United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
JEFFREY T. MILLER United States District Judge
the court is Defendant Francisca Sepulveda Duron's motion
to suppress the statement she gave after her July 13, 2016,
arrest for importation of methamphetamine. (Doc. No. 30.) The
Government opposes the motion. Based on the parties'
papers and oral arguments, and the court's careful review
of the videotape and transcript of Defendant's
interrogation, the court grants Defendant's motion.
advances two arguments in support of her motion. First, she
argues that her statement was involuntary under the totality
of the circumstances. She claims that Homeland Security
Investigations Special Agents Bryan Alexander and Andrew
Jones and Task Force Officer Yadira Bobadilla (“the
interrogators”) psychologically coerced her confession
by mentioning her children, warning her of the maximum
penalties for her alleged offense, emphasizing the importance
of her cooperation, and suggesting that she may be able to
keep her lawful permanent resident status. Second, she argues
that her statement was unwarned because the interrogators
gave her conflicting Miranda advisements.
court first addresses Defendant's contention that her
statement was coerced and therefore involuntary.
defendant's statement must be voluntary to be admissible,
Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 304-05 (1985), and
the government must prove that the defendant's statement
was voluntary by a preponderance of the evidence, United
States v. Harrison, 34 F.3d 886, 890 (9th Cir. 1994).
Coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to finding
that a defendant's confession was involuntary.
Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167 (1986). To
determine whether a confession was involuntary, the court
should consider the totality of the circumstances and assess
whether “the government obtained the statement by
physical or psychological coercion or by improper inducement
so that the suspect's will was overborne.”
Harrison, 34 F.3d at 890; see also United States
v. Moreno, 891 F.2d 247, 250 (9th Cir. 1989) (“The
‘crucial element' is ‘police
overreaching.'” (quoting Connelly, 479
U.S. at 164)). In considering the totality of the
circumstances, the court should evaluate both the
characteristics of the accused and the details of the
interrogation. Doody v. Ryan, 649 F.3d 986, 1015-16
(2011). Ultimately, the determination “depends upon the
weighing of the circumstances of pressure against the power
of resistance of the person confessing.” Id.
at 1016 (internal citations omitted).
the thrust of Defendant's motion is that she was coerced
into making her statements by threats of being separated from
her children, a review of Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit
cases on that subject is appropriate.
Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 534 (1963), the
Supreme Court condemned threats to a mother that she would be
cut off from her children and lose aid if she did not
cooperate. Later that term, the Supreme Court held in
Haynes v. State of Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 513-14
(1963), that a written confession was the product of coercion
when the suspect was threatened with losing access to his
Circuit case is most instructive. In United States v.
Tingle, 658 F.2d 1332 (9th Cir. 1981), the Ninth Circuit
laid down a broad prohibition on eliciting a confession by
reference to a defendant's children. In that case, the
recited a virtual litany of the maximum penalties for the
crimes of which Tingle was suspected, totaling 40 years
imprisonment. He expressly stated, in a manner that could
only be interpreted in light of the lengthy sentences he had
described, that Tingle would not see her two-year-old child
‘for a while.' Referring specifically to her child,
[the agent] warned her that she had ‘a lot at
stake.' [The agent] also told Tingle that it would be in
her best interest to cooperate and that her cooperation would
be communicated to the prosecutor. He also told her that if
she failed to cooperate he would inform the prosecutor that
she was ‘stubborn or hard-headed.'
Id. at 1336. The court stated that it was
“clear that the purpose and objective of the
interrogation was to cause Tingle to fear that, if she failed
to cooperate, she would not see her young child for a long
time.” Id. The court thought it “equally
clear that such would be the conclusion which Tingle could
reasonably be expected to draw from the agent's use of
this technique.” Id.
concluding that the agent's statements “were
patently coercive, ” the court stated that “[t]he
relationship between parent and child embodies a primordial
and fundamental value of our society. When law enforcement
officers deliberately prey upon the maternal instinct and
inculcate fear in a mother that she will not see her child in
order to elicit ‘cooperation, ' they exert the
‘improper influence' proscribed by Malloy [v.
Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 7 (1964)].” Id.
“The warnings that a lengthy prison term could be
imposed, that Tingle had a lot at stake, that her cooperation
would be communicated to the prosecutor, that her failure to
cooperate would be ...