Officers watched a confidential informant enter the defendant’s apartment where he allegedly engaged in a narcotics deal with the defendant. The government arrested the defendant outside her apartment for selling marijuana and took her back inside to question her. While inside the apartment, the defendant initially denied she had sold marijuana. Later she confessed to the crime after being told by the officers that state aid to her infant children would be cut off and her children taken from her if she did not “cooperate.” Specifically, the defendant was told that she “had better do what she was told if she wanted to see her kids again.” These threats were made while police officers and the confidential informant surrounded the defendant. The defendant had no previous criminal experiences; had no friend or adviser to whom she could speak; and had no reason to believe that the government did not have the power to carry out the threats they were making. The confession was used to convict the defendant at her trial.
Whether the defendant’s statement was voluntarily given?
No. The government cannot use statements obtained through overcoming the defendant’s will to remain silent through coercion.
In determining whether a defendant is “voluntarily” giving a statement, the question is “whether the defendant’s will was overborne at the time he confessed.” The statement must be “the product of a rational intellect and a free will.” Looking at the totality of the circumstances, the Court held that the statement given by the defendant was not given voluntarily.
372 U.S. 528, 83 S. Ct. 917 (1963)