IN THE INTEREST OF: N.B., A MINOR, APPEAL OF: COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
from the Order March 11, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of
McKean County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., BENDER, P.J.E., BOWES, J., SHOGAN, J.,
LAZARUS, J., OLSON, J., OTT, J., STABILE, J., and DUBOW, J.
Commonwealth appeals from the March 11, 2016 Order entered by
the McKean County Court of Common Pleas granting the Motion
to Suppress filed on behalf of juvenile N.B.
("Appellee"). After careful review, we affirm.
Mother ("Mother") believed Appellee and his twin
brother, D.B., had engaged in sexual misconduct involving a
9-year-old girl who lived in a neighboring apartment. On
April 29, 2015, after confronting Appellee and D.B. about her
suspicions, Mother reported the allegations to Appellee's
school district because she was concerned about
Appellee's inappropriate sexual behavior. Lieutenant
Steve Caskey of the Bradford Police Department contacted
Mother and asked her to bring Appellee and D.B. into the
station for an interview.
complied and voluntarily brought 14-year-old Appellee and
D.B. to the Bradford Police Department to be interviewed
about the sexual misconduct allegations. Upon arriving at the
police station, Lieutenant Caskey brought Mother, Appellee,
and D.B., into an interview room and turned on recording
equipment with Mother's permission. Lieutenant Caskey
read Miranda warnings and explained that, while Mother
could be present for the interviews, he preferred to
interview the boys individually and alone. Mother agreed and
Lieutenant Caskey first interviewed Appellee
fully complied with his Mother's instructions, confessed
to numerous sex acts involving the nine-year-old girl,
answered all of Lieutenant Caskey's questions, and agreed
to speak with Lieutenant Caskey again if necessary.
Lieutenant Caskey then questioned D.B. about the allegations,
and D.B. similarly complied with his Mother's
instructions, confessed to numerous sex acts involving the
nine-year-old girl, and answered each of Lieutenant
October 16, 2015, the Commonwealth filed a written allegation
of delinquency based on Appellee's
confession. On December 1, 2015, Appellee filed a
Motion to Suppress his confession.
February 17, 2016, the suppression court conducted a hearing
at which Mother, Lieutenant Caskey, and Appellee testified.
described Appellee's developmental delays and constant
difficulties in school. She described the circumstances of
her report to police and how she brought Appellee to the
police station to confess his crimes. She stated that she
repeatedly told Lieutenant Caskey that she wanted to get
Appellee the help and treatment he needed, in addition to the
consequences for his actions. Mother explained that she did
not believe Appellee knew that he could refuse to answer
Lieutenant Caskey's questions or leave the police
testified that he was in 7th grade in 2015, that he was
"behind" in school, and that he was older than most
of his classmates. N.T., 2/17/16, at 48, 68. Appellee
described the problems he was having in school, including
difficulty paying attention, learning, and understanding his
teacher's instructions. Id. at 49. Appellee
stated that he was struggling with his math and science
classes and not passing. Id. at 72. Appellee also
stated that he was receiving mental health treatment in
school. Id. at 48. Appellee also testified that, in
2015, he did not know anything about the legal system.
Id. at 49.
explained that he did not understand that he could refuse to
answer Lieutenant Caskey's questions or leave the police
station. Appellee claimed that he believed he had no choice
but to comply with his Mother's instructions and confess
Caskey testified about the circumstances of Appellee's
confession, including the oral waiver of rights by Appellee,
his twin brother, and his Mother. Lieutenant Caskey explained
that he recorded the interview with permission, and the
Commonwealth introduced the recorded interview.
Caskey "kept a rational, calm demeanor and was
forthright with Mother, [Appellee], and [Appellee's] twin
brother." Suppression Court Opinion, dated 3/14/16, at
5. Lieutenant Caskey did not yell at or threaten Appellee,
and Lieutenant Caskey did not restrain Appellee in any way.
Id. Although the door was closed during questioning,
it was not locked. Id. at 2. Lieutenant Caskey
remained seated during questioning, and Appellee sat in a
chair on the other side of Lieutenant Caskey's office
desk next to the door. Id. at 2.
conclusion of the hearing, the suppression court took the
matter under advisement.
