"I don't understand anything": an analysis of why State v. Diaz was misguided and may lead to an erosion of Miranda and its progeny's protections for juveniles in South Dakota.

Author:Blake, Ashley
 
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In the majority opinion of State v. Diaz, the South Dakota Supreme Court held that the confession of a fifteen-year-old was knowingly and intelligently made. The majority focused on the eventual, albeit flawed, reading of Diaz's Miranda rights in Spanish and Diaz's "sneaky" personality. The dissent written by Justice Konenkamp, on the other hand, classified Diaz's waiver as failing to meet the threshold of being knowingly and intelligently made under the totality of the circumstances. The dissent's evaluation of the totality of the circumstances focused on the police's deception of both Diaz and her mother and the differential treatment that should be afforded to children. This case-note argues that the dissent was correct in its characterization of the waiver, and that the confession should have been suppressed for each of three reasons: (1) under the totality of the circumstances, Diaz's waiver was not knowingly and intelligently made even for an adult; (2) children should be afforded more protections when waiving their rights than adults, but Diaz was not afforded these additional protections; and (3) the deception by the police when obtaining consent from Diaz's mother, coupled with the violation of statutes designed for Diaz's protection, alone should have resulted in a suppressed confession.

  1. INTRODUCTION

    The gruesome murder of sixteen-year-old Jasmine Guevara has been a splashy media story in South Dakota since her death in 2009. (1) Awaiting trial for her alleged involvement in the murder is Maricela Diaz. (2) At the time of her custodial interrogation, which occurred just a few days after the murder, Diaz was a fifteen-year-old sexually abused runaway with limited English abilities. (3) Diaz confessed to the murder, but made a motion to suppress her confession on the grounds that it was not voluntarily, knowingly, or intelligently provided. (4)

    Both the Supreme Court of the United States and the South Dakota Supreme Court have recognized the unique qualities of juvenile defendants and the necessity of affording juveniles additional protections. (5) As the Supreme Court of the United States stated about juvenile confessions in Application of Gault: (6)

    If counsel was not present for some permissible reason when an admission was obtained, the greatest care must be taken to assure that the admission was voluntary, in the sense not only that it was not coerced or suggested, but also that it was not the product of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright or despair. (7) The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld this same principle with the court concisely stating in State v. Caffrey, (8) "[a] juvenile's constitutional right against self-incrimination should be afforded additional protection," (9) and upholding this sentiment in its subsequent rulings. (10) Following the precedent of affording additional protections to juveniles who allegedly waive their Miranda rights, the trial court in Diaz issued a memorandum of decision on Diaz's motion to suppress, finding that under the totality of the circumstances Diaz's confession was voluntary, but not knowingly or intelligently given. (11)

    The State appealed the suppression ruling through an intermediate appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which issued its opinion on May 7, 2014. (12) In the majority opinion written by Justice Wilbur, the court held that "more likely than not" Diaz had knowingly and intelligently waived her rights. (13) The decision was based upon Diaz's maturity, negative personality traits, and the fact that her rights were read in English and Spanish. (14)

    Justice Konenkamp wrote the dissenting opinion and concluded that Diaz neither knowingly nor intelligently waived her Miranda rights under the totality of the circumstances. (15) The dissent based its argument on the police's deception of Diaz's mother when gaining her consent to question Diaz, Diaz's personal circumstances, and the mischaracterization and improper advisement of Diaz's fundamental rights. (16) Justice Konenkamp emphasized the unique nature of juvenile defendants and the additional protections juveniles should be afforded throughout his opinion. (17)

    This casenote argues that the majority's decision to admit the confession was misguided, and the dissent was correct when it concluded that the confession should be suppressed. (18) This casenote proceeds by first discussing the factual and procedural history of Diaz. (19) Next, the legal history and background relevant to the case are discussed. (20) Finally, this casenote ends with an analysis of Diaz's waiver and makes the following argument: the dissent was correct in its characterization of the waiver, and the confession should have been suppressed for each of the following three reasons: (1) under the totality of the circumstances, Diaz's waiver was not knowingly and intelligently made even for an adult; (2) children should be afforded more protections when waiving their rights than adults, but Diaz was not afforded these additional protections; and (3) the deception by the police when obtaining consent from Diaz's mother, coupled with the violation of statutes designed for Diaz's protection, alone should have resulted in a suppressed confession. (21)

