, Evans was asked to come to the Cheyenne Police Department to be interviewed by police officer Jane Everett and Patricia Frank, a social worker from the Department of Family Services. Evans and her husband came to the police department late that same evening and were interviewed separately.

Before the interview began, Evans was properly advised of her rights to counsel and to remain silent; she signed a written acknowledgment and waiver of those rights. A one-hour and twelve minute interview ensued but, because the recording device was inoperative for unexplained reasons, only the final thirty minutes of this interview was recorded. The district court accepted the police officer's statement that the failure to record the entire interview was inadvertent. Evans described the first interrogation as "nasty" and Officer Everett admitted that this interrogation was "aggressive."

Evans' husband was then interviewed for about thirty minutes. After her husband's interview, at which she was not present, Evans discovered that an individual not connected with the case had been mentioned in his interview. She decided that she needed to clarify this one aspect. Officer Everett took this opportunity to again question Evans without another advisement of Evans' rights in a second interview about the baby's injuries.

Page 1123

None of this second, shorter interview was recorded, but, according to Officer Everett, at or near its completion, Evans admitted that she had squeezed the baby, squeezed him too hard, and knew at the time that she had hurt him. Evans denied saying "squeezed" or admitting "that she had hurt him." Immediately after the second interview, Evans gave a short written statement, saying:

I picked him up trying to comfort him. I tried to hug him. But after I did, I regreted (sic) it. I knew I shouldn't have huged (sic) him. That was it. I was fine after that. I regreted (sic) it because I knew it could have hurt him. I had hugged him to (sic) hard.

Evans was charged with felony child abuse and filed motions to have her oral and written statements suppressed.

At the suppression hearing, the prosecutor showed that at the beginning of the first interview Evans believed she was potentially a suspect in the injury of her son, she understood her Miranda rights, and she voluntarily waived those rights and consented to the interview. Evans testified that she had graduated from high school with a "B" average and was employed by Magic City Industries as a living skills trainer, helping to educate the physically and mentally disabled. Officer Everett testified that she did become aggressive and that she had raised her voice when Evans was evasive about her past. It was Officer Everett's opinion that her close proximity to the recorder's microphone caused it to sound as if she had been yelling. She also described Evans as generally calm during the interviews, although she did get upset and cry. Officer Everett reported that the second interview was much calmer.

Evans' testimony at the suppression hearing described a number of intimidating, threatening, and accusatory statements made by Officer Everett during the interview, some of which were recorded. The recording reveals that Officer Everett yelled and used profanity and promised counseling and help for Evans. Evans points to the following portions of the recording as illustrative of the interrogation method employed by Officer Everett:

"Your little baby is getting hurt and that pisses me off."

* * * * *

"Do you love your son ... do you ever want to see him again?"

* * * * *

"Was it an accident, did you get stressed out, my god, that is understandable."

* * * * *

"Tammy, everybody gets stressed, people lose control and it's okay."

* * * * *

"It is okay because Patricia [Frank] is here, and Patricia [Frank] is here to help you."

* * * * *

"You're a pretty damn good mother, aren't you? You're almost perfect, Tammy, you are so close it is sickening ... nobody is that perfect, nobody ... Now all of a sudden you are Queen Elizabeth, you are the perfect mother, come on, Tammy.

* * * * *

"You know what, if you sat here and you said, 'I fucked up, I couldn't take it anymore, I got scared, I screwed up,' anybody in this city would be willing to help you, but if I have to dig and dig and dig and finally I find out who did it, and gosh dang, Tammy got carried away, do you think people are going to try to help you."

The defense elicited numerous concessions from Officer Everett that during the first interview she had made statements to Evans which sounded threatening, she had yelled accusations at Evans, she had suggested that Evans' only punishment would be parenting classes and counseling, and Evans cried at times during the interview. The officer also admitted that she did accuse Evans of lying, had raised her voice, interrupted Evans when she was trying to answer questions,

Page 1124

brought up that Evans was a victim of abuse, and told Evans that her family thought she was a failure for getting pregnant. Officer Everett answered several questions directly pertaining to threats, promises, intimidation, or coercion with an "I don't remember" answer. Evans testified that Officer Everett's and social worker Frank's statements about helping her with counseling and parenting classes led her to believe that the two were interested in helping her, not prosecuting her. The sole evidence favorable to the prosecution as to what occurred in the second interview when the alleged inculpatory statement was made was Officer Everett's characterization that the second interview "was much calmer" than the first, whereas Evans' testified that the second interview was "more yelling, more accusing" than the first interview.

