State v. Taillon

Decision Date21 May 1991
Docket NumberCr. N
Citation470 N.W.2d 226
PartiesSTATE of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Martin Norman TAILLON, Defendant and Appellee. o. 900351.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

J.E. Rick Brown, Asst. State's Atty., and Stanley M. Kenny, third-year law student, Grand Forks, for plaintiff and appellant.

Gordon A. Dexheimer of Dexheimer Law Firm, Grand Forks, for defendant and appellee.

LEVINE, Justice.

The State appeals from a district court order suppressing as involuntary incriminating statements made by defendant Marty Norman Taillon. We affirm.

The body of a woman was found in the Red River near Lincoln Park in Grand Forks. The police investigation identified Taillon as someone with whom the victim had been seen the night of her death. Taillon received a request, relayed through his employer, that he go to the Grand Forks police station to speak with an investigator.

Taillon consented and was questioned at the police station for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. The investigator advised Taillon of his Miranda rights 1 at the beginning of questioning. Approximately twenty minutes into the questioning, Taillon asked that the recorder be turned off and when the investigator refused Taillon said, "Well, then I'm not talking anymore, because, I didn't do nothin' to her." The investigator continued to question Taillon and Taillon answered. Later, Taillon interjected, "I want a lawyer...." The investigator asked, "Do you want a lawyer, now? Do you want to stop talking to me at this time, or do you want to get this done?" Taillon responded, "I want to get this done." The questioning continued and Taillon made several incriminating statements. Taillon was arrested at the end of the interview and charged with murder.

Subsequently, Taillon moved to suppress his incriminating statements. After reviewing the record, which included a videotape of Taillon's interview, the district court granted the suppression motion upon determining that certain statements were involuntary, the product of psychological coercion. The State moved for an order clarifying the initial order and offered additional evidence indicating Taillon's past contact with police. The district court affirmed its initial ruling and the State appealed.

On appeal, the State challenges the trial court's determination of involuntariness, arguing that it is not supported by the evidence. "Because voluntariness of a confession depends upon questions of fact to be resolved by the trial court, and because the trial court is in a superior position to judge credibility and weight, we show great deference to the trial court's determination of voluntariness." State v. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d 783, 785 (N.D.1990); State v. Discoe, 334 N.W.2d 466, 468 (N.D.1983). This court does not conduct a de novo review. Discoe, 334 N.W.2d at 470. We will reverse only if the trial court's decision is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785; State v. Newnam, 409 N.W.2d 79, 84 (N.D.1987); Discoe, 334 N.W.2d at 468.

An involuntary confession violates the Fifth Amendment's protection against compelled self-incrimination. United States v. Carignan, 342 U.S. 36, 41, 72 S.Ct. 97, 100, 96 L.Ed. 48 (1951). The Fifth Amendment protection against compelled self-incrimination is made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 6, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 1492, 12 L.Ed.2d 653 (1964); State v. Metzner, 244 N.W.2d 215, 223 (N.D.1976). We summarized the law of voluntariness in State v. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d 783, 785 (N.D.1990):

"A confession is voluntary if it is the product of the defendant's free choice rather than the product of coercion. See Discoe, supra at 467. Voluntariness is determined by examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession. Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206, 80 S.Ct. 274, 280, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960); Discoe, supra, 334 N.W.2d at 467. The inquiry focuses on two elements: (1) the characteristics and condition of the accused at the time of the confession and (2) the details of the setting in which the confession was obtained. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986); Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 (1973); Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961); Discoe, supra, 334 N.W.2d at 467-68. No one factor is determinative. Schneckloth, supra; Discoe, supra, 334 N.W.2d at 468." Id.

A confession is not voluntary when obtained under circumstances that overbear the defendant's will at the time it is given. Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 225-26, 93 S.Ct. at 2046-47; see also Arizona v. Fulminante, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991) [conclusion that defendant's will was overborne in a way rendering confession product of coercion supported by finding of credible threat of violence].

Of the relevant factors related to the characteristics of the accused, the district court emphasized the defendant's educational level and mental condition. The district court found that Taillon was a twenty-eight-year-old male with "apparent below average intelligence" as evidenced by his ninth grade education. It also found that during the interview, Taillon expressed considerable anxiety over his pregnant wife's reaction to his involvement in the murder investigation.

The district court also closely scrutinized the conduct of the investigator, recognizing its importance in evaluating voluntariness. See Pickar, supra. The traditional indices of coercive police conduct include the duration and conditions of detention, the attitude of the police toward the defendant and the diverse pressures which sap the accused's powers of resistance or self-control. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 786; Colorado v. Spring, 479 U.S. 564, 107 S.Ct. 851, 93 L.Ed.2d 954 (1987).

The investigator questioned Taillon for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. During that time, Taillon was placed in a small interrogation room with his back against the wall, the door closed and the investigator two feet away. "In short ..." the district court concluded, "the physical arrangement in the room was such that the defendant was 'boxed in.' "

Taillon expressed his concern over his family's reaction. The investigator made frequent assurances, sometimes as a prod when Taillon hesitated, that his family would understand. The investigator repeatedly said he knew Taillon had a problem and that Taillon would feel better once he told the truth. The investigator spoke of the inevitability of discovery, saying "You're gonna have to tell me. You're holding back. You can't live with this. We're still going to find out."

The trial court concluded that "[t]hroughout the course of the interrogation, the Defendant was repeatedly assured" that the officer wanted to help him, that the defendant was repeatedly told he was lying, that "[t]he questioning proceeded through ... stages of ... suggesting scenarios to the Defendant, and using extreme sympathy and paternalism as a means of encouraging the Defendant to continue on with the interrogation despite his assertions of the Fifth Amendment rights of which he had been advised at the outset."

As the trial court's opinion indicates, the trial court weighed the facts that the investigator advised Taillon of his Miranda rights but when Taillon invoked his right to end the interview and, later, his right to an attorney, his invocations were disregarded. The State argues that because Taillon was not in custody, the Miranda warnings need not have been given. That they were given and disregarded, is irrelevant, argues the State. Taillon responds that once Miranda warnings were given, any indication that he wished to remain silent, required the cessation of all questioning. We reject the excessiveness of both positions.

The Miranda advisory is required only when an individual...

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  • State v. Wallace
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • July 22, 2004
    ...Kan. 964, 897 P.2d 152, 162-63 (1995), overruled on other grounds by State v. James, 276 Kan. 737, 79 P.3d 169 (2003); State v. Taillon, 470 N.W.2d 226, 229 (N.D.1991); State v. Doby, 273 S.C. 704, 258 S.E.2d 896, 899 (1979). In this case, the totality of the circumstances compels us to con......
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    ...428 S.E.2d 167, 175-76 (1993). [¶ 20] The totality of the circumstances must be examined to determine voluntariness. State v. Taillon, 470 N.W.2d 226, 228 (N.D.1991). The inquiry focuses on two non-determinative elements: (1) the characteristics and conditions of the accused at the time of ......
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    • November 10, 2020
    ...to determine whether a suspect's statements are voluntary. See Sprosty v. Buchler , 79 F.3d 635, 642 (7th Cir. 1996) ; State v. Taillon , 470 N.W.2d 226, 229 (N.D.1991). United States v. Harris , 221 F.3d 1048, 1051 (8th Cir. 2000) (recognizing jurisdictional split but ruling on alternate b......
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