State v. Muntean, No. 09–241.

Docket NºNo. 09–241.
Citation12 A.3d 518, 2010 VT 88
Case DateNovember 05, 2010
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

12 A.3d 518
2010 VT 88

STATE of Vermont
v.
William D. MUNTEAN.

No. 09–241.

Supreme Court of Vermont.

Nov. 5, 2010.


[12 A.3d 519]

William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and David Tartter, Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for Plaintiff–Appellant.Andrew M. Carter of Meub Gallivan Carter & Larson, P.C., Rutland, for Defendant–Appellee.Present: REIBER, C.J., DOOLEY, JOHNSON, SKOGLUND and BURGESS, JJ.DOOLEY, J.

¶ 1. This case presents the issue of whether defendant William D. Muntean was in police custody at any point during a police interview during which he made various incriminating statements. The trial court concluded that defendant was in police custody during the entire interview and that, because defendant had not received Miranda warnings before or at any point during the interview, the incriminating statements must be suppressed. The State filed an interlocutory appeal contesting the trial court's decision. We granted the appeal and affirm.

¶ 2. Defendant is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 3253(a)(9). During the course of discovery, defendant filed a motion to suppress statements that he made during a January 3, 2009 interview with

[12 A.3d 520]

the state police. Defendant alleged that the interview was custodial and that the interrogating detective failed to administer Miranda warnings before obtaining the incriminating statements. After holding a hearing, the trial court found the following facts.

¶ 3. In December 2007, the Vermont State Police opened an investigation of allegations that defendant had sexually abused his daughters when they were children and that he had more recently sexually molested his two grandsons. The investigating detective interviewed both defendant's adult daughters, who disclosed to him that defendant had sexually abused them when they were children, and his minor grandsons, who stated that defendant had engaged in recent acts of sexual abuse against them. On January 2, 2008, the detective telephoned defendant and told him that he would like to speak with him at the Rutland state police barracks on the following day. The detective did not mention to defendant what he wanted to talk about. Defendant agreed to the interview, which was arranged at a time that accommodated defendant's schedule.

¶ 4. The next day, defendant arrived at the barracks for the interview. Police cruisers were parked in the rear of the building, but visible to defendant as he drove into the barracks' parking lot. Upon arriving, he entered the lobby through the public entrance and waited there for the detective. The detective entered the lobby and invited defendant to accompany him to a part of the barracks that has controlled access. Defendant agreed, and the detective escorted him into the secured part of the building. The detective wore plain clothes and a badge on his belt and did not have a gun on his person.

¶ 5. The detective escorted defendant down a hallway approximately forty to fifty feet in length to the polygraph room, a small, windowless room located off the main hallway. When they entered the polygraph room, the detective instructed defendant to sit in the polygraph chair and asked if he would mind if the detective closed the door. Defendant did not object. The detective closed the door, which was located behind defendant and to his left, and then sat across a small table from him. The detective did not block defendant's access to the door.

¶ 6. After asking a few preliminary questions, the detective told defendant that he had spoken to defendant's daughters and that an allegation had been made. He asked defendant if he had an idea of the nature of the allegation. Defendant indicated that he did, but when asked if he could tell the detective what the allegation was, defendant said “no.” Defendant then stated, “I need a lawyer to co-sign. I can't tell you.” The detective responded, “Okay. That's fine. I mean it's up to you.” However, the detective did not stop the interview.

¶ 7. Defendant asked the detective to disclose the allegations that had been made against him. The detective told him that they involved inappropriate touching and that he wanted to obtain defendant's side of the story. Upon hearing this, defendant stated, “Yeah, excuse me, I understand, you know, I mean I watch TV—you're not supposed to say anything without a lawyer.” The detective responded, “It's your [choice],” and said that defendant was not under arrest and that no charges were pending against him. When defendant asked for confirmation that he was not under arrest, the detective replied, “No, no, you came here. I asked you to come. You're here on your own free will.” Defendant indicated that he understood.

¶ 8. The detective then told defendant that he had recently interviewed defendant's

[12 A.3d 521]

minor grandsons as well. Defendant acknowledged an awareness of the interview with his grandchildren but denied that anything had happened with them. The detective then said:

Bill, I talked to the boys. I mean, I know it's true and I understand—I understand certain things that happen to people, and I understand that there are things in life that sometimes you can't control. Okay? And I'm not trying to judge. I'm just trying to help you through that.

A short time later, the detective stated, “But, I mean, this is what we have right in front of us right now, and the allegations have been made, and I mean you've done it.” Defendant again denied having engaged in improper acts with his grandsons, to which the detective replied:

No, but I know you did. I mean, I've got four different people, plus I can see you. I can see the look in your face. I can see everything you're thinking right now, and I know that you did, okay? The question is how do I help you past that, you know?

¶ 9. At this point, the detective confronted defendant with more details concerning the allegations that he had inappropriately touched his daughters and asked defendant to admit responsibility. Instead of admitting to any inappropriate activity, defendant replied: “You haven't given me my rights yet. Do I need rights now? What is said against me, you know?” The detective confirmed, “everything you say we're going to be using, yes.” Defendant responded, “aren't you supposed to tell me that first?” The detective answered:

You're not under arrest .... We're trying to do an interview here. You're going home today, okay? That's certain, all right. What happens after that—that's not for certain. But the question is, do you try to just shoot for it with the court, or do you try to explain yourself.

