United States v. IMM

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 03-31-2014
  • Case #: 11-10317
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Reinhardt for the Court; Circuit Judges D. Nelson and M. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

(1) The competency of a child witness is a matter within the discretion of the trial judge and not to be disturbed unless clearly erroneous. (2) Inculpatory statements made by a juvenile defendant in custody must be suppressed if the defendant was not properly read his Miranda rights.

IMM, a juvenile, was convicted under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2246 for sexually abusing his six year old cousin, MM. IMM was first interrogated about the incident more than seven months after it occurred. The interview took place at a police station, but the interviewing detective was in plain clothes. The interviewing detective, without properly reading IMM his Fifth Amendment Miranda rights, proceeded to use leading questions and tactics he described as "deception" when procuring a confession from IMM. The trial court allowed the confession. At trial, the court also allowed the testimony of MM's younger brother, seven years old at the time of trial, who saw the sexual abuse occur. Through a series of questions about truth, lies and consequences, the district court determined that MM's younger brother was competent to testify. IMM appealed his conviction, claiming that the confession procured by the detective was improperly admitted and that MM's younger brother should not have been allowed to testify. IMM also claimed lack of jurisdiction. On appeal, the panel first rejected the defendant's argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction, finding that the government met the requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 5032 despite the certification missing a page and failing to state the government's substantial federal interest. The panel next held that the district court did not err in allowing MM's younger brother to testify and that the evidence admitted at trial was not insufficient to support IMM's conviction. Because the decision to allow MM's brother's testimony was not clearly erroneous, the panel decided not to disturb the judge's discretion. Finally, citing the Kim factors, the panel found that IMM was in custody when interrogated by the detective. Because he was not properly given his Miranda rights before making certain inculpatory statements in the interrogation, those statements should have been suppressed. REVERSED AND REMANDED

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