The district court found that the police officer's technique and approach during the first interview were characterized quite accurately at the hearing as "aggressive" and further commented that "[i]t is, to say the least, unusual to encounter one in which the tone and technique of the interview is as aggressive, insistently accusatory, and demanding as this one is." The district court found it important that despite the aggressiveness, Evans persistently and consistently denied culpability in this first interview. Details as to what transpired during the second interview when Evans made her alleged inculpatory statement were not developed by the prosecution and the district court ruled that the prosecution had not met its burden of proof that the statement was voluntary and granted the suppression motion. This Court granted the State's petition for a writ of review pursuant to WYO. R.APP. P. 13.02.

Reviewability

This Court has twice reviewed a district court's suppression decision on the State's petition for a writ of certiorari. See State v. Heiner, 683 P.2d 629 (Wyo.1984), and State v. Welch, 873 P.2d 601 (Wyo.1994). Heiner held that certiorari was appropriate because of the importance of the evidence suppressed; the constitutional magnitude of the issues raised; and the importance of determining the rule with respect to such matters in the State of Wyoming. Heiner, 683 P.2d at 632-33. In this case, the district court's decision was also premised upon constitutional grounds, presenting this Court with issues of constitutional magnitude; the record indicates that the suppression or use of the evidence is important to the prosecution of this case because of the limited amount of evidence which exists; and whether the district court made a serious error of law concerning the State's burden of proof presents a significant question. Accordingly, we find our review to be appropriate. We now turn to a review of the district...

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33 practice notes
  • Bhutto v. State, No. 04-89.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 13 d3 Julho d3 2005
    ...with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.'" Simmers v. State, 943 P.2d 1189, 1195-96 (Wyo.1997) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125-26 (Wyo.1997); People v. Gennings, 808 P.2d 839, 845 (Colo.1991); and People v. Pearson, 725 P.2d 782, 783 [¶ 12] Two inquiries are r......
  • Siler v. State, No. 03-169.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 8 d5 Julho d5 2005
    ...with law enforcement and the criminal justice system." Simmers v. State, 943 P.2d 1189, 1195-96 (Wyo.1997) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125-26 (Wyo.1997); People v. Gennings, 808 P.2d 839, 845 (Colo.1991) and People v. Pearson, 725 P.2d 782, 783 [¶ 25] Intoxication from alc......
  • Mersereau v. State, No. S–11–0194.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 26 d3 Setembro d3 2012
    ...Frias v. State, 722 P.2d 135, 142 (Wyo.1986).Carter v. State, 2010 WY 136, ¶ 15, 241 P.3d 476, 484–86 (Wyo.2010) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1124–26 (Wyo.1997)). [¶ 38] The appellant argues that, under the totality of the circumstances of his interview, the statements he made to......
  • Hannon v. State, No. 02-277.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 11 d3 Fevereiro d3 2004
    ...question of whether a confession is voluntary may arise whether or not the defendant was in custody when it was given. State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125 (Wyo.1997). As we said in Black v. State, 820 P.2d 969, 971 (Wyo.1991), even though the Fifth Amendment and Miranda are not implicated w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • Bhutto v. State, No. 04-89.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 13 d3 Julho d3 2005
    ...with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.'" Simmers v. State, 943 P.2d 1189, 1195-96 (Wyo.1997) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125-26 (Wyo.1997); People v. Gennings, 808 P.2d 839, 845 (Colo.1991); and People v. Pearson, 725 P.2d 782, 783 [¶ 12] Two inquiries are r......
  • Siler v. State, No. 03-169.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 8 d5 Julho d5 2005
    ...with law enforcement and the criminal justice system." Simmers v. State, 943 P.2d 1189, 1195-96 (Wyo.1997) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125-26 (Wyo.1997); People v. Gennings, 808 P.2d 839, 845 (Colo.1991) and People v. Pearson, 725 P.2d 782, 783 [¶ 25] Intoxication from alc......
  • Mersereau v. State, No. S–11–0194.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 26 d3 Setembro d3 2012
    ...Frias v. State, 722 P.2d 135, 142 (Wyo.1986).Carter v. State, 2010 WY 136, ¶ 15, 241 P.3d 476, 484–86 (Wyo.2010) (quoting State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1124–26 (Wyo.1997)). [¶ 38] The appellant argues that, under the totality of the circumstances of his interview, the statements he made to......
  • Hannon v. State, No. 02-277.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 11 d3 Fevereiro d3 2004
    ...question of whether a confession is voluntary may arise whether or not the defendant was in custody when it was given. State v. Evans, 944 P.2d 1120, 1125 (Wyo.1997). As we said in Black v. State, 820 P.2d 969, 971 (Wyo.1991), even though the Fifth Amendment and Miranda are not implicated w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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