This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C0-00-780

 

State of Minnesota,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Ryan Wallace Langhorst,

Respondent.

 

Filed October 17, 2000

Affirmed

Amundson, Judge

 

Scott County District Court

File No. 9918613

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, 1400 NCL Tower, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

 

Thomas J. Harbinson, Scott County Attorney, Thomas W. Haines, Assistant County Attorney, Scott County Government Center, 200 Fourth Avenue West, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for appellant)

 

Roger Ramstad and David B. Boyce, Ramstad & Kennedy Chartered, 525 East First Avenue, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*

 


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

AMUNDSON, Judge

The state challenges the pretrial order of the district court suppressing respondent’s confession to police.  The state contends that the district court erred when it found that respondent did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights.  We affirm.

FACTS

            On October 31, 1999, respondent Ryan Wallace Langhorst, an eighteen-year-old high school senior, was arrested at a convenience store following an alleged robbery.   Following his arrest, Sergeant Randy Hofstad and Officer Wes Denning handcuffed Langhorst, put him in a squad car, and transported him to the Scott County jail.  Once at the jail, Hofstad took Langhorst's tape recorded statement and attempted to read Langhorst his Miranda rights.

Q: Ryan, um, at this point you've already been told that you're under arrest for 2nd degree assault.

A: Yes sir.

Q: Um, what I have to do now is read you something called the Miranda Warning, * * *. Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?

A: Yes.

Q: Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us right now?

A: Well, I'd like to know what exactly is going on at this part.

Q: Okay. Well, um, as far as the Miranda rights go?

A: As far as everything.

Q: Okay. Well that's already been…

A: We'll start, we'll start with the Miranda rights then.

Q: Okay. We're not going debate this. Do you want to talk to me right now regarding this or not.

A: I'll talk to you, yes.

 

Langhorst, who was dressed like a cat burglar when he was arrested, then, admitted to pointing a toy gun, which resembled a real gun, at some kids and demanding that they hand over their weed.   Langhorst was with several juveniles, also in Halloween costume, one of whom then took the kids' candy.  Langhorst was charged with first-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, and terroristic threats.

Following Langhorst’s motion to suppress his confession, the district court suppressed the statement and determined that Langhorst did not fully understand his rights and that his efforts to get further clarification of his rights were denied.  This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

When reviewing an appeal from a pre-trial order suppressing evidence, this court will not reverse thedistrict court’s decision unless the state fails to

‘clearly and equivocally’ show both that the trial court’s order will have a ‘critical impact’ on the state’s ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and that the order constituted error.

 

State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 630 (Minn. 1995) (citation omitted).  Before we inquire whether the district court erred in suppressing Langhorst’s confession, we must determine the critical impact of the suppression.  State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998).

I.

The parties dispute whether suppression of Langhorst’s confession will have a critical impact on the outcome of the trial.  Suppression of Langhorst’s confession may have a critical impact if the likelihood of a successful prosecution is significantly reduced.  State v. Miller, 586 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. 1998).   The likelihood of a successful prosecution is diminished when the effect of a suppressed confession “is to seriously impede, although not completely foreclose, continuation of the prosecution.”  Id. (quotation omitted). Moreover it is generally assumed that the suppression of an accused’s confession “will significantly reduce the likelihood of a successful prosecution.”  State v. Ronnebaum, 449 N.W.2d 722, 724 (Minn. 1990); see also State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 631 (Minn. 1995) (noting that suppression of a defendant’s confession has a critical impact on the prosecution’s case).

            The state contends that suppression of Langhorst’s statement will have critical impact on its case because Langhorst’s admissions are directly relevant to its burden of proof in this case.  Specifically, the state contends that Langhorst’s confession is the only evidence of Langhorst’s state of mind at the time of the offense for the purpose of prosecuting the charge of terroristic threats.  But terroristic threats is not a specific intent crime.  The state may successfully prosecute Langhorst for violation of the statute by simply showing that Langhorst’s actions demonstrated a reckless disregard for causing terror in another person.  Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (1998) (“Whoever threatens * * * to commit any crime of violence with purpose to terrorize another * * *, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror * **.”)

            But Langhorst was also charged with assault in the second degree and aggravated robbery, which, unlike terroristic threats, are specific intent crimes.  See State v. Cole, 542 N.W.2d 43, 51 (Minn. 1996) (assault); State v. Charlton, 338 N.W.2d 26, 29-30 (Minn. 1983) (aggravated robbery).  Langhorst’s statement that he was “f***ing with ‘em,” coupled with his act of pointing a cap gun at his victims, could be evidence of his intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm.  Therefore, because the state lacks other evidence as to Langhorst’s state of mind, we cannot say that his confession is not critical to a successful prosecution of this case.

II.

            Next we must determine whether the district court clearly and unequivocally erred when it suppressed Langhorst’s confession.   When reviewing a defendant’s confession, we will not reverse the district court’s factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous, but we will make our “own independent evaluation of whether the waiver was knowing, intelligent and voluntary, based on the facts as found.” State v. Buchanan, 431 N.W.2d 542, 551-52 (Minn. 1988).    Id.at 552 (citation omitted).

For a confession obtained from an accused during a custodial interrogation to be admissible, the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the accused’s waiver of his right against self-incrimination was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.  State v. Williams, 535 N.W.2d 277, 286 (Minn. 1995).  Where the police fully advise an accused of his Miranda rights and the accused indicates that he understands his rights but nevertheless decides to give an incriminating statement, the state has met its burden of proving that the accused knowingly and intelligently waived his rights.  Id.

Langhorst does not contend that his comments can be construed as an equivocal invocation of his right to remain silent.  Instead Langhorst contends that his statements can be construed as an indication that he simply did not understand his rights and accordingly could not have made a knowing waiver of his Miranda rights. 

This is precisely what the district court concluded and the evidence supports the court’s conclusion. The district court found that Langhorst’s waiver of his Miranda rights was not knowing as demonstrated by his request to have his rights clarified.  After being read his rights, Langhorst indicated that he understood his rights, but after being asked if he would continue speaking with the police he stated, “Well, I’d like to know what is exactly going on at this point.”  The police inquired whether he meant “as far as the Miranda rights go?”  To this Langhorst responded, “as far as everything.” 

Additionally, the district court listened to the tape of Langhorst’s interrogation several times.  The district court witnessed the demeanor of Langhorst and the demeanor of the police officers.  We defer to the district court’s unique opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses when determining whether a defendant knowingly waived his rights.   State v. Jones, 566 N.W.2d 317, 325 (Minn. 1997).  Accordingly, we affirm the suppression of the confession on the basis that Langhorst’s waiver of his Miranda rights was not knowingly made.

III.

Langhorst moves for an award of attorney fees incurred in defense of this appeal pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.04, subd. 2(6).  Langhorst’s counsel submitted a supporting affidavit and there has been nor response or objection from the state.  The amount sought by Langhorst is consistent with awards made by this court in similar cases.  Langhorst is awarded $1,763.02 for attorney fees and costs.

Affirmed.

 

 



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.