State v. Stanga, No. 21082.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtKONENKAMP, Justice.
Citation2000 SD 129,617 N.W.2d 486
Docket NumberNo. 21082.
Decision Date20 September 2000
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Richard Morris STANGA, Sr., Defendant and Appellant.

617 N.W.2d 486
2000 SD 129

STATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
Richard Morris STANGA, Sr., Defendant and Appellant

No. 21082.

Supreme Court of South Dakota.

Argued March 22, 2000.

Decided September 20, 2000.


617 N.W.2d 487
Mark Barnett, Attorney General, Ann C. Meyer, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee

David R. Gienapp, William H. Dietrich of Arneson, Issenhuth & Gienapp, Madison, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

KONENKAMP, Justice.

[¶ 1.] In this appeal, we must decide if the circuit court erred in ruling that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. The interrogating officer repeatedly told the defendant that any statement he gave was "between you and me," signifying that it would not go beyond the interrogation room. Officers cannot mislead suspects on their constitutional rights. Here, the required Miranda warning that any admission can be used in court was subverted by the suggestion that admissions would not be used against him. Therefore, the confession should have been suppressed. We affirm the conviction, however, because there was immense, independent evidence of guilt, making the failure to suppress the statement harmless error.

A.

[¶ 2.] Richard Morris Stanga, Sr., and his wife, Judy, divorced in 1988 after thirty years of marriage. Stanga's long-standing alcoholism factored foremost in the breakdown of their relationship. Judy received the couple's home in the divorce. Nevertheless, hoping Stanga would eventually find sobriety and they would reconcile, she allowed him to stay at her home occasionally. But after years with no change, Judy "gave up on" reconciliation. She obtained a protection order forbidding Stanga from contacting her or coming to her home. He began living on the street, but stayed at a homeless shelter in Sioux Falls when sober.

[¶ 3.] In November 1998, Stanga spotted Judy with a male acquaintance at church. Upset, he telephoned her numerous times. Although the calls were a violation of the protection order, Judy did not report them to law enforcement. When she did not return his messages, he resorted to more direct contact. On the evening of November 16, Judy was home alone. She heard noises outside at 7:30 p.m. coming from the back porch. When she looked out the window, she saw Stanga with "something shiny in his hand that he took out of his pocket." She dialed 911 for emergency help.

[¶ 4.] While Judy was on the telephone, Stanga broke the front window with a rock and crawled through into the house. He grabbed the phone from her, threw it to the floor, and hit her repeatedly with his fists. He pulled off her glasses and flung them down. In the struggle, her necklace and earrings were broken off. Then he ordered her upstairs with the threat, "or I'll kill you right here." Grabbing the neck of her sweater and twisting it into a tight hold, he began dragging her up the stairs. All the while, the 911 operator remained on the line, recording the unfolding events.

[¶ 5.] In a few minutes the police arrived. They found five or six large landscaping rocks piled against the back door—an apparent attempt by Stanga to block Judy's escape. The officers entered the house through another door and came upon Stanga and Judy halfway up the stairwell. A belt was wrapped around his wrist. Concerned that he had a weapon, the officers did not attempt to seize him immediately but ordered him to show his hands and let Judy go. Still clutching

617 N.W.2d 488
Judy's sweater, Stanga would not relent. He kept putting his free hand inside his coat pocket. After a brief standoff, the officers grabbed his legs, dragged him down the stairs with Judy in tow, and pried him away from her. Officers later recovered various items Stanga had brought with him that night: a utility knife, razor blades, needle-nose pliers, a pair of blunt-nose scissors, and a roll of duct tape

[¶ 6.] Stanga was taken to the Minnehaha County Jail. A blood sample was drawn for testing, which later showed that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.17. At 8:55 p.m. Detective Troy Lubbers began to interrogate him. The interview was recorded with a hidden video camera and microphone. Only Detective Lubbers and Stanga were in the room. At trial, the detective testified that he repeatedly lied to Stanga to induce him to confess. Stanga admitted during interrogation that he wanted to kill Judy, but also contradicted himself with remarks that he would "never hurt" her and that he only wanted to "talk" to her.

[¶ 7.] Stanga was charged with two counts of first degree burglary, one count of simple assault, and one count of violating a protection order. A jury found him guilty of all charges. The circuit court sentenced him to twenty-five years in the penitentiary on one of the burglary convictions. He now appeals the denial of his motion to suppress.1

B.