March 14, 2016, the suppression court filed an Order granting
Appellee's Motion to Suppress. In its accompanying
Opinion, the trial court set forth its findings of fact and
conclusions of law, before concluding that, based on the
totality of the circumstances, Appellee had not waived his
Miranda rights knowingly, voluntarily, and
intelligently. Suppression Court Opinion, dated 3/14/16, at
April 8, 2016, the Commonwealth filed a timely
appeal. Both the Commonwealth and the suppression
court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.
Commonwealth presents one issue for our review:
Did the trial court [err] in granting [Appellee's] Motion
to Suppress where [Appellee] consulted with his mother prior
to police questioning, and where his mother voluntarily
brought [Appellee] to the police station, and where
[Appellee] and his mother were both read their
Miranda rights, with each indicating that they
understood these rights?
Commonwealth's Brief at 5 (capitalization omitted).
sole issue on appeal, the Commonwealth argues that the
suppression court erred in granting Appellee's Motion to
Suppress because the totality of the circumstances shows that
Appellee confessed after a knowing, voluntary, and
intelligent waiver of his rights in his Mother's
presence. Commonwealth's Brief at 12.
reviewing the propriety of a suppression order, we are
required to determine whether the record supports the factual
findings of the suppression court, and we are bound by those
facts and may reverse only if the legal conclusions drawn
therefrom are in error." In re T.P., 78 A.3d
1166, 1169 (Pa. Super. 2013) (citation omitted). Since the
juvenile prevailed below, we consider only the juvenile's
evidence and so much of the Commonwealth's evidence that
is not contradicted. Id. (citation omitted). We are
not bound by the suppression court's legal determinations
and our standard of review is de novo. Id.
It is well settled that this Court may affirm "on any
valid basis appearing of record." Id. at 1170.
right against self-incrimination is personal and thus cannot
be invoked by another." In re N.M., 141 A.3d
539, 543 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citations omitted). This Court
has previously recognized the "innate disadvantages
associated with the immaturity of most youth and the need to
balance those considerations against the interests of society
and justice." Id. (citation omitted).
employ a totality of circumstances analysis regarding the
waiver of rights by juveniles and the voluntariness of
juvenile confessions. Id. at 544 (citation omitted).
"Among those factors are the juvenile's youth,
experience, comprehension, and the presence or absence of an
interested adult." Id. (citation omitted).
"Other factors to consider in this context also
include[:] (1) the duration and means of [the] interrogation;
(2) the [juvenile's] physical and psychological state;
(3) the conditions attendant to the detention; (4) the
attitude of the interrogator; and (5) any and all other
factors that could drain [the juvenile's] ability to
withstand suggestion and coercion." Id.
on the totality of the circumstances, the suppression court
concluded that Appellee did not waive his Miranda
rights knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Suppression
Court Opinion, dated 3/14/16, at 4-5. Because we are bound by
the suppression court's credibility determinations
regarding Appellee, we agree that Appellee did not knowingly
waive his Miranda rights. In re T.P., 78
A.3d 1166, 1169 (Pa. Super. 2013).
described above, Lieutenant Caskey quickly recited
Miranda warnings to Appellee and did not provide
them in writing. Appellee, a juvenile with developmental
delays, did not attach any significance to these warnings,
aside from his associating them with a familiar television
their time at the police station, Appellee's Mother
instructed Appellee to "be brave, " "tell the
truth, " and admit his crimes to Lieutenant Caskey.
Appellee did not understand that he could refuse to answer
Lieutenant Caskey's questions, leave the station freely,
or request an attorney. N.T., 2/17/16, at 47-48, 50, 54-59.
Appellee only participated in the interview because "he
believed he was forced to be there by his mother and that he
was directed to confess." Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion,
dated 7/1/16, at 4-5. This finding is amply supported by the
certified record and the totality of circumstances.
suppression court afforded Appellee's testimony great
weight and found Appellee credible. Insofar as the
Commonwealth attempts to undermine various findings by
referring to testimony as "self-serving statements"
and "bald assertions" unsupported by documentary
evidence, see Commonwealth's Brief at 18, such
arguments conflict with our standard of review. We are bound
by the suppression court's credibility ...