PD-1154-19, PD-1155-19, PD-1156-19 02/12/2020
1. “Under the Calloway [v. State, 743 S.W.2d 645 (Tex. Crim. App. 1988)] rule, is police coercion of a confession a ‘theory of law applicable to the case’ where the appellee argues that he lacked a ‘full understanding’ of his Miranda rights in a different statement?”
2. “In reviewing a trial court’s ruling on a motion to suppress, the reviewing court must give deference to the trial court’s resolution of the facts and review de novo the legal significance of those facts. May the court of appeals infer that a confession is involuntary as a matter of fact instead of applying the relevant legal test to the facts supported by the record?”
3. “In deferring to the trial court’s implied resolution of the facts, must the court of appeals ignore indisputable video evidence that the defendant affirmatively waived his Miranda rights?”
Castanedanieto was arrested for four robberies after midnight on August 10th. At 3:00 a.m., a detective interviewed him for twenty-two minutes. Castanedanieto was clearly on drugs and expressed some confusion over the Miranda warnings but cooperated and made inculpatory statements. Around dinner time on the 11th, Castanedanieto agreed to speak with another detective, who retrieved Castanedanieto from jail, bought him dinner, and brought him to the station. Castanedanieto was again given warnings and then confessed to the same crimes he confessed to the previous day and more. Both interviews were video recorded. The State sought to introduce the second. Castanedanieto objected, claiming his first confession was involuntary because he lacked a full understanding of his rights and that his understanding did not improve in the hours leading to the second interview, repeated warnings notwithstanding. The trial court suppressed the statements without entering findings or conclusions.
The court of appeals affirmed. It decided the issue, not on the ground raised by Castanedanieto, but on “a potential basis” for the suppression it deemed applicable to the case: the “cat-out-of-the-bag” theory. See United States v. Bayer, 331 U.S. 532, 540-41 (1947). The court acknowledged the factors set forth in Sterling v. State, 800 S.W.2d 513 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990), for evaluating the taint of a prior confession but felt obligated to defer to the trial court’s implicit assessments in the absence of “indisputable video evidence” of Castanedanieto’s voluntariness to speak. Re-weighing the Sterling factors, the majority said, was “not our job here.” Instead, it credited determinations the trial court could have made that the detective’s “declarative statements” made the second confession coerced. Justice Bridges dissented. He would have applied the Sterling factors to the indisputable facts available to the court, especially the videos, and determined that Castanedanieto’s second confession was not tainted by the first.
The State raises multiple issues related to the scope of review of suppression rulings. First, it asks whether the standard of appellate review includes consideration of a “coercion” argument when what was raised at trial was a lack of awareness. It argues that the Calloway rule, which permits affirmation on any applicable theory of law, gives way in this case to the exception for arguments on which the State was “never fairly called upon” to carry its burden. See State v. Esparza, 413 S.W.3d 81, 90 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). Second, the State asks whether a deferential standard of review includes declining to apply, in any meaningful way, a test designed to determine a legal issue. If so, the State argues, it effectively has no right to appeal a suppression ruling of this kind. Third, the State asks what discretion a reviewing court has to disregard undisputed video evidence in the name of deference. This is especially important in this case, as many of the Sterling factors do not turn on credibility determinations and are answered by the video, e.g., whether warnings were given or counsel requested.