[¶ 8.] Our review of a motion to suppress based on an alleged violation of a constitutionally protected right is a question of law examined de novo. See Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 1663, 134 L.Ed.2d 911, 920 (1996)(standard of review for questions under the Fourth Amendment); United States v. Khan, 993 F.2d 1368, 1375 (9thCir.1993); State v. Hirning, 1999 SD 53, ¶ 9, 592 N.W.2d 600, 603. The voluntariness of an admission and the validity of a Miranda waiver-of-rights are separate but parallel inquiries. 2 S. Childress & M. Davis, Federal Standards of Review § 11.13, at 11-54,55 (3d Ed. 1999). The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's admissions were voluntary. State v. Faehnrich, 359 N.W.2d 895, 898 (S.D.1984) (citations omitted). The totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation must be considered. Id. Although the underlying circumstances surrounding an interrogation are factual determinations, ultimately voluntariness is a legal question, requiring independent judicial review. Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 116, 106 S.Ct. 445, 452-53, 88 L.Ed.2d 405, 414-15 (1985).

C.

[¶ 9.] Before the interrogation began, Detective Lubbers identified himself as an officer and advised Stanga of his Miranda rights. After a little hesitancy, he agreed to give an interview, acknowledging that he knew he did not have to. Lubbers then began questioning in a conversational tone. Stanga admitted that he had been drinking and Lubbers concluded that Stanga was under the influence: his breath smelled of an alcoholic beverage, his intoxication was apparent by his behavior, and his slurred speech was difficult to understand at times. During the interview, Stanga did not ask for an attorney or for questioning to stop. He was responsive and displayed an awareness of details

617 N.W.2d 489
such as Judy's street address, the length of his marriage to her, and how long it had been since their divorce

[¶ 10.] Lubbers said numerous times that he was there to listen, making comments such as "it's between you and me," "I'm here to listen to your side," and "you need to get this off your chest," all as part of his interrogation technique. Stanga said repeatedly that he went to the house to "talk" to Judy, but he also admitted hitting her, and then divulged having in mind a plan to kill her. Throughout the interview, he sought assurances on whether he could trust the detective—whether he could speak "straight up." When Stanga seemed to forget who he was talking to, Lubbers reminded him, "Well, I am the cop." At one point, Stanga told the detective, "I know you're here to get something against me." But Lubbers responded, "No, I'm here for you and I to talk." After hearing this, Stanga said, "Okay. I'm going to tell you straight up, and if it goes any further than me and you, then I won't tell. I don't know." Lubbers responded, "You can trust me straight up. Go ahead."

[¶ 11.] Still needing more assurance, Stanga asked, "What I say to you, suppose it goes to everybody?" As the videotape ran and as other officers watched unseen, Lubbers replied, "Between you and me. There's nobody else in the room here. It's between you and me." Stanga confided again that he was thinking about killing Judy when he broke into her home. Later, seeming to understand that his statement could be used against him, Stanga...

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52 practice notes
  • Benson v. State, No. 23492.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 24, 2006
    ...of law to be reviewed under the de novo standard of review. State v. Dillon, 2001 SD 97, ¶ 12, 632 N.W.2d 37, 43 (citing State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, 488). Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v.......
  • State v. Bowker, No. 24502.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 9, 2008
    ...alleging a violation of a constitutionally protected right as a question of law by applying the de novo standard. State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, 488 (citing Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 1663, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996); United States v. Khan, ......
  • State v. Tuttle, No. 22025.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 31, 2002
    ...trial court's ruling on the question whether a defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived Miranda rights. State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, [¶ 7.] When a defendant moves to suppress statements taken during a custodial interrogation, the trial court must cond......
  • People v. Weaver, 108909
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 20, 2018
    ...v. Cockrell, 325 F.3d 579, 584–585 [5th Cir. 2003], cert denied 540 U.S. 1173, 124 S.Ct. 1198, 157 L.Ed.2d 1226 [2004] ; State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ––––, 617 N.W.2d 486, 490–491 [2000] ). Our highest court has not, however, and we are therefore constrained to assess the admissibility of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
52 cases
  • Benson v. State, No. 23492.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 24, 2006
    ...of law to be reviewed under the de novo standard of review. State v. Dillon, 2001 SD 97, ¶ 12, 632 N.W.2d 37, 43 (citing State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, 488). Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v.......
  • State v. Bowker, No. 24502.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 9, 2008
    ...alleging a violation of a constitutionally protected right as a question of law by applying the de novo standard. State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, 488 (citing Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 1663, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996); United States v. Khan, ......
  • State v. Tuttle, No. 22025.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 31, 2002
    ...trial court's ruling on the question whether a defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived Miranda rights. State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ¶ 8, 617 N.W.2d 486, [¶ 7.] When a defendant moves to suppress statements taken during a custodial interrogation, the trial court must cond......
  • People v. Weaver, 108909
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 20, 2018
    ...v. Cockrell, 325 F.3d 579, 584–585 [5th Cir. 2003], cert denied 540 U.S. 1173, 124 S.Ct. 1198, 157 L.Ed.2d 1226 [2004] ; State v. Stanga, 2000 SD 129, ––––, 617 N.W.2d 486, 490–491 [2000] ). Our highest court has not, however, and we are therefore constrained to assess the admissibility of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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