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Statements – Voluntariness – Prolonged Detention

State v. James H. Oswald, 2000 WI App 3, 232 Wis.2d 103, 606 N.W.2d 238
For Oswald: James L. Fullin, Jr., SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether a statement made while hospitalized should have been suppressed, as the product of a lengthy detention for the purpose of interrogation.


¶46         When a confession is the product of “unreasonable police detention for purposes of interrogation,” it must be suppressed whether voluntary or not. State v. Wallace, 59 Wis.2d 66, 75-76, 207 N.W.2d 855, 860-61 (1973). A lengthy detention for interrogation is improper if its purpose is to coerce the accused into making “a confession or culpable statements to assure a finding of guilty.” Briggs v. State, 76 Wis.2d 313, 325, 251 N.W.2d 12, 17 (1977).

¶47        Here, Oswald’s detention was not even for interrogation, much less prolonged interrogation meant to extract a confession. Oswald was hospitalized because he had injured himself in a police chase after committing armed robbery. Contrary to Oswald’s testimony that he was held incommunicado, the officers collecting the hair sample testified that they informed Oswald that an attorney was on his or her way to the hospital and would talk to him if he so desired. While Oswald’s testimony was otherwise, we will not overturn the trial court’s credibility determinations.  See State v. Wilson, 179 Wis.2d 660, 683, 508 N.W.2d 44, 53 (Ct. App. 1993). Finally, Oswald himself called his hospital guard as a witness at trial. That officer testified that he had offered to pass along Oswald’s request for an attorney or to get Oswald a phone book so that he could call an attorney. In sum, the record belies Oswald’s claim that he was held incommunicado and his statement was the result of an unreasonable detention for purposes of interrogation.

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