State v. Jackson

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Citation369 Wis.2d 673,882 N.W.2d 422
Docket NumberNo. 2014AP2238–CR.,2014AP2238–CR.
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Mastella L. JACKSON, Defendant–Respondent–Petitioner.
Decision Date01 July 2016

369 Wis.2d 673
882 N.W.2d 422

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Appellant,
Mastella L. JACKSON, Defendant–Respondent–Petitioner.

No. 2014AP2238–CR.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Argued Jan. 25, 2016.
Decided July 1, 2016.

882 N.W.2d 424

For the defendant-respondent-petitioner there were briefs by Andrew R. Hinkel, assistant state public defender. Oral argument by Andrew R. Hinkel.

For the plaintiff-appellant the cause was briefed by Jeffrey J. Kassel, assistant attorney general, with whom on the brief was Brad D. Schimel, attorney general. Oral argument by Luke N. Berg, deputy solicitor general.


369 Wis.2d 677

¶ 1 This is a review of a published decision of the court of appeals reversing an order by the Outagamie County Circuit Court suppressing physical evidence as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”1

¶ 2 The case arises out of a 2012 stabbing death at a hotel in the Town of Grand Chute, west of Appleton. Police suspected that Mastella Jackson (Jackson), the victim's wife, might have been involved in the death, so they brought her to the Grand Chute Police Department and interrogated her for more than six hours without giving her a Miranda warning. Jackson made incriminating statements during the

369 Wis.2d 678

interrogation. At the end of the interrogation, Jackson agreed to go with detectives to her residence, where officers were already conducting a search pursuant to a search warrant. There, she revealed the

882 N.W.2d 425

location of the knife used in the stabbing and the bloody clothing she was wearing when she left the hotel.

¶ 3 After the State charged Jackson with first-degree intentional homicide, she moved to suppress all evidence obtained in violation of her constitutional rights. The circuit court excluded not only Jackson's statements but also the physical evidence obtained from her house, which the circuit court deemed fruit of the poisonous tree. The court of appeals reversed as to the physical evidence, concluding that the State had demonstrated that the officers searching the house would inevitably have discovered the knife and clothing during their search.

¶ 4 In Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 104 S.Ct. 2501, 81 L.Ed.2d 377 (1984), the Supreme Court of the United States approved an inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule. This court has not applied the inevitable discovery exception since State v. Weber, 163 Wis.2d 116, 471 N.W.2d 187 (1991). Since Weber, however, the court of appeals has decided a series of inevitable discovery cases. See State v. Avery, 2011 WI App 124, 337 Wis.2d 351, 804 N.W.2d 216 ; State v. Lopez, 207 Wis.2d 413, 559 N.W.2d 264 (Ct.App.1996) ; State v. Schwegler, 170 Wis.2d 487, 490 N.W.2d 292 (Ct.App.1992).

¶ 5 Jackson now urges us to reassess the inevitable discovery doctrine. She argues that the State should not be able to rely on the doctrine to defeat exclusion where the police intentionally engaged in the misconduct that provides the basis for exclusion.

¶ 6 Accordingly, we must determine whether the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule

369 Wis.2d 679

applies only when the State proves the absence of bad faith by the officers who committed the constitutional violation. Like the Supreme Court of the United States, we conclude that the exception does not include such a requirement. Furthermore, because in this case we reexamine inevitable discovery for the first time since our decision in Weber, we also review the doctrine's analytical framework. We then apply the doctrine to the facts in this case and conclude that the State has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that officers inevitably would have discovered the physical evidence in dispute. Consequently, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals and remand to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


A. Murder at the Hotel

¶ 7 At about 1:25 in the afternoon on February 21, 2012, officers from the Grand Chute Police Department were dispatched to the Road Star Inn located west of Appleton. The officers were advised that a male had been found in Room 114 lying face down and covered in blood. When officers entered Room 114, they observed a bloody phone receiver detached from the phone near the door. Large blood smears covered the far wall, beyond the beds. Below the smears, officers found Derrick Whitlow lying prone against the wall. He had already been pronounced dead by paramedics. Whitlow had experienced significant injuries. An autopsy performed the next day showed that he suffered approximately 25 stab wounds. An eight-inch knife sheath bearing the word “Winchester” lay on the floor next to his body.

