Confession hypothetical, Business Law and Ethics

Case Study

The following scenario should be analyzed to determine whether police proceeded properly under the applicable cases.  Your task is to identify issues of concern, evaluate the circumstances presented in light of Supreme Court cases, offer an opinion as to the propriety, or impropriety, of specific police procedures, and recommend alternative approaches police might have pursued in situations which you conclude are improper.


Douglas Boyd is a 20 year old young man who lives with his single mother.  Douglas was raised without a father, or other man in the house, since the age of 3 when his father abandoned his mother.  Douglas struggled in school and at one point was identified by school officials as possessing limited intelligence.  Douglas dropped out of school in the 10th grade after failing most of his subjects the preceding two years.  Since that time he has been sporadically employed as a stock boy in a local grocery store - although he was fired once for arguing with a customer.  Douglas becomes excitable when anxious and sometimes exhibits aggression when he doesn't understand what others want.

Police in Middle Earth, CT are investigating a series of vandalism incidents in and around the neighborhood where Douglas lives.  Detective Tom Perkins and Detective Indigo Bunting are in charge.  Perkins is a grizzled veteran of thirty years.  Bunting is a newly minted 28 year old Detective whose petite 4'10" frame and youthful face make her look like a teenager.  Bunting is also investigating the molestation of a 10 year old girl.

In the course of their investigation, one juvenile they question says he doesn't know anything about the vandalism - but tells Perkins and Bunting that Douglas might.  The Detectives drop by the Boyd house and speak to Mrs. Boyd.  They tell her that they wish to speak to Douglas about the vandalism but don't think he had anything to do with it.  Mrs. Boyd says she will bring Douglas down to the station; Perkins says, "We don't want to bother you.  Give us a call and we'll pick him up and drop him back off."

Later that day, Perkins responds to Mrs. Boyd's call and picks Douglas up at home in an unmarked 'plain wrapper' cruiser.  On the way to the station, he tells Douglas that he's been told Douglas was involved in the neighborhood vandalism. Perkins says he doesn't care one way or the other but he's concerned that the local school kids have been hurt.  Douglas at first denies it but then makes a statement that indicates he knows that the vandals entered the gymnasium fire exit at the elementary school and smashed computers in the reading lab. Perkins' tone changes and he threatens Douglas with arrest if he doesn't "come clean" and says, "I'm going to question you about this until you admit what you did or you won't be going home."  By the time they arrive at the station, Douglas is highly agitated.  He tells Perkins that he doesn't want to talk with him and wants to go home.  Perkins says, "I told you that you are not going home until you admit what you've done."  Perkins places Douglas alone in an Interrogation Room and says, "Jus sit here. I'll be back in a minute."  Douglas is visibly upset.

A few minutes later, Bunting enters the room dressed in slacks and a blouse.  She has left her gun and her badge in her desk drawer.  She sees that Douglas is un-nerved.  She says, "Hi, Douglas, I'm Indigo.  Can I get you a Coke?"  Douglas says, "I don't want a Coke!  I want to go home!"  Bunting says, "I don't think you can do that right now, Douglas.  I think Detective Perkins wants to ask you some questions."  Douglas, nearly crying and his voice raised, says aggressively "I don't want to talk to him! I just want to go home!"  Indigo says, "Maybe you could talk with me instead.  Would you like me to get you a Coke and ask Detective Perkins if that's OK?"  Douglas doesn't say anything at first, but then shrugs.

While Bunting is getting Douglas a Coke, Perkins fields a call from Mrs. Boyd who asks to speak to Douglas.  Perkins says, "Douglas is sitting alone in an Interview Room Mrs. Boyd and I can't leave the desk.  Is there something I can help you with?"  Mrs. Boyd tells Detective Perkins that she is worried about Douglas and intends to get him an attorney.  Perkins says, "You don't need to do that, Mrs. Boyd.  I won't question Douglas any more if that's what you want and when I get a chance I'll drive him home."  Mrs. Boyd is somewhat mollified but says, "I'm still going to call Legal Aid."

