State v. Jackson, 060718 OHSC, 2017-0145

Docket Nº:2017-0145
Opinion Judge:O'DONNELL, J.
Party Name:The State of Ohio, Appellant, v. Jackson, Appellee.
Attorney:Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Anthony T. Miranda, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellant. Jonathan N. Garver, for appellee.
Judge Panel:O'Connor, C.J., and French, Fischer, and DeWine, JJ, concur. Kennedy, J., concurs in judgment only. DeGenaro, J., dissents, with an opinion. DeGenaro, J., dissenting.
Case Date:June 07, 2018
Court:Supreme Court of Ohio
SUMMARY

A social worker’s statutory duty to cooperate and share information with law enforcement regarding a child abuse investigation does not render the social worker an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution if the social worker interviews an alleged perpetrator unless the evidence demonstrates that the social worker acted at the... (see full summary)

 
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2018-Ohio-2169

The State of Ohio, Appellant,

v.

Jackson, Appellee.

No. 2017-0145

Supreme Court of Ohio

June 7, 2018

Submitted February 13, 2018

Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County, No. 103957, 2016-Ohio-8144.

Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Anthony T. Miranda, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellant.

Jonathan N. Garver, for appellee.

Syllabus

A social worker's statutory duty to cooperate and share information with law enforcement with respect to a child abuse investigation does not render the social worker an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution when the social worker interviews an alleged perpetrator unless other evidence demonstrates that the social worker acted at the direction or under the control of law enforcement.

O'DONNELL, J.

{¶ 1} The state of Ohio appeals from a judgment of the Eighth District Court of Appeals reversing the convictions of Demetrius Jackson for kidnapping, gross sexual imposition, and two counts of rape. The issue presented on this appeal is whether a social worker's statutory duty to cooperate and share information with law enforcement regarding a child abuse investigation renders the social worker an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution if the social worker interviews an alleged perpetrator.

Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 2} On August 5, 2015, C.H., who at the time was 14 years of age, went to the home of NJ. and joined her sister, S.H., and her sister's friend, Demetrius Jackson, who also were there. C.H. went to sleep in an upstairs bedroom, and when Jackson woke her up and tried to lay down with her, she pushed him out of the bed and he left the room. However, he later returned and offered C.H. $200 a week if she would allow him to perform oral sex on her and would keep it secret. She refused, and Jackson then ripped her underwear off, performed oral sex on her, and choked her when she resisted. He also digitally penetrated her and had vaginal sex with her. She escaped and ran to a family member's nearby home. The police were called, and she was taken to a hospital where she was examined and treated. Police arrested Jackson and attempted to interrogate him but he refused to speak after being advised of his Miranda rights.

{¶ 3} The incident was reported to the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services via a hotline phone call on the day of the incident, and the case was assigned to Tina Funfgeld, a sex abuse intake social worker assigned to the agency's sex abuse unit. Funfgeld contacted the police to conduct a joint interview with C.H., but police had already interviewed her, so Funfgeld conducted a separate interview. Separately, CCDCFS social worker and child advocate Holly Mack, who was "assigned to the county jail, " interviewed Jackson on August 11, 2015, at the request of Funfgeld. Mack works "directly with incarcerated parents as well as alleged perpetrators that are in the jail, " and one of her "primary job duties" is to interview alleged perpetrators when the agency receives referrals for abuse and neglect. Mack stated that when she meets with suspects, she identifies herself and advises them of the allegations, that anything they say "can be subpoenaed by the [c]ourts, " and that it is up to them whether to continue the interview. During his interview, Jackson told Mack that he had consensual oral sex with C.H., whom he believed was at least 21 years of age, and that afterwards she requested money, which he refused to give her. He denied having vaginal sex with her.

