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Appellate Review – Implicit Findings; Statement – Voluntariness

State v. Armando J. Castanada, No. 2009AP1438-CR, District I, 6/15/10

court of appeals decision (3-judge, not recommended for publication); for Castanada: Jeremy C. Perri; BiC; Resp.; Reply

Appellate Review – Implicit Findings

¶30     The postconviction circuit court did not make any express findings as to the credibility of any of the witnesses’ testimony. However, as the State observes, when the circuit court does not make express findings, we assume that the circuit court made implicit findings in a manner supporting its decision. State v. Martwick, 2000 WI 5, ¶31, 231 Wis. 2d 801, 604 N.W.2d 552. In State v. Echols, 175 Wis. 2d 653, 673, 499 N.W.2d 631 (1993), our supreme court noted that, absent an express finding by the circuit court, an appellate court may assume that the circuit court made implicit factual findings supporting its decision regarding the credibility of witnesses who provided testimony contrary to the court’s decision. “Where it is clear under applicable law that the [circuit] court would have granted the relief sought by the defendant had it believed the defendant’s testimony, its failure to grant the relief is tantamount to an express finding against the credibility of the defendant.” Id. (citing Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 433 (1983)).

¶31    In the present case, had the postconviction court believed the testimony of Castaneda and his corroborating witnesses, Castaneda’s statements would have been obtained in violation of his right to an attorney warranting suppression, and Attorney Boyle’s failure to assert that violation as a basis for suppression, despite her knowledge of the violation, would have been prejudicial to Castaneda. However, the postconviction court’s denial of Castaneda’s motion and its finding that the result of the suppression hearing would not have been different had Castaneda testified at the suppression hearing, indicates that the postconviction court did not find Castaneda or his witnesses to be credible.

The state conceded deficient performance, instead arguing lack of prejudice, where trial counsel failed to assert, as grounds for suppression, that Castaneda had requested counsel during interrogations. Typical claim, and one that ordinarily pits defendant’s credibility against one or more detectives. Guess who invariably wins? But this isn’t a mine-run case: he had multiple corroborating witnesses who verified in various ways that he did request counsel but was ignored, ¶¶23-27. As the block quote above indicates, the trial court made no express credibility findings. But that necessarily means the trial court didn’t explain why it was rejecting the testimony of multiple witnesses — if that was what it actually did. Maybe the court had its reasons, and maybe they were perfectly valid. We’ll never know.

Statement – Voluntariness

Statement not involuntary where: defendant shown “an admittedly non-gruesome photograph of” the victim’s face; claims of threats by police were implicitly rejected by trial court as credibility matter; police refused request to speak with mother, ¶¶37-40.

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