X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The victim died after being shot during a robbery of a bar. An eyewitness to the robbery identified Isaiah Paul Deloa as the suspect from a photographic lineup. Shortly thereafter, Deloa agreed to accompany two police officers to the station for questioning. Detective John Rozyskie conducted the interview with Deloa, which was approximately an hour in duration. Police recorded the entirety of the interview on DVD. After Deloa informed the detective that he was on medication, had difficulty reading, that he was an “MHMR” patient (shorthand for either a state or local Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency), and that he desired the attendance of his MHMR counselor, Rozyskie continued the remainder of the questioning in the presence of Deloa’s MHMR counselor Floyd Harrison. Rozyskie asked Deloa questions about his background, his education and his family members. Deloa was able to quickly give appropriate responses to questions, including the names, ages and occupations of his siblings, the ages of his nieces and nephews, and the name and age of his daughter. Deloa also told Rosyskie the amount of his monthly Social Security check, how much he paid in child support each month and that he recently made his last payment to pay $3,000 owed to his attorney. During the course of the interview, Deloa made various comments that he later argued indicated his desire to exercise his right to terminate the questioning. Near the conclusion of the questioning, however, Deloa made statements that amounted to a confession to the crime. After his arrest, Deloa filed a pretrial motion to suppress his confession, alleging that it was involuntarily given because of his mental disabilities, police coercion and duress and because his efforts to terminate the interview were ignored. At a hearing outside the presence of the jury, the trial court viewed the DVD recordings of the interview and listened to the testimony of Rozyskie offered by the state. Deloa neither produced any evidence nor cross-examined Rozyskie. The trial court denied Deloa’s motion to suppress the confession and dictated its findings into the record, namely that the confession was “freely and voluntarily given.” The trial court admitted the recorded confession into evidence and played it for the jury at trial. Deloa then produced expert testimony intended to show that Deloa’s confession likely was involuntarily made, as Deloa was supposedly unable to fully understand his legal rights and was more susceptible to coercion and persuasion because of his mental disabilities. Later, the trial court instructed the members of the jury not to consider the recordings of Deloa’s confession for any reason if they believed beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not voluntarily issue the statements. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Deloa received the statutory sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the 10th Court ultimately held that “under the totality of the circumstances, and viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling, the court did not abuse its discretion by finding that [Deloa's] confession was voluntary.” Accordingly, the 10th Court declined to hold that the trial court abused its discretion in declaring the Deloa’s statements to be voluntary, and upheld the trial court’s decision to deny Deloa’s motion to suppress evidence of the confession. In his petition for discretionary review, Deloa contended that the 10th Court erred in its analysis by gauging the voluntariness of his confession as though he had the cognitive capacity of a normal person. HOLDING:Affirmed. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 38.21 provides that the statements of a person accused of a crime “may be used in evidence against him if it appears that the same w[ere] freely and voluntarily made without compulsion or persuasion.” In Texas, the CCA stated that it is well established that confessions given by adults are to be evaluated with the totality of the circumstances standard. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1979 opinion in Fare v. Michael C., Texas courts have also recognized that the totality-of-the-circumstances standard is sufficiently broad to cover juveniles who, because of their “minority, lack of education, lesser reasoning capacity, etc., may be more susceptible to persuasion or underhanded interrogation tactics.” Juveniles and individuals suffering from mental retardation or mental illness, the CCA stated, share many of the same characteristics: Both commonly have less education, experience, self-sufficiency, reasoning abilities and other characteristics than that of the average adult. Therefore, the CCA stated that “it seems logical that a standard considered sufficiently all-encompassing to factor in the disabilities of a confessing minor would also be the appropriate standard when the confessor is mentally retarded or mentally ill.” The CCA noted that the 10th Court found that under the totality of the circumstances, Deloa’s statements were not made against his will. The CCA stated that it decided only whether the totality-of-the-circumstances standard of review for evaluating the voluntariness of confessions applied equally to persons of all levels of mental capacity and held that it did. Because a confessor’s mental capabilities are but one factor to be evaluated among many, this measure of voluntariness may be applicable to confessions made by anyone, no matter what their IQ happens to be, the CCA stated. OPINION:Meyers, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.