This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In the Matter of the Welfare of: C.M.A., Child.


Filed May 23, 2006


Peterson, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. J5-03-650230


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Bridget K. Sabo, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant C.M.A.)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, Angela K. Shambour, Assistant County Attorney, 403 Government Services Center, 320 West Second Street, Duluth, MN  55802 (for respondent State of Minnesota)


            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


In this appeal from delinquency adjudications on second-degree-burglary and felony-theft charges, appellant C.M.A. argues that (1) the district court erred by concluding that the statement she gave to a uniformed policeman at her house was noncustodial and voluntary and, therefore, admissible; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the adjudication.  We affirm.


            On February 11, 2003, R.R. returned home to find the main door of his home and the sliding glass door to the deck open.  The main door was usually locked, and the family kept a spare key for it hidden on a nail under the deck.  R.R. saw footprints in the snow leading to the deck where the spare key was kept.  Inside the house, R.R. discovered that someone had rummaged through his bedroom, leaving it in disarray, and that several items were missing from the house.  R.R.’s wife, B.R., got home about an hour after R.R.

            R.R. and B.R. suspected that friends of their daughter K.R. had entered the house, and they gave the officer who conducted the initial investigation the names of three friends, including appellant.  Appellant had been present when K.R. retrieved the spare key from under the deck and used it to get into the house. 

            Chief Shawn Padden of the Duluth Township Police Department, who conducted the follow-up investigation, testified at the omnibus hearing that he interviewed appellant at her home on February 20, 2003.  When Padden knocked, appellant came to the door and stepped outside.  Padden asked for a parent, but no parent was available.  Appellant spoke to Padden outside for about ten minutes and then invited him inside, where they spoke for about another 20 minutes.  Padden did not place appellant in handcuffs or restrict her movement in any way.  He explained to appellant that she was not under arrest and would not be placed under arrest as a result of their conversation.  Padden also explained that appellant’s statement was voluntary, she did not have to talk to him, and she could tell him to leave.   

Appellant appeared to Padden to be of average intelligence and maturity for a 15-year old.  He did not note any language barriers or detect any obvious mental or emotional disabilities, and appellant did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol. 

Padden explained to appellant that B.R. and R.R.’s home had been burglarized and that he had received information from appellant’s friends that she had been involved in the burglary.  Initially, appellant denied any involvement in the burglary, but after about ten minutes, she admitted her involvement.  Appellant gave Padden the following written statement:

Tuesday February 11th at about 1:00 p.m. I drove my friend’s white chevy lumina out to the house.  I pulled up in the drive way and parked then went up to the door and knocked.  Nobody was there.  I remembered where the key was so I went in the house.  I went in the parents room and looked through everything and found money.  Then I went downstairs in the basement and found two buckets of change.  I went in [one of the daughter’s rooms] and found a couple of dollars.  I then left and went to the bank with the buckets of change.  Then I went up to the mall and bought a pair of pants, a zip up jacket and a t-shirt.  Then got caught stealing and they brought me home.  Then when I went home and went downtown.  I was just spending money.  I spent money at Subway and Sharks.  I spent money at Coney Island.  I took cabs everywhere.  I got a motel room at Motel 6. 


Padden testified that he did not coerce appellant in any way or make any threats or promises to get her to make a statement.  Padden testified that he did tell appellant

that if she cooperated with me and I felt that she was totally honest with me, I would . . . note such in my reports and I would allow her to walk into court like a lady and not have the . . . squads sitting on her waiting for her to get home and hounding her. 


Padden admitted telling appellant that he would let the court know her level of involvement with him and whether she was remorseful and cooperative. 

            Padden denied telling appellant the details of the offense before she made her statement.  Padden testified

that I outlined the burglary for her, meaning that [R.R. and B.R.] did call our department and report a burglary, that it appeared that it was not a forced entry burglary, and that it appeared that it may have been an acquaintance to the family. 


Appellant had prior experience with law enforcement, including being a suspect in another recent burglary, involvement in a motor-vehicle theft and other thefts, and several reports of being a runaway.  The same day as the burglary of R.R. and B.R.’s home, appellant was detained for shoplifting at JC Penney.  Officer Kelly Greenwalt arrested appellant for the shoplifting.  He attempted to do a custodial interview, but appellant would not agree to the interview.

