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Voluntariness – Statement to Field Agent

State v. Charles W. Mark, 2008 WI App 44; on appeal following remand in State v. Mark, 2006 WI 78, 292 Wis. 2d 1, 718 N.W.2d 90
For Mark: Glenn L. Cushing, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue/Holding: Parolee’s statement made under grant of immunity (per State v. Evans, 77 Wis. 2d 225, 252 N.W.2d 664 (1977)), was compelled (therefore involuntary) and inadmissible at a ch. 980 trial governed by § 980.05(1m). ¶16.

As the court of appeals held in the first go-around, 2005 WI App 62, ¶14, Evans says that the statement of someone under supervision to his field agent is compelled to choose “between answers that will incriminate them in pending or subsequent criminal prosecutions and loss of their conditional liberty as a price for exercising their right to remain silent.” The compromise is that the person is granted immunity: he must then open up or else his silence will itself be a basis for revocation. And, keeping in mind that the 5th amendment bars compelled self-incrimination, the grant of immunity in other words resolves the self-incrimination part—without the prospect of being prosecuted for the answer, the person isn’t incriminating himself. And that is indeed what the trial court ruled on remand (¶16). One slight problem, though: because the statement was compelled it isn’t admissible at a criminal trial, and further because § 980.05(1m) grants (or, rather, granted) an SVP respondent the same constitutional protections as a criminal defendant, Mark’s written statement to his parole agent under grant of immunity was no more admissible than if he had been facing a criminal charge.

Note that § 980.05(1m) was repealed as of June 6, 2006, 2005 Wis Act 434, making the impact of this holding very limited, at least with respect to the rights attaching under this statute. That doesn’t mean that there’s no potential fall-out, though. Mark argued that as a mater of constitutional law involuntary statements may not be admitted into evidence against an SVP respondent, but the court declined to reach the argument, ¶12 n. 9. The supreme court has indeed held, in excluding involuntary statements from an administrative proceeding: “As a matter of law, the coerced, involuntary confessions here extracted may not, under the circumstances, be used for any purpose,” Oddsen v. Board of FPC, 108 Wis.2d 143, 163, 321 N.W.2d 161 (1982). To be sure, the tactics used to extract Oddsen’s statement were pretty aggravated, but at least it settles the principle that the ban on evidentiary use of coerced statements isn’t limited to criminal trials.

 

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