California Court of Appeals, Third District, Calaveras
In re I.F., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
I.F., Defendant and Appellant.
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Calaveras County No.
13JW5445 Thomas A. Smith, Judge. Reversed with directions.
C. Levine, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A.
Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell,
Assistant Attorney General, Kathleen A. McKenna and Angelo S.
Edralin, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and
I.F., then age 12, and his sister L.F., age 8, were home
alone on the morning of April 27, 2013. During the course of
the morning, someone entered L.F.'s bedroom and stabbed
her to death. Later that day, and in the days that followed,
I.F. made a series of inconsistent and cumulatively
incriminating statements to police.
14, 2013, a petition was filed under Welfare and Institutions
Code section 602 alleging that I.F. committed murder (Pen.
Code, § 187, subd. (a)),  and personally used a
knife in the commission of the offense (§ 12022, subd.
(b)(1)). Following a contested jurisdictional hearing, the
juvenile court sustained the petition and found true the
allegation that I.F. personally used a knife in the
commission of the crime.
appeals, arguing the juvenile court erroneously admitted his
pre-arrest statements in violation of Miranda v.
Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436 (Miranda). We agree
that two of four challenged statements were inadmissible.
Because the Miranda error was not harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt under Chapman v. California (1967)
386 U.S. 18 (Chapman), we reverse and remand for
and C.W. lived in Calaveras County with a blended family that
included six children, ranging from one to 15 years of
age. Most of the family attended a Little
League baseball game on April 27, 2013, leaving the house at
approximately 7:00 a.m. I.F. and his sister L.F. stayed home.
received a call on her cell phone from I.F. at 12:06 p.m.
I.F. told her that someone had come into the house, hit L.F.,
and then run out. C.W. and B.F. hurried home, leaving the
rest of the children at the baseball field with C.W.'s
grandmother. C.W. called 911 on the way home. She told the
911 operator that the children were okay, but “really
scared.” The 911 operator dispatched police officers to
the house, and then called I.F. A recording of the 911
operator's call to I.F. was admitted into evidence at the
the call, a distraught I.F. reported that he was in the
bathroom when he heard a door slam. He then heard someone
yelling and banging on the bathroom door. He emerged from the
bathroom and saw a “Mexican” man running out the
sliding glass back door. The man had long gray hair and was
wearing blue “work pants” or jeans and a black
shirt. Approximately 90 seconds into the call, I.F. told the
911 operator that the man “stabbed [L.F.] a bunch of
times, ” adding, “she's like dead.”
they reached the house, I.F. was in the living room with a
phone in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. L.F. was
lying on the floor of her bedroom. Her legs were buckled as
though she had collapsed. As B.F. approached, he saw that
L.F. had a bloody cut on her forehead and blood on her shirt.
When he lifted L.F.'s shirt, he saw multiple stab wounds.
Although B.F. could see that L.F. was hurt, he did not know
the extent of her injuries-or realize that she had been
stabbed-until he lifted her shirt.
scooped L.F. up and carried her down the hall and out the
front door. There, he was met by Calaveras County
Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Cechini, who instructed B.F. to
set L.F. down on the porch. Paramedics arrived, and
determined that L.F., who was cool to the touch, had no pulse
and was not breathing.
paramedics attempted to revive L.F., Cechini spoke with I.F.
I.F. told Cechini that he had been using the bathroom. He
emerged from the bathroom and saw a man running towards the
sliding glass back door. I.F. said that he chased the man to
the back door, and then, upon hearing L.F. call out, turned
around and went to check on her. As they talked, Cechini
noticed that there was blood smeared across I.F.'s right
lifeless body was transported to the hospital. An autopsy
would later reveal that L.F. suffered 22 stab wounds, mainly
in the chest area. Three of the stab wounds were potentially
The First Interview: At the Hospital on April 27, 2013
Wade Whitney of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department
responded to the hospital on the day of the murder. Whitney
contacted B.F. in the parking lot near the ambulance bay.