Appellant was charged in a delinquency petition with second-degree burglary.  The district court dismissed the petition based on its determinations that appellant’s confession was inadmissible under Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (2002) because it was not sufficiently corroborated by independent evidence and that, without appellant’s confession, the petition lacked probable cause.  This court reversed and remanded with instructions to reinstate the petition.  In re Welfare of C.M.A, 671 N.W.2d 597 (Minn. App. 2003).

In an amended delinquency petition, the state again charged appellant with second-degree burglary and also charged her with felony theft.  The district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress her confession, and the case was tried to the court.  The court found appellant guilty as charged, adjudicated her delinquent on both counts, and placed her on probation.    



Appellant argues that the district court erred by admitting into evidence the statement that she gave Padden because:  (1) the interview was custodial and she was not given a Miranda warning; and (2) the statement was not made voluntarily.


To safeguard an uncounseled individual’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, suspects subject to custodial interrogation must be given the Mirandawarning -- they have the right to remain silent, anything they say may be used against them in court, and they are entitled to the presence of an attorney.  Juveniles as well as adults are entitled to be apprised of their constitutional rights according to the dictates of Miranda.


 In re Welfare of G.S.P., 610 N.W.2d 651, 656 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation and citation omitted).

Determining whether a person was in custody for Miranda purposes is a mixed question of law and fact involving a two-part analysis:

[F]irst, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.  Once the scene is set and the players’ lines and actions are reconstructed, the court must apply an objective test to resolve “the ultimate inquiry”:  “[was] there a ‘formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement’ of the degree associated with a formal arrest.”


An appellate court reviews a trial court’s factual findings of circumstances under the clearly erroneous standard, but independently reviews the trial court’s determination regarding custody.


Id. at 657 (alterations in original) (quoting Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112, 116 S. Ct. 457, 465 (1995)).

            Factors to consider when determining whether a juvenile is in custody for Miranda purposes “include the child’s age, intelligence, education, experience with the law, the warning given, and the presence or absence of the child’s parents.”  In re Welfare of M.A.K., 667 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Minn. App. 2003).

The district court found:

            [Appellant] is an average 15-year old with sufficient maturity, intelligence and education to have made a voluntary statement to Officer Padden.  [Appellant] speaks and understands English, and does not have any physical or mental disabilities which would interfere with her ability to make a voluntary statement to Officer Padden.  [Appellant] has had a number of previous contacts with law enforcement, including theft charges.  [Appellant] had been arrested two days prior to this interview with Officer Padden for shoplifting.[1] 


            Appellant objects to Padden’s testimony that she had previous experience with law enforcement, arguing that it is unclear whether the previous experience that Padden described occurred before Padden interviewed appellant.  But Padden specifically testified that the previous experience occurred before the interview, and appellant cites no contrary evidence.

            Another factor to be considered is whether the officer told the juvenile that she was not under arrest or that she was free to leave.  Id. at 658 (citing State v. Miller, 573 N.W.2d 661, 670 (Minn. 1998) (important to custody analysis that suspect told by police he was not under arrest));  see State v. Budke, 372 N.W.2d 799, 801 (Minn. App. 1985) (18-year-old told prior to police questioning that he could leave principal’s office at any time).

Appellant argues that she was not told that she was free to leave.  But because the interview occurred at appellant’s home, there is no reason why Padden would tell her that she was free to leave.  Padden testified, and the district court found, that Padden told appellant that she was not under arrest and did not have to talk to him.  Padden also testified that he told appellant that she could tell him to leave.  These statements informed appellant that she did not have to continue the interview, which is ordinarily what is meant when a person is told that she is free to leave.   Appellant testified in the district court that Padden did not tell her that she could decline to answer his questions.  But Padden testified that he did tell her, and credibility determinations are solely the fact-finder’s responsibility.  State v. Dickerson, 481 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 1992), aff’d, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993).

