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State v. Trinque

Supreme Court of Hawaii

May 25, 2017

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RICK TRINQUE, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellee, and MILES MARTINEZ, Defendant.

         CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-12-0001017; CR. NO. 12-1-0105)

          Jon N. Ikenaga and Hayley Y.C. Cheng for petitioner

          Justin F. Kollar and Tracy Murakami for respondent

          RECKTENWALD, C.J., McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ., AND CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE CHANG, IN PLACE OF NAKAYAMA, J., UNAVAILABLE

          OPINION

          POLLACK, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On March 19, 2009, Rick Trinque was arrested in a pasture and handcuffed by the police who were conducting an investigation involving the growing of marijuana. Prior to apprising Trinque of his Miranda rights, police obtained two statements from Trinque. Later, at the police station, police obtained a third statement from Trinque when he invoked his right to counsel while being given Miranda warnings. The Circuit Court of the Fifth Circuit (circuit court) concluded that the first and second statements had been unlawfully elicited from Trinque, as they resulted from pre-Miranda custodial interrogation, and that the third statement was a product of the two earlier illegally obtained statements. The circuit court accordingly excluded the statements from being used as evidence at trial. The State appealed the circuit court's decision regarding the second and third statements. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) disagreed with the circuit court and vacated its ruling as to the second and third statements.

         In his application for certiorari, Trinque contends that the circuit court correctly ruled that the second and third statements were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights and that the ICA gravely erred in vacating the circuit court's decision. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the ICA erred in vacating the ruling of the circuit court.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Underlying arrest

         In the days prior to March 19, 2009, the Kaua'i Police Department (KPD) received information that there was marijuana growing in a 25-acre pasture in Kīlauea, Kaua'i, and initiated an investigation. On March 19, 2009, KPD officers were conducting nighttime surveillance in the pasture when they encountered Trinque, who was placed under arrest and immediately placed in handcuffs by Officer Brian Silva (the case agent in charge of the operation) while still in the pasture.[1] Miles Martinez was also arrested in the pasture. Both Trinque and Martinez were ordered to sit on rocks within the pasture while officers took pictures of them and obtained their identification. As Officer Silva and another officer were escorting Trinque out of the pasture, one of the officers asked Trinque how he came into the field. Trinque responded that "he came over the fence by the banana tree using a ladder that was still located by the fence and that he was caught red handed" (Statement 1). Once out of the pasture, Trinque was ordered by the officers to sit on a wooden bench. Trinque remained handcuffed.

         Officer Silva directed Lt. Richard Rosa to watch over Trinque. Lt. Rosa was the supervisor for the vice unit and a case supervisor at that time. That night, Lt. Rosa was dressed in plain clothes, with his police badge around his neck. Lt. Rosa had never met Trinque before, but "he knew Rick Trinque by name" because Trinque's daughter, whom Lt. Rosa had previously assisted in a case, had informed him that Trinque was her father.[2] KPD officers told Lt. Rosa who the two detained suspects were, and Lt. Rosa knew that it was Trinque sitting on the wooden bench when he approached.

         Lt. Rosa identified himself to Trinque as Lt. Rosa from the Narcotic Unit of KPD, and he informed Trinque that he was the officer who worked on his daughter's case. Lt. Rosa then told Trinque "that if [Trinque] did not believe him, he could talk to his daughter about it." In an apparent effort to emphasize his trustworthiness, Lt. Rosa told Trinque that "he would not lie to him." Next, he informed Trinque that he would not "jerk his chain." And, to underscore this point, Lt. Rosa told Trinque that "he would be completely honest with him." During these statements, Trinque "sat there listening" and did not speak to Lt. Rosa. When Lt. Rosa "told Trinque to not make any statements until [they] got back to Lihue where we could advise him of his rights, "[3] Trinque responded, "What for? You caught us red handed, there's nothing left to say, times are hard and we needed the money" (Statement 2).