When Bunting returns, Douglas is quiet and more composed.  Bunting sets the Coke on the table and pulls up a chair; she doesn't say anything.  Douglas lets the Coke sit for a minute but then takes a drink.  Bunting says, "Detective Perkins tells me you live over by the elementary school."  Douglas doesn't say anything.  Bunting then says, "Did you know the school was vandalized?"  Douglas quietly nods "yes".  Bunting says, "Detective Perkins thinks you know something about that."  Douglas doesn't say anything but drinks more Coke and fiddles with the can.  Bunting asks, "Did you go to that elementary school?"  Douglas nods "yes".  Bunting says, "Its really a shame what happened - all that damage.  Now the children can't work on computers.  You know, Detective Perkins doesn't want to get anyone in trouble.  He just wants to know what happened so he can make it right."  Bunting pauses, then says, "Do you know what happened, Douglas?"  Douglas doesn't respond at first, but then nods "yes".  Bunting says, "Would you tell me?"  Douglas looks down and then nods, "yes".  Bunting asks Douglas what he knows and Douglas talks.  Bunting says, "I'll get another Coke."

Perkins, still at his desk, fields another call - this time from Lorrie McConaghy, an attorney with Middle Earth Legal Assistance.  McConaghy asks if they are holding Douglas Boyd.  Perkins says, "We aren't holding him, but he's here.  I haven't asked him anything since we arrived and I told Mrs. Boyd I'd bring him home as soon as I got the chance."  McConaghy, a block away, says, "Just the same, I want to come see him."  Perkins says, "You can see him at his house (across town) in a half hour.  I'm getting ready to drive him home."  McConaghy tells Perkins not to speak to Douglas during the drive.  Perkins says, "I'll speak to him if he speaks to me, but I won't question him."

Bunting comes back in with the second Coke and tosses the empty first can.  Bunting says, "I'm going to let you tell me about what you said in your own way and then I'll tell Detective Perkins for you.  But I want to make sure I get it right, so I'm going to tape record it, OK?"  Douglas looks uncertain but doesn't say anything.  Bunting says, "OK. I'm turning the tape recorder on now.  This is Indigo Bunting and I'm in Interrogation Room #2 with Douglas Boyd.  Its Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 10:30 a.m.  Douglas, will you state your name and home address?..... Thank you.  Now, Douglas, I just want to hear about the school because the boys and girls don't have any computers to work with any more after what happened, but I want to tell you that you do have the right to remain silent, but if you do decide to tell me about the incident that anything you say can be used against you.  You also have a right to an attorney and if you and your mother can't afford one, an attorney can be appointed for you...."

Douglas interrupts and says, "Then why don't I have an attorney now?"  Bunting says very evenly, "Because you haven't asked for one."  Douglas slumps in his chair looking anxious and angry in turn and fidgets again with the Coke can.  Bunting turns off the tape recorder.  Bunting leans forward and says, "Douglas, you've already told me what happened.  You do want to tell me about the school damage - for the kid's sake, don't you?  After you tell me, you can talk with an attorney if that's what you want."  Douglas says, "I still want to go home.  I'd like to talk to my mom."  Bunting says, "Douglas, I don't think Detective Perkins is ready to drive you home yet.  Why don't you tell me once more about the school and then you can go home?  I promise."

Bunting turns on the tape recorder again. Douglas then tells Bunting about the school vandalism and several other vandalism incidents on tape.  He makes statements that incriminate him in the incidents.  When Bunting hands Douglas a Miranda waiver to sign she only says, "That's it, Douglas.  You're going home now.  Sign here."  Perkins then drives Douglas home.

The following day Douglas is picked up on an arrest warrant and placed in the Middle Earth jail.  At trial, the prosecutor takes testimony from Bunting, but not Perkins.  The prosecutor introduces Douglas' taped confession over Attorney McConaghy's objection.  Douglas is found guilty of multiple counts and sentenced to five years imprisonment with four years suspended.  McConaghy files an appeal for Douglas.  As supervisor of the detectives in the Investigations Division, the state's appellant attorney advises you she is concerned about the police procedures in the case.

Posted Date: 2/23/2013 12:49:50 AM | Location : United States

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