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State v. Marin

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

May 10, 2019


          Argued: October 24, 2018

          Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Erin E. Fitzgerald, attorney, on the brief and orally), for the State.

          Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and orally, for the defendant.

          BASSETT, J.

         Following a bench trial in Superior Court (Temple, J.), the defendant, Katlyn Gage Marin, was convicted of the second degree murder of her three-year-old daughter, Brielle Gage. See RSA 630:1-b, I(a) (2016). Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress statements she made to the police prior to being advised of her Miranda rights. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 479 (1966). The defendant's pre-Miranda statements consist of three sets of statements - given at her home, in a police cruiser, and in a family waiting room at the police station - each of which contained a different version of the circumstances giving rise to Brielle's fatal injuries. She also argued that other statements that she made after she had been advised of her Miranda rights should be suppressed because they were tainted by the illegally-obtained pre-Miranda statements. After concluding that the defendant was not in custody until after she was advised of her Miranda rights, the trial court denied the defendant's motion. The defendant appeals. We affirm.

         The pertinent facts are as follows. On November 25, 2014, the defendant called 911 and reported that Brielle was unconscious. Officer Santiago of the Nashua Police Department responded to the defendant's home at approximately 11:30 a.m. He discovered other first responders providing emergency medical treatment to Brielle, who was unconscious on the bathroom floor. Santiago asked the defendant, who was standing near the bathroom door with her two other children, to step into the adjacent bedroom so he could obtain information about Brielle for the purpose of facilitating medical treatment.

         Once inside the bedroom, Santiago initially stood near the open doorway while the defendant moved around the bedroom with her children. At some point, Santiago closed the door. Santiago asked the defendant what happened to Brielle, and for information that would aid the first responders. In response, the defendant told Santiago that Brielle had experienced two seizure-like episodes - one that morning, and one the prior evening - and that Brielle's injuries were caused by roughhousing with her other children.

         After Santiago began speaking with the defendant, Brielle was transferred to the hospital. Around that same time, Captain Bailey arrived at the home. He introduced himself to the defendant and asked her what happened to Brielle. After the defendant stated that she distrusted the police and wanted to go to the hospital, Bailey repeated his question. The defendant responded that she wanted to see Brielle. Bailey explained that the defendant could not see Brielle at that time because she was being treated at the hospital.

         Shortly thereafter, Bailey left the bedroom, and, while he was away, the defendant began using her cell phone. When Bailey returned, he told the defendant that she could not use the phone, and Santiago took it from her. Bailey then told the defendant that she had to leave the home because it was being secured as a crime scene. The defendant said that she wanted to go upstairs to change her pants, which were wet because Brielle had urinated on her. Bailey did not let her go upstairs. Bailey also told the defendant that her children would be taken to the Nashua Police Department, and that he would prefer the defendant go with her children. Bailey then left the home.

         After Bailey departed, Sergeant Greene and Detective Hannon entered the bedroom. They reiterated that the home would be secured as a crime scene, and escorted the defendant and her children downstairs, helping gather belongings. Greene told the defendant that her children would be in police custody until the police could determine what had happened. Greene asked the defendant to come to the police station. The defendant said that she wanted to go to the hospital to see Brielle. Greene told the defendant that she probably would not be able to see Brielle at the hospital at that time. The defendant agreed to accompany the officers to the police station.

         During the five-minute drive to the police station, Greene asked the defendant to explain what happened to Brielle. In response, the defendant told Greene that Brielle's first seizure-like episode occurred the prior evening as Brielle began descending the stairs, and that, as the defendant reached out to catch Brielle, they both fell down the stairs. The defendant also described a second seizure-like episode which occurred that morning. She explained that, after this second episode, she attempted to carry Brielle downstairs, but because Brielle was heavy and unconscious, they both fell down the stairs again. The defendant stated that Brielle may have hit her head during each fall.

         Upon arrival at the police station, the defendant and her children were escorted to the family waiting room. There, Greene and the defendant continued to converse while the defendant's children ate snacks and played. After approximately a half-hour, Hannon joined the conversation. The defendant again described Brielle's seizure-like episodes and two ensuing falls. However, in contrast to her earlier version of events, the defendant told Greene that Brielle "fell face first and did hit her head on the floor" during the second fall, adding that one of Brielle's siblings had shaken Brielle the previous night.

         Greene, Hannon, and the defendant continued their conversation in the family waiting room for several hours. At approximately 5:00 p.m., the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth, and Families took custody of the defendant's children. Greene then moved the defendant to a special investigations room. Greene requested the defendant's consent to review her cell phone, take photographs of her home, collect her clothing, and examine and photograph her body for injuries in order to verify her account of falling down the stairs with Brielle. The defendant was at first hesitant to consent. However, she ultimately consented to the photographs and the collection of her clothing, but not to a search of her phone, and she agreed with the officers that she was at the police station voluntarily.

         The police then took a break and left the interview room. When they returned, the defendant told Hannon that she was bored and wanted to talk. Hannon informed her that she was no longer free to leave, and that the police were obtaining a warrant to examine her and the clothing she had been wearing that morning. He explained to the defendant that they could continue talking if she waived her Miranda rights, and asked if she would consent to an audio and video recording of the interrogation. The defendant did not consent to a ...

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