Bloomberg Law’s® extensive network of reporters and editors helps subscribers to stay ahead of legal
By Lance J. Rogers
Jan. 14 — A suspect's confession should have been suppressed where the police falsely assured him that he wouldn't be charged so long as he was “honest” and told the truth, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, ruled Jan. 8.
In an opinion by Justice Cynthia Aaron, the court rebuffed the state's argument that the statement was voluntary because Fabian Florence Perez was intelligent and wasn't physically mistreated.
Confessions elicited with beguiling promises of leniency are involuntary, the court said, “even when the defendant is well-educated, rested, and fed.”
A confession is invalid under both state and federal law if it is induced by an express or implied promise of leniency and the promise motivated the suspect to make a statement, the court said.
Perez's motion to suppress should have been granted, it said, because he met both prongs of that test.
The court noted that Perez refused to admit his involvement in the murder of a taxi driver, even when the police lied and said they had fingerprint and security camera evidence linking him to the scene.
However, it said, he eventually relented after the officers told him they wouldn't bring charges if he would just “tell the truth and be honest.” They promised that he would “go home at the end of the day” and would years later “chalk this up to a very scary time in your life.”
The court reversed and remanded Perez's first-degree murder conviction and life-without-parole sentence, ruling that the statements would have to be suppressed in any retrial.
The court rebuffed the state's argument that the assurance wasn't a false one because it was merely a promise not to charge Perez “at that time” and because everyone understood that the final charging decision would be made by the prosecutor. The promise, it observed, was “unqualified.”
Likewise unavailing was the argument that Perez was intelligent, wasn't mistreated and had simply caved in after realizing that the evidence had mounted up against him.
The court noted that Perez maintained his innocence even after the cops lied and said they had fingerprint evidence and video evidence of his involvement.
It was the false promise not to charge that triggered the confession, the court said.
Waldemar Halka, San Diego, represented Perez. The state was represented by the California Attorney General's Office.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)