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Supreme Court Affirms Suppression of a Confession Found to be Made Involuntarily

In State v. Leo Reynolds, 2016 VT 43 (April 8, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s suppression of defendant’s pre-arrest confession to a police officer.

Issue: A police detective and a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families went to defendant’s house and recorded the detective’s conversation with defendant. After half an hour of talking with the detective, defendant confessed to inappropriately touching his seven year old neighbor. The trial court suppressed defendant’s confession, finding that the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant’s confession was voluntary. The State appealed.

Holding: The Supreme Court affirmed the suppression of the confession, finding that the detective made inappropriate promises of leniency and misrepresented his authority in an effort to get defendant to confess. Based on the conversation on the record, the Court determined that the detective promised leniency if defendant confessed to making a mistake, which, under Vermont precedent, is an inappropriate promise that could lead to a confession being involuntary.

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