This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Leonard Henry Panning,


Filed April 1, 1997

Reversed and remanded.

Parker, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 95040099

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Evan W. Jones, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge,and Mulally, Judge.[*]



Leonard Panning appeals from his conviction for second-degree manslaughter at the conclusion of a court trial on stipulated facts.[1] Police were called to Panning's home, where they found a man lying on the floor, dead from a gunshot wound. Panning at first denied any knowledge of the shooting, but eventually confessed to struggling over a gun with decedent and shooting the gun during the struggle. Panning argues that his post-arrest confession was not given voluntarily and should have been suppressed. We agree and reverse appellant's conviction and remand for a jury trial.


On appeal from a court trial on stipulated facts, this court determines a suppression issue as a matter of law. State v. Pfannenstein, 525 N.W.2d 587, 588 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Mar. 14, 1995). Panning argues that his post-arrest confession was inadmissible because it was not voluntary. He argues that the police interrogation tactics were coercive and that this coercion, combined with his unreasonably long interrogation period, require suppression.

We look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if Panning's confession was voluntary. State v. Slowinski, 450 NW.2d 107, 111 (Minn. 1990). Factors to consider include

[t]he age, maturity, intelligence, education, and experience of the defendant and the ability of the defendant to comprehend; the lack of or adequacy of warnings; the length and legality of the detention; the nature of the interrogation; whether the defendant was deprived of any physical needs; and whether the defendant was denied access to friends.

In re Welfare of M.E.P., 523 N.W.2d 913, 920 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Mar. 22, 1995) (quoting State v. Jungbauer, 348 N.W.2d 344, 346 (Minn. 1984)). Applying these factors to Panning's circumstances, we conclude that, as a matter of law, his confession was not voluntary.

At the time of his interrogation, Panning was 73 years old and had almost no experience with the criminal justice system. When tested for competency to stand trial, he was found to have a relatively low I.Q. of 83. The competency report also stated that Panning likely was abusing alcohol. He was drinking heavily around the time of the incident and had a blood alcohol test reading of .13 more than seven hours after he called police to his home. The police put him in a locked squad car shortly after they arrived; the district court found, as a fact, that he was not free to leave.

Panning was explicitly placed under arrest at 12:30 a.m. on May 10, 1995, but no complaint was filed until 4:00 p.m. on May 12, 1995. During this 64-hour arrest period, Panning was interrogated by two officers on three occasions, with a total interrogation time of almost seven hours. He was denied access to his family and was falsely told that his wife and son had given statements contradicting his story; he was asked to take parrafin and lie detector tests and, when he agreed to take the tests, police withdrew their offers of testing. The police constantly challenged his story and continually accused him of lying.

Most disturbing, police used Panning's son's potential criminal liability as a psychological lever against him, suggesting that he was letting his son take the blame. See State v. Danh, 516 N.W.2d 539, 542 (1994) (cautioning that plea agreements involving release of relatives raise the danger that family member is coerced into a guilty plea from sense of loyalty); State v. Anderson, 298 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Minn. 1980) (cautioning police to avoid making promises to free relatives in exchange for confession). Police also misrepresented his son's legal posistion and told Panning that his son could be charged with murder as an accomplice. The son, who did not participate in the shooting itself but may have helped conceal evidence, could not have been charged as an accomplice to murder, but only with aiding an offender. See State v. Jones, 347 N.W.2d 796, 801 (Minn. 1984) (accomplice must play some knowing role in commission of offense); cf. Minn. Stat. § 609.495 (1996) (defining offense of aiding an offender).

"The state must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the confession was voluntary." In re Welfare of M.E.P., 523 N.W.2d at 920 (citing State v. Wajda, 296 Minn. 29, 206 N.W.2d 1 (1973)). This court makes an independent determination of the voluntariness of a confession based on the record. State v. Hoffman, 328 N.W.2d 709, 714 (Minn. 1982).

This record shows a particularly vulnerable defendant, without experience in the criminal justice system, facing a lengthy and confrontational interrogation characterized by misrepresentation and trickery, as well as denial of access to family and threats to prosecute a family member. We hold that the totality of these circumstances establishes that Panning's statement was not voluntary and should have been suppressed. Accordingly, we reverse Panning's conviction and remand for a jury trial.

Reversed and remanded.

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

[ ]1 While neither party addresses this procedure and how it affects appellate review, Panning apparently was following the procedure outlined in State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854, 857 (Minn. 1980), to expedite appeal by waiving a jury trial and stipulating to the state's facts.