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Involuntary Statement – Harmless Error

State v. Dennis D. Lemoine, 2010AP2597-CR, District 4, 9/15/11

court of appeals decision (not recommended for publication); for Lemoine: Donna L. Hintze, Katie R. York, SPD, Madison Appellate; case activity; supreme court review granted, 1/25/12

¶18      We agree with the trial court that the balance of the defendant’s personal characteristics against the tactics used by the police renders this is a “close case.”  However, we need not address the merits of Lemoine’s voluntariness claim.  Assuming without deciding that the challenged incriminating statements were made involuntarily, we nonetheless conclude that the trial court’s erroneous admission of these statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt based on our review of the untainted evidence.[5]

The harmless error result is fact-driven, therefore of little import. The case for coercion was “close” because, in large measure, the police promised Lemoine that he wouldn’t go to jail that night if he gave a “true story.” See Lemoine’s Brief-in-Chief (pp. 13-14) for string-cited cases from other jurisdictions re: “the inherent unreliability of such police … promises to not arrest or take the defendant to jail.”

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