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State v. Frank Rees

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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT						Reporter of Decisions
Decision:2000 ME 55
Argued:November 1, 1999
Decided:	March 31, 2000

Dissent:	SAUFLEY, J, and CLIFFORD, J.



	[¶1]  The State appeals{1} from an order of the Superior Court (Hancock
County, Mead, J.) suppressing statements made by defendant.  The court
declined to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the statements were
voluntary.  The court's ruling was based solely on defendant's mental state
and not on any improper police activity.   Finding no error, we affirm.
	[¶2]  Defendant Frank Rees was indicted for manslaughter (Class A),
17-A M.R.S.A. § 203(1)(A) (Supp. 1999), and aggravated criminal OUI (Class
C), 29-A M.R.S.A. § 2411(6) (1996). The indictment was brought against
defendant for causing the death of William H. Porter as a result of
defendant's reckless or criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle
and as a result of his operating the motor vehicle while under the influence
of intoxicants.  Defendant filed a motion to suppress certain statements
made by him in response to police questioning on the basis that they were
not voluntarily given pursuant to Article I, § 6 of the Maine Constitution.{2}  A
hearing was held and the court entered an order granting the motion to
suppress on the following grounds:  
As the record clearly indicates that the Defendant suffers from
dementia, the court cannot conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt,
that his statements to law enforcement officers were the
product of the free exercise of his will and rational intellect.  It
should be stressed that this ruling makes no finding of improper
or incorrect conduct upon the part of the investigating officers.  
The State appeals.
	[¶3]  The court based its decision on the following test established in
State v. Caouette, 446 A.2d 1120 (Me. 1982):
[I]n order to find a statement voluntary, it must first be
established that it is the result of defendant's exercise of his own
free will and rational intellect.  While a claim of compulsion will
frequently be predicated upon police elicitation or conduct, that
element is not a sine qua non for exclusion under the
exclusionary rule inherent in the guarantee against self-
incrimination.  While proof that a defendant's statement is
spontaneous and unsolicited will often result in a finding of
voluntariness, such proof does not compel a finding that the
defendant was free from "compulsion of whatever nature."
Id. at 1123-24 (footnote omitted).