369 Wis.2d 680

¶ 8 An employee on the hotel's cleaning staff told officers that she was doing the laundry in Room 111 between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. She saw a person wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt knock on the door to Room 114. Because the sweatshirt's hood covered the visitor's head and face, the cleaning employee could not tell whether the person was male or female. After someone inside Room 114 let the person

882 N.W.2d 426

in, the employee heard a male voice screaming for help. The employee also heard sounds that she thought were a person being hit. She went to her manager to get help, and she subsequently saw the person in the sweatshirt leaving the hotel.

¶ 9 Based on the cleaning employee's report, the hotel manager entered Whitlow's room. He found Whitlow surrounded by blood and immediately called 911. When the officers arrived, the manager informed them that Whitlow had been staying at the hotel for a few days and that Whitlow's ten-year-old son, S.J., was staying at the hotel with him. The manager also indicated to police that he understood Whitlow was having problems with his wife.

¶ 10 A hotel guest staying in Room 115 provided additional information to police about the afternoon's events. From his room, he heard a female voice yelling. Thinking the voice was that of the cleaning employee, he walked down the hallway to investigate. After seeing the cleaning employee and realizing that the yell came from someone else, he heard a loud scream near Room 114, followed by a male voice yelling “help me, help me.” The guest then went to the manager's office to report the incident. Aside from the guest's comment about hearing a female voice yelling, neither the guest nor the manager nor the cleaning employee identified the sex or race of the person in the hooded sweatshirt.

369 Wis.2d 681

B. Officers Contact Jackson and R.L.D.J.

¶ 11 Shortly after 2 p.m., detectives from the Grand Chute Police Department began investigating the whereabouts of the child alleged to be staying with Whitlow. Unsure whether they might be dealing with a missing child case, the detectives attempted to locate Jackson, whom they believed to be the child's mother. They had received information indicating that Jackson resided at an address on Fourth Street in Appleton and that they might also find her at Harbor House.2 The detectives first went to Harbor House; there, they learned that Jackson had stayed overnight but left around 11 a.m.

¶ 12 Around 2:30 p.m., officers informed the detectives that a secretary at a local elementary school had confirmed S.J. was present at school but his older brother, 11–year–old R.L.D.J., was absent. R.L.D.J.'s whereabouts remained undetermined as the detectives proceeded from Harbor House to the Fourth Street address. They arrived between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. Outside the residence, the detectives met with an officer from the Appleton Police Department who said he had not seen any people coming or going from the house. Officers remained at the Fourth Street location to observe the premises, and the detectives left to investigate another address associated with Jackson.

369 Wis.2d 682

¶ 13 An officer arriving at the Fourth Street residence around 3:55 p.m. noticed the door to the residence begin to open. A man emerged from inside. The officer introduced himself to the man, who was working on the door's lock and identified himself as the building's landlord. He told the officer that Jackson had asked him to change her locks and that she was currently

882 N.W.2d 427

present in the house. Because the door remained ajar as the landlord worked, the officer observed Jackson and R.L.D.J. through the partially open door. Upon seeing Jackson, the officer asked her to come to the door to speak with him outside. The detectives, returning to the Fourth Street residence shortly after 4 p.m., joined the officer at the door. Jackson gave the detectives consent to search the residence to determine whether there were other people inside, and their search confirmed that R.L.D.J. was present and safe.

¶ 14 Following the...

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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • 7 Julio 2017
    ...entry into the defendant's garage was constitutionally reasonable under the hot pursuit exception); State v. Jackson , 2016 WI 56, 369 Wis.2d 673, 882 N.W.2d 422 (the inevitable discovery doctrine applied because those portions of the warrant affidavit that were not tainted established cons......
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    ...deterrence is outweighed by the costs to society imposed by frustrating the truth-seeking function. State v. Jackson, 2016 WI 56, ¶ 46, 369 Wis.2d 673, 882 N.W.2d 422. For a statutory violation, however, an automatic remedy of suppression may be unsuitable, as proscriptive statutes may alre......
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    ...test is a question of "constitutional fact," which we review under a mixed standard of review. See State v. Jackson, 2016 WI 56, ¶45, 369 Wis. 2d 673, 882 N.W.2d 422. We accept the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. 971 N.W.2d 483 State v. Carroll, 2010 WI 8......
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