         Soon after, Lt. Rosa and Officer Silva transported Trinque to the Līhu'e police station, where he was booked and placed in an interrogation room. Both Lt. Rosa and Officer Silva were present during Trinque's interview in the interrogation room. Trinque was informed of his constitutional rights via the KPD Form 364. Officer Silva asked Trinque if he wanted an attorney, and Trinque responded that he did.[4] Officer Silva then asked Trinque whether or not he wanted to make a statement.[5] Trinque replied that he did not want to make a statement since "he got caught red-handed and was going to jail anyway."[6] (Statement 3) During the approximately three hours following Trinque's arrest, Lt. Rosa remained at Trinque's side from their initial contact, during transport, and to Trinque's placement in the interrogation room where Statement 3 was obtained.

         B. Circuit court proceedings

         On February 23, 2012, Trinque was charged by indictment with Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the First Degree, in violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 712-1249.4(1)(c) (1993), and Unlawful Use of Drug Paraphernalia, in violation of HRS § 329-43.5(a) (1993).[7]

         The State filed a Motion to Determine Voluntariness of Statements, contending that Trinque made inculpatory statements upon arrest and that the statements were admissible at trial. Trinque filed a motion seeking to suppress Statements 1, 2, and 3 on the grounds that they were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights under article I, sections 5 and 10 of the Hawai'i Constitution and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution (Motion to Suppress Statements). Trinque contended that he was subjected to pre-Miranda custodial interrogation when he made Statements 1 and 2, in violation of his right against self-incrimination. Trinque also argued that his post-Miranda statement (Statement 3) should be suppressed as a "fruit of the poisonous tree" because "the statement was made under the taint of the two prior police illegalities."

         In its response, the State argued that Trinque "voluntarily made inculpatory statements upon arrest." The State maintained that Statement 1 was a spontaneous statement and that Statements 2 and 3 "were voluntary and not the result of KPD coercion." Further, the State contended that Trinque's statements were independent of police questioning and that Trinque kept talking even after he was advised not to make a statement until he was taken to the station and given Miranda warnings.

         Following a hearing on the motions, [8] the circuit court issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements (Order Suppressing Statements), in which it determined that, as to Statement 1, Trinque was "in custody for purposes of Miranda" from the moment he was placed in handcuffs in the pasture. The court found that either Officer Silva or the other officer escorting Trinque out of the pasture specifically asked Trinque how he came into the field and that the question prompted Trinque to respond that he "came over the fence by the banana tree using a ladder that was still located by the fence and that he was caught red handed." The circuit court concluded that "asking the defendant how he got into the pasture was an illegal custodial interrogation that the officer knew or should have known was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response" and that the question did in fact improperly elicit Statement 1.

         The circuit court further concluded that Statement 2 was the product of an illegal, pre-Miranda custodial interrogation. The court held that Lt. Rosa's "unsolicited statements" to Trinque amounted to "statements that were designed to garner the trust of the defendant . . . and invite the defendant to open up." Thus, the circuit court concluded that Lt. Rosa conducted an unauthorized pre-Miranda interrogation in violation of Trinque's constitutional rights. The circuit court stated that "there was no legitimate reason" for Lt. Rosa to make these statements to Trinque, including:

telling [Trinque] that he wasn't sure if [Trinque] knew who he was, but that he was the Officer who worked on [his] daughter's case, that if Trinque did not believe him, [he] could talk to his daughter about it, that he would not lie to [Trinque], he would not "jerk his chain, " and that he would be completely honest with him.

         The circuit court concluded that Lt. Rosa knew or should have known that his statements would likely elicit an incriminating response. The court further held that Lt. Rosa's statement--that Trinque should not make a statement until he was taken to the Līhu'e police station--was presupposition on Lt. Rosa's part and that it "wrongly informed [Trinque] that his statement would be taken once they read him his rights."

