Effect of Threats
• [A] confession induced by promises, threats, or deceit is not voluntarily made.
See Hastings v. State, 560 N.E.2d 664, 667 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990), trans. denied(citing Townsend v. State, 533 N.E.2d 1215, 1222 (Ind. 1989), reh’g denied, cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1020 (1990))(“Those confessions made through inducement, violence, threats or other improper influences meant to overcome the free will of the accused will be deemed involuntary.”)
Determining voluntariness in light of threats
• To determine that a confession was given voluntarily, the court must conclude that inducement, threats, violence, or other improper influences did not overcome the defendant’s free will.
See Giles v. State, 760 N.E.2d 248, 249 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002)(“In determining whether a defendant’s statement was given voluntarily, [the] focus is whether, looking to all of the circumstances, the defendant’s statement was free and voluntary and not induced by violence, threats, promises, or other improper influences.”)
Cf. Treadway v. State, 924 N.E.2d 621, 635 (Ind. 2010)(citing Ringo v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1209, 1212 (Ind. 2000))(“The admissibility of a statement is controlled by determining from the totality of the circumstances whether it was made voluntarily and not induced by violence, threats, or other improper influences that overcame the defendant’s free will.”)
Relationship of the threat to the confession
• While it is true that threats may render a confession involuntary, such threats must obviously bear some relationship to the confession to do so.
Statements not constituting threats
• An explanation by the police that the accused might face a capital sentence does not constitute a threat.
• “[S]tatements by police expressing a desire that a suspect cooperate and explaining the crimes and penalties that are possible results are not specific enough to constitute either promises or threats.”
Threats to third persons
• Indiana courts have long recognized that the voluntariness of a defendant’s confession may be attacked when the State makes threats against the family of the accused, even when the threats may be enforced.
• [W]hen the threat to so charge and attempt to convict [the family member] is made by police to ‘encourage’ the [defendant] to make a full confession, we cannot say as a matter of law that the confession is given freely and voluntarily by the [defendant].
• In order to prevail upon such a challenge, however, the defendant must present evidence of direct threats made by the police.
• Mere explanations of the possible consequences of a defendant’s spouse being charged, or contradictory evidence as to whether threats were made[,] is insufficient to vitiate the voluntariness of a confession, absent proof that threats were made directly to the defendant.
Cf. Lamb v. State, 348 N.E.2d 1, 3 (Ind. 1976)(“To be sure, this case is not like Hall v. State, 266 N.E.2d 16, 19 (Ind. 1971), relied upon by [the defendant]. In Hall, the officers advised the defendant that his wife was a prime suspect. Here, officers made no such statement. In the absence of such a statement by the police, we hold that the mere advice of the possibility of an accessoryship charge, without more, did not render [defendant’s] confession involuntary.”)
• A confession may be excludable if obtained after a threat to a member of the defendant’s family. However, there must be a showing that but for the threat or inducement, the confession might not have occurred.
Storey v. State, 830 N.E.2d 1011, 1020 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)(citing Hall v. State, 266 N.E.2d 16, 19 (Ind. 1971))(“However, there must be a showing that but for the threat or inducement, the confession might not have occurred.”)
Applicability to private citizens
• This Court recognizes the validity of the rule excluding confessions given under threats or coercion. Nevertheless, this Court has previously held that the exclusionary rule does not apply to situations where private citizens gather evidence apart from police activity, even if the information was procured by chicanery.