  2. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

    At approximately 9:40 p.m. on the night of November 10, 2009, law enforcement and firefighters responded to an automobile fire in Hanson County, South Dakota. (22) Upon extinguishing the fire, authorities discovered "a badly burned body" of later-identified sixteen-year-old Jasmine Guevara (Jasmine). (23) Jasmine's body was located in the trunk of a vehicle she frequently drove. (24)

    On November 11, 2009, at 7:00 a.m., two investigators, Toby Russell (Russell) and Joel Reinesch (Reinesch), stopped at the residence of a friend of Jasmine, Steffany Molina (Molina). (25) While interviewing Molina at her residence, Reinesch asked Molina if anyone was in the home's bedroom, the door of which was covered by a blanket. (26) When she answered affirmatively, Reinesch asked her to remove whomever was inside the bedroom. (27) Two Hispanic individuals emerged from the room and identified themselves as Maricela Diaz (Diaz) and Alex Diaz (Salgado). (28) Shortly after leaving the residence, Reinesch called to request identification from Salgado, who provided false identifying information about himself and Diaz. (29) As a result, Officer Reinesch was unable to find any record of the two individuals. (30)

    Reinesch went back to the Molina residence for further investigation later that same morning, this time with Special Agent Jay Goldhorn (Goldhorn). (31) The officers found Diaz and Salgado there. (32) Salgado stated that both he and Diaz saw Jasmine around 4:00 p.m. on the night of the fire. (33)

    The investigation continued through the day and police learned that Jasmine was at a local Walmart on the night of November 10, 2009, accompanied by two individuals. (34) Officers reviewed Walmart's video surveillance and identified Diaz and Salgado as the two individuals. (35) The tape placed Salgado and Diaz with Jasmine at 8:00 p.m. on the same night as the murder. (36) Police had no information that anyone had seen Jasmine alive after that point. (37) After police made this discovery, Diaz and Salgado became suspects in Jasmine's disappearance. (38)

    At 12:30 p.m. on November 12, 2009, Reinesch and another investigator, Dean Knippling, went to the Molina residence. (39) The officers were in uniform, complete with badges and guns. (40) Reinesch told Diaz he would like to speak to her more about an investigation and asked if she would "come to the police department." (41) Additional information about why the officers wanted to speak to Diaz was not provided. (42) The officers then transported Diaz to the Mitchell Police Department. (43)

    At roughly 1:00 p.m., Diaz was placed in Interview Room #1. (44) Officers interviewed Diaz in the small room (45) for nine hours. (46) The room had a "small table and chairs" and "one window (tinted), which [did] not look to the outside." (47) Food, drink, and bathroom breaks were provided. (48) The door to the room was closed the whole time and was locked at least part of the time. (49)

    Officer Hector Soto (Soto) and Russell entered the room at 1:18 p.m. (50) Russell began by telling Diaz that she was being detained so the police could "visit" with her and downplayed her detention by stating: "basically we're just bring' [sic] people in, detaining them, we're talkin' to 'em for a while ... so we --we can try to visit with ya, um, see if there's any information there, that type of thing." (51)

    In response to Russell's preliminary questions, Diaz provided some false information about her identity and a false telephone number for her parents. (52) Russell and Soto left around 1:24 p.m. and attempted to contact Diaz's parents with the false number, which proved to be unsuccessful. (53) The officers returned shortly to get more contact information, and this time Diaz provided a correct phone number and city for her mother. (54) Russell left again to try to phone Diaz's parents using the correct second number Diaz provided, but no one answered the phone. (55) At 1:40 p.m., Soto and Russell returned to continue the interrogation. (56) Diaz told the investigators that her family lived in Indiana and that she had previously attended high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at South Side High School. (57) Officers continued asking Diaz questions, in response to which she mixed both true and false information. (58)

    The officers then left the room again, and Russell contacted the police department in Fort Wayne. (59) The Fort Wayne police provided correct birth dates and names for both Salgado and Diaz and emailed photographs of each. (60) The officers learned from Fort Wayne police that Diaz was also listed as a missing child or runaway. (61) During this time, Diaz stayed in the interrogation room. (62)

    At roughly 2:25 p.m...

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