         As to Statement 3, the circuit court concluded that it "was a 'fruit' or an exploitation of the prior illegality of the 'pre-interview' conducted by [Lt.] Rosa." The court held that Statement 3 was not sufficiently attenuated from Lt. Rosa's unauthorized, pre-Miranda interview for the taint of the prior illegality to dissipate because (1) the same officer (Lt. Rosa) remained with Trinque through the entire process; (2) Statement 3 came within hours of the pre-interview Miranda violation; and (3) Statement 3, elicited post-Miranda, was in effect the same thing Trinque said to Lt. Rosa (Statement 2).

         The circuit court therefore granted Trinque's Motion to Suppress Statements and issued an Order Suppressing Statements and an Order Denying State of Hawaii's Voluntariness of Statements.[9]The State timely appealed from these orders.

         C. Appellate Proceedings

         The State raised two issues in its appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in concluding that Statement 2 was the product of a custodial interrogation and in suppressing Statement 2 on that basis; and (2) whether the trial court erred in suppressing Statement 3 as the unlawful fruit of Statements 1 and 2. The State did not challenge the suppression of Statement 1.

         In a published opinion, the ICA held that the circuit court erred in suppressing Statement 2 on Miranda grounds because Statement 2 was made when Lt. Rosa told Trinque that he should not make any statements until he had been advised of his constitutional rights. State v. Trinque, 137 Hawai'i 130, 133, 366 P.3d 186, 189 (App. 2016), cert. granted, No. SCWC-12-0001017, 2016 WL 3129189 (Haw. June 2, 2016). The ICA noted that "there was no basis for the circuit court to conclude that [Lt.] Rosa should have known that his words or actions in telling Trinque not to speak were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response." Id.

         Further, the ICA concluded that neither Statement 2 nor Statement 3 was subject to suppression as an unlawful fruit of previous statements. Id. at 134, 366 P.3d at 190. The ICA held that Statement 2 was not an unlawful fruit of Statement 1 because the police did not exploit Statement 1 to obtain Statement 2. Id. The ICA also held that Statement 3 was not subject to suppression as an unlawful fruit of Statement 2 because Statement 2 was not the product of interrogation. Id. In addition, the ICA determined that Statement 3 was not a fruit of Statement 1 because Trinque made Statement 3 post-Miranda, police did not exploit Statement 1 to obtain Statement 3, and Statement 3 was a non-responsive reply to the question asked. Id.

         The ICA vacated the circuit court's Order Suppressing Statements and Order Denying Voluntariness of Statements, and the case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. Id. at 135, 366 P.3d at 191. On certiorari, Trinque presents the following question: whether the ICA gravely erred in vacating the circuit court's decision suppressing Statements 2 and 3 to the police.

         III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         This court reviews a trial court's factual findings under the clearly erroneous standard. State v. Romano, 114 Hawai'i 1, 8, 155 P.3d 1102, 1109 (2007).

A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when, despite evidence to support the finding, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm conviction in reviewing the entire evidence that a mistake has been committed. A finding of fact is also clearly erroneous when the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding. We have defined substantial evidence as credible evidence which is of sufficient quality and probative value to enable a person of reasonable caution to support a conclusion.

Lambert v. Waha, 137 Hawai'i 423, 431, 375 P.3d 202, 210 (2016) (quoting Bremer v. Weeks, 104 Hawai'i 43, 51, 85 P.3d 150, 158 (2004)). A trial court's conclusions of law are reviewed under the right/wrong standard. State v. Joseph, 109 Hawai'i 482, 493, 128 P.3d 795, 806 (2006). Where a conclusion of law "presents mixed questions of fact and law, " it "is reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard because the court's conclusions are dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case." State v. Furutani, 76 Hawai'i 172, 180, 873 P.2d 51, 59 (1994) (quoting AIG Haw. Ins. Co. v. Estate of Caraang, 74 Haw. 620, 629, 851 P.2d 321, 326 (1993)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by article I, section 10 of the Hawai'i Constitution requires that Miranda warnings be given to an accused in order for statements obtained during custodial interrogation to be admissible at trial.[10]State v. Joseph, 109 ...


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