Whitney asked B.F. for permission to interview I.F., which
B.F. gave. At the time, police were trying to get additional
information about the intruder, who was already the subject
of an intensive manhunt.
interviewed I.F. in the airlock vestibule between the
emergency room and the ambulance bay. The exterior doors
leading to the ambulance bay are equipped with a keypad
combination lock. A combination, which is known to law
enforcement, is required to enter the airlock vestibule from
the ambulance bay. No combination is required to leave the
airlock vestibule; the glass double doors open automatically
when a person stands in front of them. Both sets of doors,
the interior doors leading to the emergency room and the
exterior doors leading to the ambulance bay, were open and
unlocked during the interview.
interview lasted approximately 16 minutes. B.F. was present
the entire time. Whitney wore his detective's uniform,
which consists of a black polo shirt and khaki pants. Whitney
also wore a holstered gun and badge. Whitney did not handcuff
I.F. or direct his movements. Whitney did not tell I.F. he
was under arrest or not free to leave.
the interview, I.F. explained that he woke up between 9:00
and 9:30 a.m. and made breakfast. I.F. and L.F. ate and then
watched a movie. After the movie, L.F. retired to her bedroom
and I.F. went to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, I.F.
heard a door slam. He then heard someone yelling in heavily
accented English, “ ‘Hey I know you're in
here, come out.' ” He then heard L.F. scream.
Although I.F. told the 911 operator that the intruder struck
the bathroom door, he did not mention this detail during his
conversation with Whitney.
said that he opened the door to the bathroom in time to see a
man running toward the sliding glass back door. I.F. told
Whitney that he followed the man to the door, and then
realized that L.F. might need help. He stopped, turned
around, and ran towards his sister's bedroom, grabbing a
knife from the kitchen counter, “just in case
there's anyone else.” When he reached the bedroom,
I.F. saw L.F. lying on the floor, her shirt covered in blood.
He dropped the knife, and then picked it up. He then went
back to the kitchen, returned the knife to the counter, and
showed I.F. photos of possible suspects, but none of them
resembled the alleged intruder. Whitney then said,
“Okay. And I'm gonna tell your dad that I
wouldn't be doing my job, if I didn't ask this next
question. And I will tell you, [I.F.], that you are not
required to answer this question. Do you understand that?
Okay. [¶] You absolutely have the right to say,
‘I'm not saying a word.' And if you want... you
know where I'm going with this, right? Okay. You do not
have to answer my question, do you understand that?
You're not under arrest, you're not in trouble. But I
have to ask. Okay? Okay. [¶] Did you do anything to harm
your sister?” I.F. said, “no.” Whitney then
concluded the interview. After the interview, I.F. rejoined
his family in the parking lot.
The Second Interview: At the District Attorney's Office
on April 27, 2013
while still at the hospital, Whitney asked B.F. for
permission to interview I.F. a second time. During the
hearing on I.F.'s subsequent motion to suppress, Whitney
explained that the purpose of the second interview was to get
more information about the intruder. No one asked I.F.
whether he wanted to submit to a second interview.
drove I.F. to the district attorney's office, a short
distance from the hospital. Whitney and Gary Sims, an
investigator with the district attorney's office, showed
I.F. to an interview room in a portable trailer near the
district attorney's office. The interview room was
equipped with cameras and audio recording equipment, and was
accessible by means of two doors, one leading to an adjoining
observation room and another leading outside. Both doors were
open during the second interview, which B.F. watched via
closed circuit television from the observation room. B.F. was
not allowed to join I.F. in the interview room.
before, Whitney wore a black polo shirt and khaki pants, and
a holstered gun and badge. Sims wore jeans and a long sleeve
shirt, with a gun and badge. Neither Whitney nor Sims
handcuffed I.F. or placed him under arrest.
second interview lasted approximately 77 minutes. At the
beginning of the interview, Whitney explained: “[I.F.]
we brought you here today because you witnessed or were at
home when your sister was... seriously injured. [¶]...
[¶] Okay. So we want to talk to you as a witness in that
case. Please understand both of these doors are open, you are
not under arrest, you're not being detained, you're
here on your free will. So you can get up, walk out anytime
you need to, if you don't want to talk to us. Your dad is
in the other room okay?” Within the first fifteen
minutes of questioning, a cat entered or attempted to enter
the interview room from outside. Throughout the interview,
Whitney, who took the lead in the questioning, encouraged
I.F. to let them know if he wanted to take a break. I.F.
declined all such invitations.
the second interview, I.F. reiterated that he was in the
bathroom when he heard a door open, followed by a man with an
accent yelling, “ ‘Hey, I know you're in
here, come out.' ” As before, I.F. said he heard
L.F. scream, and then opened the bathroom door in time to see
a man running towards the sliding glass back door. I.F.
estimated that he finished going to the bathroom and opened
the door within 10 seconds of hearing the man's voice.
again, I.F. said that he chased the man to the sliding glass
back door, then turned and ran towards L.F.'s room,
grabbing a recently washed knife from the kitchen counter as
he passed. During the second interview, I.F. emphasized that
he did not enter L.F.'s bedroom, but merely observed her
prone body from the doorway. He then went back to the
kitchen, returned the knife to the counter, and called C.W.