            There are some factors that would support a determination that the interview was custodial.  Padden’s questioning appears to have been designed to elicit incriminating information.  See G.S.P., 610 N.W.2d at 657 (stating that the nature of the interrogation, whether the questioning was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response, is relevant to determining whether a juvenile was in custody).  Padden began the interview by saying that he had information that appellant was involved in the burglary.  Also, no parent was present.  However, Padden asked appellant if a parent was available, and appellant did not ask for a parent.  Appellant also argues that the custodial nature of the interview “was amplified by the fact that the questioning took place in her home.”  Appellant cites no authority directly supporting this argument, and the argument is not persuasive in light of the facts that Padden told appellant that she did not have to talk to him and could tell him to leave and that Padden did not attempt to enter the house until invited in by appellant.

Considering the totality of the circumstances, particularly the fact that appellant had been released after declining to give a custodial interview to Greenwalt just nine days before the interview with Padden, the district court did not err when it determined that appellant was not in custody and, therefore, no Miranda warning was required. Cf. M.A.K., 667 N.W.2d at 472 (interview was custodial when juvenile was removed from class and escorted to the school police-liaison office without being told why; upon arrival, he was told he was not under arrest but was not told that he was free to leave or that he was free to refuse to answer questions; was not asked if he wished to speak with his parents or return to class; and was given a hall pass and allowed to return to class only after police were satisfied with his statements); G.S.P.,610 N.W.2d at 657 (interview was custodial when 12-year-old was removed from class and accompanied by assistant principal and officer to assistant-principal’s office; in the office, officer told juvenile that the tape recorder would be on; juvenile was told that he had no choice but to answer the questions; juvenile had never before been to the principal’s or assistant-principal’s office for discipline, nor had he been in trouble with the law or questioned by the police; and juvenile was not told that he was not under arrest or that he was free to leave).


The voluntariness of a confession is an issue separate from the Miranda issue.  State v. Pilcher, 472 N.W.2d 327, 333 (Minn. 1991).  The state has the burden of proving by a fair preponderance of the evidence that a confession was freely and voluntarily made.  State v. Thaggard, 527 N.W.2d 804 (Minn. 1995).  “A confession is not voluntary if the actions of the police, combined with the circumstances, are so coercive and intimidating that the defendant is unable to make a free-will decision.  The actions of police need not be threats or deliberate intimidation to be coercive.”  M.A.K., 667 N.W.2d at 472 (citations omitted).

The factors relevant to determining whether an interview was custodial are also relevant to determining voluntariness.  See id. (considering circumstances that made interview custodial in determining voluntariness).  As already discussed, appellant had previous experience with law enforcement, and Padden told her that she was not under arrest, did not have to talk to him, and could ask him to leave. The district court specifically found that appellant had sufficient maturity, intelligence, and education to have made a voluntary statement and did not have any physical or mental disabilities that would interfere with her ability to make a voluntary statement.

Appellant argues that Padden told her that if she “did not confess, squad cars would hound her.”  Padden denied making such a threat and testified that he told appellant that if she cooperated, she would be allowed to “walk into court like a lady” and not have squad cars waiting at her house and hounding her.  Padden also told appellant that he would let the court know whether she was remorseful and cooperative.   

By describing to appellant the bad things that would not happen if she confessed, Padden indirectly told appellant that these bad things would happen if she did not confess.  But Padden’s statements are similar to the statements police made in State v. Hough, in which this court concluded that the state satisfied its burden of proving voluntariness under the following circumstances:

Police in this case did suggest that it was in Hough’s “best interest” to admit involvement and implied that the interview would be his only chance to tell his side of the story.  But they made no promises or misrepresentations.  The fact that police used a “sympathetic” approach, allowing Hough to minimize his conduct and encouraging him to see that his “best interest” lay in confessing, does not render the confession involuntary.


571 N.W.2d 578, 581 (Minn. App. 1997), rev’d on other grounds, 585 N.W.2d 393 (Minn. 1998).

            As in Hough, Padden’s use of the “sympathetic” approach did not, by itself, render appellant’s statement involuntary.  And Padden’s statements were not otherwise so coercive and intimidating that appellant was unable to make a free-will decision.


