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GA Court of Appeals: Confession Admissible in Statutory Rape Case

October 31, 2013

In State v. Munoz, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order suppressing the defendant’s confession, holding that the confession was freely and voluntarily given and not induced by threats or hope of benefit.

The record shows that a 15 year-old girl filed a report with the Alpharetta police department that she had been raped while she was in Munoz’s apartment. From interviews with people at the apartment the night of the incident, the detective received information that the defendant Munoz may have had sex with the girl. The defendant was taken into custody and questioned after he was read his Miranda rights which he expressly waived.

A police detective questioned Munoz about the reported incident, but at first Munoz denied having any physical contact with the girl. The detective told the defendant “I already talked to everyone that was in your house that night and what you’re telling me is very different from what they were saying… She went to the doctor the next day… we have DNA… I already know you guys had sex.” The detective said that she had to “make sure that that wasn’t rape.” Again, the defendant denied having sex with the alleged victim. The detective again emphasized that she already knew they had sex, but wanted to know if it had been forcible rape. She said that “you giving me the truth and working with me can get you a long way.” Munoz resisted, saying “who knows you’re not just saying that so I would tell the truth?” The detective responded that, when she presented the case to the D.A. she could either say that “this guy did not cooperate with me. She said she was raped. Everybody saw her in this room. The doctor knows she had sex.” Or, the detective could say “I talked to the guy, he was really honest with me, he told me straight up, he made a mistake…” At this point, the defendant asked if “this is something, like serious… like jail for a long time, registered as a rapist…?” The detective replied “if it gets to that, yes.”

The defendant then said “everything you’re assuming is true. I had sex with [the victim].” The detective said that she could not promise a good outcome, and the defendant said “Oh, I know… to be honest, I know something is gonna happen…and I take responsibility for my actions.”

The defendant was subsequently charged with statutory rape, child molestation, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress his confession on the grounds that it was induced by the threat that if he denied having intercourse with the victim, he would be charged with forcible rape, and the promise that if he admitted to it, he would not be charged with forcible rape, would not be thrown in jail, and would not have to register as a sex offender.

The Court of Appeals noted that under Georgia law incriminating statements are admissible only if made “voluntarily, without being induced by another by the slightest hope of benefit or remotest fear of injury.” Where a law enforcement officer makes a promise to a suspect in exchange for testimony, evidence is still admissible unless it can be shown that “the alleged promise actually induced the statement.”

Here, the Court of Appeals held that when the detective told the defendant that he was facing possible charges of forcible rape, she was not expressing a threat, but a truism. The investigation, including the interview, was designed to determine whether the evidence supported a charge of forcible or statutory rape. The Court further stated that “admonitions to tell the truth will not invalidate a confession.” The Court also held that Munoz’s statement was not actually induced by a hope that he would not be put in jail or have to register as a sex offender, because Munoz expressly acknowledged that his statement would result in both these outcomes. Because Munoz’s statement was not actually induced by threats or hope of benefit, it was held to be freely and voluntarily given and therefore admissible at trial.

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