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Statements – Voluntariness – Juveniles

State v. Jerrell C.J., 2005 WI 105, reversing 2004 WI App 9
For Terrell C.J.: Eileen A. Hirsch, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue/Holding: Juvenile Jerrell C.J.’s in-custody confession was involuntary under totality of the circumstances – Jerrell’s “personal characteristics” militate against voluntariness: age (14); school records (average to failing grades) and IQ 84 (low to average); prior experience with law enforcement (limited, but including arrests for minor offenses that, after he confessed, resulted in release without adjudication – possibly causing him to believe that admitting an offense would allow him simply to return home), ¶¶17-29; as does identifiable police coercion, which must be weighed along with those characteristics: rejection of Jerrell’s requests to talk to his parents (“strong evidence of coercive police conduct”); lengthy custody and interrogation (7.5 hours total); “psychological techniques,” namely continually challenging Jerrell’s version, “urging him to tell a different ‘truth,’” and using a raised voice that frightened him, ¶¶30-36. The court, though, refuses to adopt a per se rule requiring opportunity for an under-16 suspect to consult with an interested adult:

            ¶43      However, we decline to abandon the “totality of the circumstances” approach at this time in favor of Jerrell’s per se rule regarding consultation with a parent or interested adult. Instead, we choose to reaffirm our warning in Theriault, 66 Wis. 2d at 48, that the failure “to call the parents for the purpose of depriving the juvenile of the opportunity to receive advice and counsel” will be considered “strong evidence that coercive tactics were used to elicit the incriminating statements.” Here, the juvenile was arrested at home. However, we remind law enforcement officials that Wisconsin law requires an “immediate attempt” to notify the parent when a juvenile is taken into custody. Wis. Stat. § 938.19(2).

Of course, any “totality” analysis is necessarily fact-intensive – is standard- rather than rule-based. [Contrast, the rule promulgated later in the opinion that the police must record interrogations of detained juveniles.] But some larger principles may be extracted, principally that interrogations of juveniles must be viewed with “special caution,” ¶21. Along this line, the court cites at some length case and scholarly authority for the idea that juveniles are “uncommonly susceptible to police pressures,” and you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with those cites. Note, too, reliance on IQ results – if none is available you might want to consider having one prepared. Finally, note that although the majority declines to reach the issue of whether Jerrell properly waived his Mirandarights, ¶2 n. 2, Justice Butler, concurring, would hold “that Jerrell invoked his privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment when he asked the detective to call his parents during the interrogation,” ¶130.

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