I.F.'s description of the intruder was consistent with
the description he offered during the first interview. As
before, I.F. omitted the detail about the intruder banging on
the bathroom door.
approximately 68 minutes, B.F. interrupted the interview to
ask whether the detectives could “wrap it up.”
B.F. said that he understood the importance of allowing the
detectives to ask questions, but noted it was getting late,
adding “there's still a lot of chaos to deal with
tonight.” Whitney and Sims responded that they were
almost done. Although Whitney would later testify that he
would have liked to continue the interview, he concluded the
questioning approximately nine minutes later. B.F. and I.F.
left the district attorney's office shortly thereafter.
The Third Interview: At the District Attorney's Office on
April 29, 2013
interviewed I.F. a third time on April 29, 2013. That day,
the family was asked to come to the district attorney's
office to complete paperwork for the county's victim
witness program. When they arrived, they were told that the
victim witness coordinator was running late, and asked (but
not ordered) to wait. While they were waiting, Calaveras
County Sheriff Gary Kuntz appeared and asked B.F. for
permission to take I.F. to the family home for a walk-through
of the crime scene. B.F. asked I.F. if he wanted to go to the
crime scene with Sheriff Kuntz, and I.F. said no. B.F. and
police respected I.F.'s wishes.
Whitney appeared and asked the family to provide DNA samples,
which were taken by swabbing the insides of their cheeks.
While collecting the samples, Whitney explained that police
wanted to conduct additional interviews, including another
interview of I.F. B.F. consented to the request, instructing
I.F. to “speak clearly” during the interview.
third interview was conducted by Sergeant Tim Sturm and
Detective Josh Crabtree of the Calaveras County Sheriff's
Department. The interview took place in the interview room
described above. The doors were unlocked, but closed. Both
detectives wore black polo shirts emblazoned with
sheriff's stars and khaki pants. Neither carried a
weapon. I.F. was not handcuffed or placed under arrest.
third interview lasted approximately 84 minutes. During the
interview, I.F. largely repeated the sequence of events
described above, with two significant variations. First, he
reintroduced the idea that the alleged intruder had been
banging on the bathroom door, a detail he omitted from the
first and second interviews. Second, he made no mention of
the knife he previously claimed to have grabbed from the
approximately 42 minutes of non-confrontational questioning,
Sturm introduced the subject of DNA evidence, asking,
“Do you think that... if we get the DNA from the right
person it'll help us solve this crime?” Moments
later, following a brief discussion of television crime shows
and the blood evidence in L.F.'s room, Crabtree said,
“So there's a couple things that... that we know
and that we... I think maybe you... you've forgotten and
I can understand that cuz this is a really big thing right?
And so there's a couple things that we know about and I
want to give you a few minutes to kind of just relax okay?
Cuz I could tell you're upset and just think about some
stuff and then we're gonna come back in okay? And then
we... shouldn't be much longer. Okay? But just remember
there's things that we know, that we need you to remember
them cuz it's really important. Okay? So we'll be
right back.” Crabtree and Sturm then readied themselves
to leave the room. As they did so, Sturm asked, “You
need anything? You want me to open the door? You want to step
outside or anything?” I.F. demurred. Sturm and Crabtree
left the interview room, closing the door behind them.
interview resumed after a brief interlude, during which I.F.
sat virtually motionless in his chair. Sturm apologized for
the interruption, stating, “We're going to...
we're going to not take a break too long because you got
family okay? So at the end of this, you [get] to take off out
of here with your family.” Sturm and Crabtree then
allowed, in empathetic tones, that they had both made
mistakes as young people, which had been forgiven. Following
a discussion of the therapeutic benefits of unburdening
one's conscience, Sturm said, “No matter what does
get said today, you... you leave with your parents no matter
what. And when I say, ‘No matter what[, ]' I mean
anything. Okay? Ev... anything, you leave with your parents
and you get to walk out [of] here and be with your mom and
dad and help them through this. Okay?”
then returned to the subject of forensic evidence, leading to
the following exchange:
They're still collecting evidence and the thing about the
evidence is... is that it tells the truth. And that's why
we... and that's why we hope that everyone involved in
the investigation also tells the truth. And... and again,
when I look at you, I can tell that I... I think that you...
