Suppression of statements in 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Case Upheld

In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s order suppressing two interviews in a criminal sexual conduct case involving a minor on the basis that the interviews were conducted in violation of Minnesota state law and were unreliable hearsay. State v. William Franklin Wanner.

On December 31, 2009, William Wanner was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1(a) (2008). The charges were based on allegations that Wanner had put his hand inside the crotch area of a ten year-old girl’s bathing suit while they were swimming at a club. The incident was observed and reported by a woman also swimming at the club on December 27, 2009.

On December 29, 2009, the ten year-old took place in a CornerHouse interview where she denied that Wanner had touched her inappropriately. She indicated that she and Wanner play games in the pool and Wanner may have accidentally touched her “private” parts during a game. Immediately after the CornerHouse interview, the ten year-old, her parents and a Sergeant from the Minneapolis Police Department went into a private room where the ten year-old was questioned again by the Sergeant and accused of lying during the CornerHouse Interview. The Sergeant attempted to get the ten year-old to admit that Wanner intentionally touched her. Finally, the ten year-old admitted that Wanner had massaged her crotch.

On January 5, 2010, the Sergeant again interviewed the ten year-old at her school. Her parents were not present, but a school counselor and a county child-protection agent were there. The Sergeant again asked the ten year-old more questions about the alleged criminal sexual conduct, and the girl told him that Wanner had shown her his “private” areas, had her touch his “private” areas, and had also touched her in her “private” area several times in his car.

Wanner brought a motion to suppress the two interviews conducted by the Sergeant . The district court granted the motion to suppress the two interviews on the basis that there were unreliable hearsay. The Court of Appeals, in upholding the district court’s Order, reasoned that because the interviews were conducted by police to develop a factual basis to bring charges against Wanner, the interviews were testimonial. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the admission of testimonial statements where the witness is unavailable to testify unless there has been an opportunity for the defendant to cross-examine the witness. Therefore, since Wanner did not have a chance to cross-examine the ten year-old at the interviews, they cannot come if the ten year-old does not testify.

Even if the ten year-old were to testify, the Court of Appeals still upheld the district court’s Order and suppressed the interviews because under the rules of evidence a prior inconsistent statement by a testifying witness is only admissible if the prior statement were given under oath. Neither of the interviews were given under oath.

Finally, the Court of Appeals analyzed whether or not the interviews would be admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule. However, for an out-of-court statement to be admissible it has to be “equivalent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness.” The Sergeant was confrontational in the interviews, accused the ten year-old of lying, and asked leading questions, as such, the trustworthiness of the content of the interviews is highly suspect. Therefore, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s Order suppressing the two interviews.

The direct and collateral consequences of criminal sexual conduct charges are severe. Make sure you do everything possible to protect yourself by contacting a Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney right away.