Criminal (Confessions): BAILEY V. COM. (SC; 6/15/2006)

CRIMINAL:  Confessions; involuntary
DATE:  6/15/2006

This appeal dealt with the confession of a nineteen year old who was moderately retarded with an I.Q. of 50 (six year old equivalent) regarding sexual abuse against a minor.  Held the techniques used by the interrogator and suspects mental ability were such that the tactics rendered the confession completely unreliable and overbore the suspects will.  The trial court suppressed the confession, the court of appeals reversed; the SCOKY agreed with the trial court.

Turning to the present matter, we analyze first the characteristics of the accused . The evidence presented at the suppression hearing revealed that Bailey was nineteen at the time of the confession, that he had received special education until the ninth grade at which point he dropped out of school, and that he had no prior experience with law enforcement. The foremost characteristic for our consideration, however, is Bailey’s mental condition.

Bearing these principles in mind, we are compelled to agree with the trial court’s conclusion that an examination of the totality of the circumstances indicates that Bailey’s will was overborne and the tactics used by the police officers critically impaired his capacity for self-determination . As explained by Mrs . Guthrie’s testimony, a characteristic of persons with Bailey’s mental capacity is their sincere desire to please authority figures and their tendency to comply with instructions or suggestions without any consideration of the substance of such instructions or the fact that compliance might not be in their self-interest. There is substantial evidence in the record supporting the trial court’s conclusion that Bailey eventually confessed simply because he was repeatedly accused by an authority figure of lying, and he perceived his "confession" as a way to satisfy Bruner. Between the officers’ initial contact with Bailey and his eventual confession during the polygraph examination, Bailey expressly denied ever touching L .J . at least forty times to at least three different law enforcement officers. Bailey finally confessed only after being heatedly accused by Bruner who, up until the latter part of their meeting, had taken a fatherly demeanor with Bailey . Furthermore, Bailey only confessed when he was confronted with the results of the polygraph exam, which were presented to Bailey as conclusive proof that he was lying . Most importantly, we cannot ignore the fact that nearly all of Bailey’s initial "confession" consisted of Bailey parroting suggestions that had been offered by Bruner moments before. While such techniques might be appropriate and uncoercive in other situations, Mrs. Guthrie’s testimony made it clear that such tactics, here, rendered Bailey’s confession completely unreliable.

When analyzed in light of Mrs. Guthrie’s description of Bailey’s mental ability, we must agree with the trial court’s determination that the techniques used by Bruner sufficiently overbore Bailey’s will .

Michael Stevens, ed.

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