I think that you want to tell the truth with us. Because I...
I think that there's a... there's a part of this that
sits just right here. It's right at that back... back of
your tongue and it's just not quite coming out yet.
I can tell by looking at you, that you have something on your
mind. Can you just tell us?
You are going home with your mom and dad today. Okay? But we
need to know. There is no man that ran out of that house is
Yeah there is[, ] I saw him.”
gears, Sturm confronted I.F. with the 911 recording, asking
how I.F. could have known that L.F. had been stabbed without
entering the room, when B.F. was not aware that she had been
stabbed until he examined her closely. I.F. responded,
“I don't know I... I could have seen it I
meantime, B.F., who was waiting outside, was growing
increasingly agitated. As B.F. would later testify, the
family had not planned on spending the day at the district
attorney's office. Rather, the family expected to
complete the paperwork for the victim witness program and be
on their way. As the interview wore on, B.F. began to feel as
though he had been summoned to the district attorney's
office under false pretenses.
knocked on the door of the trailer, which was closed and
locked. One of a number of law enforcement officers in the
observation room opened the door. B.F. asked, “
‘How much longer? Is my son okay?' ” The
officer responded, “ ‘Yes, he is fine.... Just be
patient.' ” B.F. waited approximately 25 minutes,
and then knocked a second time. A law enforcement officer
opened the door, and B.F. asked, “ ‘Why is it
taking so long?' ” The officer responded, “
‘Just a couple more minutes, ' ” and closed
the door again. B.F. continued to wait.
the interview room, Crabtree and Sturm stepped up their
efforts to elicit a confession. They intimated that they
already had DNA evidence establishing I.F. as the killer, and
then pressed for an “explanation” or
“reason” for the crime. They challenged
I.F.'s account of the events surrounding the murder,
saying, “the evidence tells us, obviously there was
something bad that happened in that house. And the evidence
doesn't tell us that there was a man, a great big man
running through your house, with you.” They urged I.F
to admit his “mistake” so that he could
“move on” and “feel better.” They
assured I.F. that his parents would love him “no matter
what.” I.F.'s responses-to the extent he responded
at all-were short and frequently inaudible.
B.F.'s patience was growing thin. He knocked on the
trailer door a third time. A law enforcement officer opened
the door and said, “ ‘a couple more minutes,
' ” and then summarily closed the door, without
giving B.F. an opportunity to speak. B.F., now furious,
immediately knocked a fourth time, telling the officer that
he “ ‘wanted to take [I.F.] and leave.'
” B.F. was then admitted into the observation room.
interview room, Crabtree confronted I.F. with Cechini's
observation that there had been blood on his forearm on the
day of the murder. As Crabtree questioned I.F., Sturm
received a message instructing him to leave the interview
room. Sturm excused himself, closing the door behind him. In
the observation room, Sturm learned that B.F. wanted to end
the interview. Following a two-minute absence, Sturm returned
to the interview room, saying, “All right, we are
done.” Crabtree promptly terminated the interview, and
I.F. left the district attorney's office with his family.
By the end of the third interview, Crabtree had come to view
I.F. as a suspect.
The Fourth Interview: At the District Attorney's Office
on May 9, 2013
Jim Macedo of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department
telephoned C.W. on May 8, 2013. Macedo told C.W. that police
wanted to conduct separate interviews of each of the
family's surviving children. Specifically, he explained
that police wanted to show the children photographs of known
sex offenders and discuss family dynamics, such as which
children played where, and with whom. Macedo added that
police prefer to interview children without parents present,
as they tend to be more forthcoming. C.W. and B.F. were
concerned that being left alone for police interviews might
be too hard on the children, who were understandably
traumatized by the death of their sister. They agreed to the
interviews on the condition that one or the other must be
allowed to observe.
family appeared at the district attorney's office the
following day, May 9, 2013. B.F. and C.W. met with Macedo and
Special Agent Chris Campion of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI). Campion renewed Macedo's request to
interview the children individually, without parents present.
B.F., sensing that Campion was attempting to renege on the
bargain he struck with Macedo, became irate. He told Campion
and Macedo that “he knew he didn't have to be
there, that he chose to be there on that date and bring his
family down, [and] that he could leave at any time.”