¶ 10. Shortly after this statement, there was a disruption in the hallway, prompting the detective to briefly step outside the polygraph room to quiet the noise. When the detective reentered, defendant proclaimed, “Like I said, I don't know what I should tell you without a lawyer.” The detective explained to defendant that, “that's up to you,” and that the detective could not advise him as to what he should say without a lawyer. Defendant then directly asked if he needed a lawyer. The detective again told him, “I can't advise you yes or no. I'm not allowed to say. You're here on your own volition, which is fine, and I appreciate you coming in. You've already admitted to some things that you did.” Before this time, defendant had admitted that he had “touched” his daughters, but not to any specific acts. He steadfastly denied any inappropriate conduct with his grandchildren and claimed he felt judged by the detective.

¶ 11. The interview continued, and defendant admitted to certain specific acts of inappropriate conduct with his daughters, but denied others. The detective responded, “Gee, that's not completely true either.” The detective then shifted back to the allegations made by defendant's grandchildren. When confronted with additional evidence provided by his grandchildren, defendant again mentioned an attorney, stating, “I guess I don't need a lawyer,” and adding that he did not have the money for one. The detective replied, “I mean, that's all up to you.” In response to an inquiry about having counsel if he went to court, the detective told defendant, “The State can provide that for you.”

¶ 12. As the interview proceeded, defendant's statements regarding the scope of his conduct with his daughters remained consistent, and he continued to deny ever

[12 A.3d 522]

inappropriately touching his grandsons. When the detective again asserted, “I know you did [inappropriately touch your grandsons],” defendant stated, “You know I did. I know you got me. Just, I hope you're not on my jury” and reasserted his belief that the detective was judging him. The detective agreed, “Yeah, well, because I talked to the boys.” After even further pressing, and further denial by defendant, the detective added, “I can see the look in your face, and I can see the guilt in your face, or the shame, or all this, and I know it's hard to talk about the boys.”

¶ 13. At the interview's conclusion, the detective cited defendant to appear in court to face charges of aggravated sexual assault on a minor. After receiving the citation, defendant submitted to the taking of fingerprints and photographs. He then left the barracks.

¶ 14. The detective did not raise his voice during the course of the interview. Furthermore, he remained seated except for the brief interval when he went to the door to address the disturbance in the hallway and, at the end of the interview, a period of time when he left the room to check on the availability of a polygraph test that defendant had indicated a willingness to take. During this period, defendant was left alone in the room. At no time before or during the interview did the detective advise defendant of his Miranda rights. Similarly, at no time during the interview did the detective inform defendant that he was free to leave whenever he wished. And at no time during the interview did defendant request...

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23 practice notes
  • State v. McKenna, No. 2013–009
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • September 9, 2014
    ...to the defendant and affect an objective determination of whether the defendant would feel free to leave." State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 528 (2010). Thus, confronting the defendant with evidence of guilt weighs in favor of custody: "A reasonable person would not feel at liberty......
  • State v. Carrier, No. 2018-0575
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • April 7, 2020
    ...strongly suggesting that the person is guilty of a serious crime.’ " Id. at 683, 103 A.3d 756 (quoting State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 528 (2010) ). Therefore, "confronting the defendant with evidence of guilt weighs in favor of custody." Id. Finally, the extent to which the offi......
  • State v. Schlitter, No. 13–0346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 433, 104 S.Ct. 1136, 1145, 79 L.Ed.2d 409, 423 (1984) ; see also State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 525 (2010) (finding custody is present when individual is not “at liberty to terminate the interview and leave”). As observed by one authority, cust......
  • Thomas v. State, No. 130
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • October 26, 2012
    ...Another example of a case where a noncustodial event transformed into a custodial interrogation is State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518 (2010). Muntean was suspected of [429 Md. 297]sexually abusing his daughters when they were children and of more recently sexually abusing his grandso......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • State v. McKenna, No. 2013–009
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • September 9, 2014
    ...to the defendant and affect an objective determination of whether the defendant would feel free to leave." State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 528 (2010). Thus, confronting the defendant with evidence of guilt weighs in favor of custody: "A reasonable person would not feel at liberty......
  • State v. Carrier, No. 2018-0575
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • April 7, 2020
    ...strongly suggesting that the person is guilty of a serious crime.’ " Id. at 683, 103 A.3d 756 (quoting State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 528 (2010) ). Therefore, "confronting the defendant with evidence of guilt weighs in favor of custody." Id. Finally, the extent to which the offi......
  • State v. Schlitter, No. 13–0346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 433, 104 S.Ct. 1136, 1145, 79 L.Ed.2d 409, 423 (1984) ; see also State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518, 525 (2010) (finding custody is present when individual is not “at liberty to terminate the interview and leave”). As observed by one authority, cust......
  • Thomas v. State, No. 130
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • October 26, 2012
    ...Another example of a case where a noncustodial event transformed into a custodial interrogation is State v. Muntean, 189 Vt. 50, 12 A.3d 518 (2010). Muntean was suspected of [429 Md. 297]sexually abusing his daughters when they were children and of more recently sexually abusing his grandso......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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