	[¶4]  The State contends that we should ignore stare decisis and
overrule State v. Caouette in light of U.S. Supreme Court case, Colorado v.
Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986) and our case, State v. Eastman, 1997 ME 39,
691 A.2d 179. We decline to do so. "Stare decisis embodies the important
social policy of continuity in the law by providing for consistency and
uniformity of decisions."  Bourgeois v. Great N. Nekoosa Corp., 1999 ME 10,
¶ 5, 722 A.2d 369, 371.  "We do not disturb a settled point of law unless 'the
prevailing precedent lacks vitality and the capacity to serve the interests of
justice. . . . '" Id. 
	[¶5]  First, Connelly was decided on federal constitutional grounds and
Caouette was decided on state constitutional grounds.  As we stated in
Caouette, "federal decisions do not serve to establish the complete
statement of controlling law but rather to delineate a constitutional
minimum or universal mandate for the federal control of every State." State
v. Caouette, 446 A.2d at 1122 (citing State v. Collins, 297 A.2d 620 (Me.
1972)). We supported this position with the Supreme Court's statement in
Lego v. Twomey that:  "'Of course, the States are free, pursuant to their own
law, to adopt a higher standard.  They may indeed differ as to the
appropriate resolution of the values they find at stake.'" Id. (quoting Lego v.
Twomey, 404 U.S. 477 (1972)). We noted that we had exercised this
authority in State v. Collins, 297 A.2d 620 (1972) when we adopted a more
stringent standard of proof for establishing the voluntariness of statements
in order to better secure the guarantee of freedom from self-incrimination. 
See id.  We further noted that the same philosophy of state-federal
relationship that applied to procedural issues would also apply in
determining the substantive content of the privilege against self-
incrimination.  See id.  We reiterated that:
It must be remembered that the privilege exists in this case by
virtue of the Maine Constitution.  The Fifth Amendment is a
limitation upon the federal government and has no direct
reference to state action except to the extent incorporated as a
requirement of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. 
The maximum statement of the substantive conduct of the
privilege and the requirements of voluntariness must be decided
by this Court -- as a matter of Maine law.
	[¶6]  Applying Maine law, we noted the basis of the more protective
holding in Collins as follows:
"The constitutional privilege against self-incrimination . . .
reflects a high priority commitment to the principle that
excluded as available to government is any person's testimonial
self-condemnation of crime unless such person has acted
'voluntarily' i.e., unless he has 'waived' his constitutional privilege
against self-incrimination by choosing, freely and knowingly, to
provide criminal self-condemnation by utterances from his own
Id. (quoting State v. Collins, 297 A.2d at 626).  In reaching our decision,  we
noted that it appeared to be "consistent with, if not required by, the classic
definitions of voluntariness set forth in United States Supreme Court
decisions." Id. at 1123.
	[¶7]   The State argues that, in light of the United States Supreme
Court decision, Colorado v. Connelly, decided after State v. Caouette, the
premise in State v. Caouette that it was consistent with federal law has
changed.  In this respect, the State is correct.  Colorado v. Connelly, 479
U.S. 157 (1986), explicitly holds that "coercive police activity is a necessary
predicate to the finding that a confession is not 'voluntary' within the
meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. at
167.  Our statement in Caouette that our decision appeared to be consistent
with United States Supreme Court decisions, however, was not a
determinative factor.  Rather, we focused primarily on an assessment of the
public policy of the State of Maine.   
	[¶8]  We cited State v. Collins, 297 A.2d 620 (Me. 1972) for the
proposition that the state constitution provided greater protection for this
particular privilege. State v. Caouette, 446 A.2d 1120, 1122  (Me. 1982).  In
Collins we stated:
In assessing public policy for the State of Maine and "the
appropriate resolution of the values [we] find at stake," we go
beyond the objective of deterrence of lawless conduct by police
and prosecution.  We concentrate, additionally, upon the
primacy of the value, strongly emphasized by the three
dissenters in Lego v. Twomey, of safeguarding ". . . the right of an
individual, entirely apart from his guilt or innocence, not to be
compelled to condemn himself by his own utterances."  Since
this value has been endowed with the highest priority by being
embodied in a constitutional guarantee -- the constitutional
privilege against self-incrimination -- we believe that it must be
taken heavily into account in the formulation of the public policy
of this State, notwithstanding that the majority of the Justices
who participated in Lego v. Twomey were unwilling to derive
from it a universal mandate for the federal control of every State
in the Union by a standard of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
State v. Collins, 297 A.2d 620, 626 (Me. 1972) (citations omitted).  We
further stated as follows:
[T]o confirm and preserve the value reflected in the
constitutional privilege against self-incrimination we must
minimize the risks of allowing legal effectiveness to "non-
voluntary," or "involuntary," testimonial self-condemnation even
at the expense of producing a loss of evidence which might have
probative value; such was the price that our society had chosen
to pay when it conferred constitutional protection upon the
privilege against self-incrimination.
Id. at 627.  We find this rationale still represents Maine's public policy.
	[¶9]  Finally, contrary to the State's contention, our statements made
in State v. Eastman, 1997 ME 39, 691 A.2d 179, are consistent with State v.
Caouette and do not suggest a retreat from the more restrictive state
standard.   In Eastman, we followed federal precedent and declined to
extend the privilege against self-incrimination to include non-testimonial
evidence.  Although we may look to the construction of federal constitutional
provisions in U.S. Supreme Court cases and apply the same construction as
far as possible, we are not confined to that construction when, as in
Caouette, a more protective standard is warranted under Maine law. 
	The entry is:
				Order of suppression affirmed.

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