Confession contamination and coercion during police interrogation. US v. Young

Four days after Mr. Young was arrested, while still held in the county jail, Young was interrogated by Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Kent Brown and a state narcotics agent. Agent Brown advised Young of his Miranda rights, which he waived. So there is no issue with Miranda Warning.

Agent Brown then told Young he had gone to Oklahoma City the prior
afternoon to meet with the Assistant United States Attorney and brief the prosecutor about Young’s arrest. He said the prosecutor had met with the judge. Agent Brown then showed Young a federal warrant for his arrest. Young was visibly shocked.

Agent Brown told Young he wanted to proceed from the “bad news” that Young was facing federal charges “to the good news.” He urged Young to trust him and told him that “from this moment on, I’m on your side.” Young queried, “Is any of this going to help me?” Agent Brown responded, “Yes, absolutely,” and pivoted again to the “good news,” telling Young that he was on his side and that Young had to trust him.

Then, the Agent told Young that with the smaller amount of
methamphetamine, the judge was willing to charge “anywhere from five to ten years.” Agent Brown said that Young had two options and that he could “physically buy down the amount of time you see in a federal prison,” with the difference depending on Young’s “willingness to own to the information.” He continued, “every time you answer a question truthfully, it ticks time off that record, it ticks time off how much you’re going to actually see.” He also repeatedly told Young that he would go back to the judge and tell him what Young said at the interview, invoking his supposed relationship with the judge numerous times. Agent Brown reiterated yet again that Young needed to trust him

“[C]onvictions following the admission into evidence of confessions which are involuntary, i.e., the product of coercion, either physical or psychological, cannot stand.” Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 540 (1961). “To be admiss[i]ble, a confession must be made freely and voluntarily; it must not be extracted by threats in violation of due process or obtained by compulsion or inducement of any sort.” Griffin v. Strong, 983 F.2d 1540, 1542 (10th Cir. 1993). Voluntariness is determined under the totality of the circumstances, and no single factor is determinative. See United States v. Lopez, 437 F.3d 1059, 1063 (10th Cir. 2006).

Agent’s conduct was coercive in nature, particularly in light of his misrepresentation of the sentence Young faced, his false statement that he would speak to a federal judge about Young’s cooperation, and his promises of leniency.

Full Case here:

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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