Shortly thereafter, B.F. got up and left the room, with C.W.
in tow. He collected the children, saying, “
‘Let's go, we're leaving.” Together, the
family left the district attorney's office and headed to
their car. Macedo intercepted them in the parking lot.
Following a brief discussion, B.F. and C.W. agreed to stay on
condition that they would be allowed to observe the
interviews, and Campion, who had offended B.F., would not be
allowed to participate.
interviews took place in two locations: the above-described
interview room and another interview room in the Cal Works
building, approximately one mile away. To Macedo's
surprise, B.F. announced that C.W. would observe the
interview of I.F., which was to take place in the interview
room, while B.F. would observe the interview of another child
in the nearby Cal Works building. As she ascended a ramp
leading to the door of the trailer, C.W. turned around,
expecting to see I.F. following her. Instead, she saw two law
enforcement officers, a man and a woman, flanking I.F., and
walking him around the building. I.F. was not surrounded by
uniformed officers, handcuffed, or moved at gunpoint.
Nevertheless, C.W. became alarmed. She called out, “
‘Where are you guys taking him? This wasn't agreed
to. He's supposed to be here.' ” One of the
officers responded that they were bringing I.F. into the
trailer by means of another entrance. C.W. saw I.F. again a
short time later once officers in the observation room got
her viewing screen turned on, at which point the interview
had already commenced. The incident made her uncomfortable.
fourth interview proceeded in two parts, both of which were
conducted by Crabtree and Special Agent Sam Dilland of the
FBI. Crabtree wore a button-down shirt and tie, with dress
slacks, but no jacket. He did not carry a gun or badge.
Dilland wore a suit. The record does not disclose whether
Dilland carried a gun or badge; however, nothing suggests
that she presented herself in a manner that would have been
likely to intimidate a young person.
first part of the fourth interview lasted approximately 97
minutes. The interview took place in the interview room, with
the doors unlocked. The record is ambiguous as to whether the
doors were open or closed. During the jurisdictional hearing,
Crabtree testified that the exterior door continuously opened
and closed due to wind. On the video recording, Dilland can
be seen standing as she says, “It's getting warm in
here, (inaudible) door open a little bit.” Later,
Crabtree can be seen standing to close a door. Although
Crabtree testified that the interior door leading to the
observation room was unlocked, neither Crabtree nor anyone
else testified that the interior door was open. On this
record, we assume that the exterior door was open at some
points and closed at others, while the interior door remained
began the interview by acknowledging that I.F. had already
discussed the events in question with Crabtree, adding,
“If you don't want to answer a question, just tell
me. ‘Sam I don't want to answer it.' That's
fine. Okay? If you don't know an answer say, ‘Hey I
don't... I don't know' and that... and that's
then engaged I.F. in small talk on a variety of subjects,
including school, video games, movies, friends and family.
After approximately 27 minutes, Dilland rose and opened the
door. Shortly thereafter, Crabtree and Dilland, speaking over
one another, said:
You know there's a door there and you know that
door's open so...
if you want bam, you just
leave you alone.”
nodded slightly, but did not say anything.
then turned to the events of April 27, 2013. As before, I.F.
said that he woke up and prepared breakfast for himself and
L.F. I.F. and L.F. ate breakfast, and then watched a movie.
After the movie, L.F. went to her room. I.F. said that he
could not recall what he did immediately after the movie, but
he eventually went to the bathroom. While in the bathroom,
I.F. said that he heard a door slam, and then a man yelling,
“ ‘Hey, I know you're in here, come out.'
” When asked whether the man “was banging”
or “just yelling, ” I.F. responded, “Just
said that he heard his sister scream, then quickly finished
up in the bathroom and opened the door in time to see a man
run towards the sliding glass back door. I.F. said that he
chased the man to the door, then remembered L.F. and ran
towards her room, stopping at the doorway. I.F. said that he
saw L.F. lying on the floor, her shirt bloody. He then called
C.W. I.F. did not say anything about a knife.
the interview, Dilland acknowledged how difficult her
questions were, noting that they required I.F. to relive the
day of the murder. At one point, as Dilland expressed her
appreciation for I.F.'s willingness to answer questions,
a door appears to have opened, and Crabtree rose to close it.
Moments later, following a brief discussion of the 911 call,
Dilland sympathized, “I can tell it's hard for you
to talk ...