September 10, 2021
Affirmed and Remanded
- Whether the trial court erred in suppressing the defendant’s written and oral statements to the police upon finding the defendant’s confession to be per se involuntary.
The defendant is charged with five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The defendant moved to suppress statements he made during a police interview, arguing that they were made involuntarily. The trial court found that the defendant’s statements were made involuntarily based on two separate statements made by a police officer regarding the lawfulness of sexual acts based on the age of consent that constituted a promise of immunity from prosecution.
On appeal, the State argued that the trial court erred in finding the officer made a promise of immunity because the officer’s statements merely stated that sex with an individual who had reached the age of consent is not a crime, and that a statement of fact is not a promise of immunity. The Court noted that the trial court analyzed both the plain meaning and context of the officer’s statements, and held that the trial court’s interpretation is not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
The State also argued that the trial court erred in finding that the officer made a promise of immunity for a crime when it reasoned that the officer only promised immunity for an element of the offense or for a legal act, and that the defendant’s statements were not induced by the officer’s statements. The Court held that the State did not demonstrate that the trial court’s factual finding that a promise of immunity was made was erroneous, and that the State also did not demonstrate that the trial court erred in finding that the defendant’s statements were made in reliance on the officer’s promise of immunity.
Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Elizabeth C. Woodcock, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally) for the State. Thomas Barnard, senior assistant appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and orally for the defendant.