{¶ 4} A grand jury indicted him on three counts of rape and additional counts of gross sexual imposition, importuning, felonious assault, and kidnapping with a sexual motivation specification. Jackson waived the right to a jury trial, and at a bench trial, his counsel objected to Mack's testimony about the statements Jackson had made to her because she questioned him "as an agent of the State and law enforcement" and failed to notify him of his Miranda rights. The court overruled the objection and allowed Mack to testify. As a result of that ruling, Jackson testified on his own behalf and claimed he only had consensual oral sex with C.H.

{¶ 5} The court dismissed the importuning and felonious assault charges, found Jackson not guilty of one of the counts of rape, but found him guilty of the remaining two counts of rape, the gross sexual imposition charge, and the kidnapping charge with a sexual motivation specification. For purposes of sentencing, the court merged the gross sexual imposition offense with the kidnapping offense and therefore sentenced Jackson on two counts of rape and one count of kidnapping with the specification. The court imposed an aggregate 11 year prison term.

{¶ 6} Jackson appealed, claiming that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by allowing Mack to testify about his statements to her, that the court violated his Sixth Amendment rights by admitting hearsay statements made by C.H. to a police officer, and that his convictions were against the manifest weight of the evidence. In a split decision authored by Judge Eileen A. Gallagher, the appellate court reversed his convictions. The majority explained that pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.E.2d 694 (1966), "statements stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant must be suppressed unless the defendant has been informed of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights before being questioned." 2016-Ohio-8144, 75 N.E.3d 922, ¶ 15. The majority further explained that Miranda only applies to admissions made to officers of the law or their agents, that a person must act "under the direction or control of a law enforcement agency" to qualify as an agent of law enforcement, and that based on the facts before it, Mack acted as an agent of law enforcement when she interrogated Jackson. Id. at ¶ 17-18. The majority concluded the direction or control element was satisfied in this instance due to the formal procedure established by CCDCFS and local law enforcement for routinely conducting interrogations of defendants without providing Miranda warnings. These interrogations are proceeding under the direction, and for the benefit, of law enforcement pursuant to a "memorandum of understanding" required by Ohio law.

Id. at ¶ 18, citing former R.C. 2151.421(F) and (J) (now R.C. 2151.421(G) and (K)). The majority further explained that former R.C. 2151.421(F) required a child advocate "not only to conduct an investigation in cooperation with law enforcement but also to submit a report of the advocate's investigation, in writing, to law enforcement." Id. at ¶ 20.

{¶ 7} The majority also noted that Mack was assigned to the jail and that one of her primary duties was to interview alleged perpetrators in abuse cases. Id. at ¶ 19. It could find "no legitimate purpose" for Mack's interview "other than to directly assist the investigation of law enforcement pursuant to [former] R.C. 2151.421(F)." Id. at ¶ 21. The majority acknowledged Mack "may have been performing her customary duties as an investigator for CCDCFS" but stated that it was "problematic" that her "customary duties are designed to routinely violate the constitutional rights of defendants." Id. at ¶ 22.

{¶ 8} The majority held Mack violated Jackson's Fifth Amendment rights by subjecting him to custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings and violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by conducting the interrogation outside the presence of his attorney. Id. at ¶ 28-29.

{¶ 9} Judge Sean C. Gallagher dissented. He opined that Mack was not an agent of law enforcement because the record did not demonstrate she acted at the direction, control, or behest of law enforcement and that the statutory duty "to cooperate with and submit a report to law enforcement does not, in itself, demonstrate that the child advocate acted as an agent of law enforcement." Id., 2016-Ohio-8144, 75 N.E.3d 922, at ¶ 40, 43 (Gallagher, J., dissenting).

{¶ 10} The state appealed and presented one proposition of law: A social worker's duty to cooperate and share information with law enforcement does not render the social worker an agent of law enforcement, under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, where the social worker does not act at the direction, control, or behest of law enforcement.

Positions of the Parties

{¶ 11} The state contends that Miranda applies only to law enforcement officers or their agents, that it is undisputed that a social worker is not a law enforcement officer, and that a social worker's statutory duty to cooperate and...

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