This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






State of Minnesota,


Matthew Allen Ritter,


Filed May 23, 2006


Stoneburner, Judge


Stevens County District Court

File No. KX03242


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas Ragatz, Willow Najjar, Assistant Attorneys General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and


Charles C. Glasrud, Stevens County Attorney, 109 East Sixth Street, Box 66, Morris, MN 56267 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 425, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



            On appeal from conviction of two counts of attempted second-degree murder, appellant argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements because he was not mentally capable of validly waiving his Miranda rights.  We affirm.



            “Before a statement taken from a defendant during custodial interrogation can be admitted at trial, the state must prove: (1) that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights, and (2) that the defendant gave his statement voluntarily.”  State v. Dominguez-Ramirez,563 N.W.2d 245, 252 (Minn. 1997) (citing State v. Williams, 535 N.W.2d 277, 286 (Minn. 1995)).  “On appeal, the district court’s conclusion that a waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent will normally not be reversed unless that finding is clearly erroneous.”  State v. Camacho, 561 N.W.2d 160, 168 (Minn. 1997).[1]  But when an appellant contends that credible evidence supports a contrary finding, an appellate court will make a subjective factual inquiry to determine

whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the waiver was valid.  Camacho, 561 N.W.2d. at 169.  “Despite this inquiry, the standard of review remains whether the district court’s finding is clearly erroneous.”  Id.  In this case, the district court made extensive fact findings following the omnibus hearing, including the facts set out below.

            The attending physician in the emergency room where appellant’s children were taken at appellant’s request stated that appellant had told him that appellant had mixed rat poison and fish-tank cleaner into Kool-Aid and had given it to his children to drink.  Appellant told the doctor that one of the children drank some of the mixture and threw it up, and the other child had spit it up.  Appellant told the doctor that he had intended to take the poison himself but gave it to the children first because he was afraid he would not be able to see them any more, he could not live without them, and he wanted to take them with him.  Appellant expressed remorse for his actions to the doctor.

            James Pew, director of behavioral-medicine services at the hospital and a licensed drug-and-alcohol counselor, assessed appellant in the emergency room.  He noted that appellant appeared to be depressed, remorseful, and emotionally distraught.  He was crying, and at one point he curled up in the fetal position.  Pew felt that appellant was not delusional but Pew was concerned about appellant’s safety and the safety of others based on the fact that appellant was emotionally distraught, and he recommended that a 72-hour hold be placed on appellant so appellant could be held at the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.

            Appellant was taken into custody by Deputy Dingman and transported to the Stevens County Law Enforcement Center before he was transported to the treatment center.  Deputy Dingman advised appellant of his Miranda rights.  Appellant indicated that he understood these rights, would waive these rights, and would answer questions.  The interview was tape-recorded and admitted into evidence at the omnibus hearing.  There is no evidence that Deputy Dingman used coercive tactics while interviewing appellant.  The district court found that the deputy dealt with appellant in a friendly, sympathetic, and polite manner.

            Appellant was later evaluated by psychologist Dr. R. P. Ascano, who indicated that at the time of the evaluation, appellant was suffering from major depression.  One of the primary symptoms of appellant’s condition was difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.  Dr. Ascano opined that at the time appellant was questioned by Deputy Dingman, his emotional condition had no negative impact on his intellectual or cognitive ability to understand the situation.  Dr. Ascano stated that the main negative impact of appellant’s depression was on appellant’s insight, foresight, and judgment, such that, faced with non-coercive questioning, appellant may have had a reduced ability to refrain from answering questions even if it would have been in his best interests not to answer.

            Although stated as conclusions of law, the district court additionally found that appellant is a 26-year-old high-school graduate, that he had the intellectual capacity to understand the nature of the rights of which he was advised, and that at the time he was questioned it appeared he had regained his composure to the point that he was able to answer questions unhesitatingly and without crying.  The district court found that neither the interrogation nor the detention was of unreasonable duration.  The district court further noted that “[w]hile there is evidence that [appellant] was sleep deprived, there is insufficient evidence to quantify or qualify the extent of the sleep deprivation” at the time appellant was questioned.

            From these facts, the district court concluded (or found) that the state met its burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that appellant knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights before giving the custodial statement.  Appellant challenges that conclusion, arguing that given his “mental state, sleep deprivation, and the time of day,” his waiver of Miranda rights was not voluntary because he could “not comprehend the nature of the right or the consequences of abandoning that right” or “understand that the warning applied to him or how to invoke his rights.”  Appellant does not cite any authority directly in support of his argument.