            On appeal from a determination that each element of a delinquency petition has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, “an appellate court is limited to ascertaining whether, given the facts and legitimate inferences, a factfinder could reasonably make that determination.”  In re Welfare of S.M.J., 556 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Minn. App. 1996) (citing State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978)).  “We are required to view the record in the light most favorable to the determination and assume that the factfinder believed the testimony supporting the determination and disbelieved any contrary evidence.”  Id.

Appellant argues that “her statement was simply too inconsistent with the facts of the offense to be accepted as a credible confession.”  But appellant’s statement shows knowledge of details about the theft that only would have been known by the victims and the perpetrator.  These details include that the spare key was used to enter the house, two containers of change were taken, and there was money in K.R.’s bedroom and in B.R. and R.R.’s bedroom.  Appellant argues that Padden provided her with details about the offense as she was making her statement, but Padden denied doing so.

Appellant’s statement indicates that she found money in the parents’ bedroom, a couple of dollars in a daughter’s bedroom, and two buckets of change in the basement.  While appellant did not admit to taking money from bedrooms, her statement that she found money in bedrooms is consistent with evidence that money was missing from bedrooms.  R.R. testified that 500 one-dollar bills that had been wrapped up in a rubber band and hidden under a bed were missing.  B.R. testified that $900 in large bills was missing from one of her dresser drawers.  Both B.R. and K.R. testified that $20 was taken from K.R.’s bedroom.

Regarding the containers of change, R.R. testified that he noticed in the basement that some coffee cans in which he kept spare change had been moved.  But he testified that the missing items were a coffee can that belonged to B.R. and contained about $600 in quarters and an antique cheese box containing old gold coins.  R.R.’s testimony indicates that containers of change in the basement were only moved and that the containers of change that were taken were located elsewhere in the house.  We also note that B.R.’s testimony was inconsistent with R.R.’s in that B.R. testified that the missing coffee can contained not just quarters but also nickels, dimes, quarters, and fifty-cent pieces.  The inconsistencies in the evidence about the containers of change are only minor and do not warrant reversal.  See State v. Johnson, 679 N.W.2d 378, 387 (Minn. App. 2004) (explaining that “[m]inor inconsistencies and conflicts in evidence do not necessarily render testimony false or provide the basis for reversal” and that inconsistencies and related credibility determinations are for the fact-finder to assess), review denied (Minn. Aug. 17, 2004).  

Appellant argues that Padden should have conducted further investigation to corroborate the information that appellant provided in her statement.  It is a statutory requirement in Minnesota that “[a] confession of the defendant shall not be sufficient to warrant conviction without evidence that the offense charged has been committed.”  Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (2002).  Under this statute, a confession is insufficient, by itself, to support a conviction and must be corroborated.  State v. Fader, 358 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Minn. 1984).

The statute has a dual function.  It discourages coercively acquired confessions and makes the admission reliable.  Each element of an offense need not be independently corroborated to meet the statute’s standard.  Instead, the elements should be sufficiently substantiated by independent evidence of attending facts or circumstances from which the jury may infer the trustworthiness of the confession.  The practical relation between the confession and the government’s case, rather than the theoretical relation to the definition of the offense, is the crucial test.


State v. Brandt, 436 N.W.2d 468, 470-71 (Minn. App. 1989) (quotations and citations omitted).  As this court explained in its decision in appellant’s earlier appeal, “the statute requires that the corroborating evidence show the harm or injury and that it was occasioned by criminal activity; it need not show that the defendant was the guilty party because the confession itself provides that link.”  C.M.A., 671 N.W.2d at 601.

The victims’ report of the burglary to police and the victims’ testimony about the facts and circumstances of the burglary were evidence independent of appellant’s confession that sufficiently corroborated appellant’s statements about the details of the burglary and theft to show that the offenses had been committed and to permit the district court to infer that appellant’s confession was trustworthy.  Additional corroboration might have affected the weight of the evidence but not its sufficiency.  See State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988) (stating that the weight of evidence is an issue for the fact-finder to decide).

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision, the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of burglary and felony theft.  See Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 2(a) (2002) (second-degree burglary elements); Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(1) (2002) (felony theft elements).


[1] The shoplifting arrest occurred nine days before the interview with Padden.