            Ordinarily, the state will be deemed to have met its burden of proving a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of Miranda rights if it proves that the Miranda warning was given and the defendant stated his understanding of his rights and proceeded to give a statement.  Camacho, 561 N.W.2d at 168 (citing State v. Linder, 268 N.W.2d 734, 735 (Minn. 1978)).  “But if there is other evidence indicating that the waiver was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent, the district court must make a subjective factual inquiry to determine whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.”  Id.  The factors that the district court may consider when making such an inquiry include “age, maturity, intelligence, education, experience, and ability to comprehend; the lack or adequacy of warnings; the length and legality of the detention; the nature of the interrogation; physical deprivations; and limits on the individual’s access to counsel, friends, and others.  Courts may also consider other factors such as familiarity with the criminal justice system, physical and mental condition, and language barriers.”   Id. (citation omitted).

            In this case, the district court made findings on all of the appropriate factors and those findings are supported by evidence in the record.  Appellant’s argument that his condition made him “susceptible to cooperating with authority figures” and “susceptible to any type of questioning” is not probative of his ability to understand the meaning of the Miranda warning.  The supreme court has stated that “[t]he fact that a defendant suffers from a mental deficiency is, alone, insufficient to render a statement or a waiver of Miranda rights involuntary.”  State v. Mills, 562 N.W.2d 276, 283 (Minn. 1997) (citing Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 164, 107 S. Ct. 515, 520 (1986)).  “[T]he question for the court is whether, considering the totality of the circumstances, the police actions were ‘so coercive, so manipulative, [or] so overpowering’ that defendant’s will was overborne.”  Id.(quoting State v. Pilcher, 472 N.W.2d 327, 333 (Minn. 1991)). 

            In Connelly, Connelly contended that his waiver of Miranda rights and confession were not voluntary because he was compelled by a mental disorder manifested in delusions that the voice of God was telling him to confess.  479 U.S. at 161, 107 S. Ct. at 518.  An expert testified, similar to Ascano’s testimony in this case, that Connelly’s mental condition did not impair Connelly’s cognitive abilities, but interfered with his “volitional abilities; that is, his ability to make free and rational choices.”  Id. at 161, 107 S. Ct. at 519.  The Supreme Court of Colorado held that Connelly’s mental condition precluded his ability to make a valid waiver of Miranda rights.  Id. at 162-63, 107 S. Ct. at 519.  The United States Supreme Court reversed, stating that the Colorado Supreme Court “erred in importing into this area of constitutional law notions of ‘free will’ that have no place there.”   Id. at 169, 107 S. Ct. at 523.  The Supreme Court reiterated that Miranda addresses “governmental coercion” and that the Fifth Amendment privilege on which Miranda is based is “not concerned with moral and psychological pressures to confess emanating from sources other than official coercion.”   Id. (quotation omitted). 

            In Linder, sleep deprivation was noted as a factor supporting a finding that Linder’s waiver of Miranda rights was not voluntary.  268 N.W.2d at 735.  But in addition to not having slept for 24 hours at the time he waived his Miranda rights, Linder had been physically and verbally assaulted by arresting officers, was under the influence of alcohol, had not eaten anything for a day, was of “low intellect,” relatively uneducated, wanted an attorney, was “suffering from a severe psychosis,” and had not taken his anti-psychosis medication.  Id. at 735-36.  Our review of relevant case law demonstrates that Minnesota has consistently rejected the argument that low mental functioning, great distress, mental illness, intoxication, or other conditions not induced by the government make waiver of Miranda rights involuntary.

            In this case, the district court applied the correct legal standards and made extensive findings that are supported by evidence in the record.  Based on our independent review of the record, we conclude that the district court’s determination that appellant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights is not clearly erroneous.


[1] See also Dominguez-Ramirez,563 N.W.2d at 252 (stating that an appellate court “will independently determine, on the basis of the facts as found by the district court, whether the state has shown by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” but “will not reverse the district court’s findings unless they are clearly erroneous”).  The language used by the supreme court in addressing the issue of validity of a waiver of Miranda rights does not clearly delineate whether a district court’s determination that a waiver is valid is a finding of fact or a conclusion of law.  The standard of review described by the supreme court appears to require some deference to the district court’s determination if it is not clearly erroneous based on the reviewing court’s independent review of the facts.