"I basically appealed to his conscience, and told him that I didn't
believe his stories that he'd been giving us up until then, and he
at first denied any involvement, and then he said he'd been praying
to God a lot about his problem, and that was the first kind of
admission that he gave me at all... and, at that point, I said,
'Yes, I know that you have a problem and God knows that you have a
problem.' Tears welded in his eyes, and he continued saying things
to the effect that he'd been praying a lot about it, and I said,
'Would you be willing to pray to God right now to give you the
strength to go ahead and get this off your chest and start living
your life and turning your life around?'
I got down on my knees
with him and he was crying there, and he turned his head upward and
said, 'I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to attack those women.
God, I need help and strength.' And that lasted 30 seconds or so.
We got back in our chairs and he drew his strength back up again and
stopped crying, and looked at me and said, 'You're right. What you
said was true. I did do it."
k. The court held that appeals to one's religious beliefs are not per se
coercive. It was simply an "appeal to his conscience." A confession motivated
by one's religious beliefs "is neither unreliable nor involuntary... Where the
appeal to religious beliefs amounts to no more persuasion to the defendant than
the usual (appeal) to speak the truth, no improper inducement occurs."
investigator's conduct here, then, did not cross the line between interrogation
1. Two recent Navy cases illustrate instances where Navy investigators
overstepped the bounds of voluntariness required for admission of an accused's
confession. In U.S. v. Sennett, 42 MJ 787 (NMCCA, 1995), statements obtained
as a result of military investigators threatening to deprive an accused of
liberty unless he cooperates are not voluntary and are therefore inadmissible.
In U.S. v. Doucet, ___ MJ (NMCCA, 1995), the government failed to carry its
burden of proving the accused's written confession was voluntary where the
accused was a relatively junior inexperienced Marine who had a learning
disability and was easily led.
At the time he signed the statement, he had
been subjected to over 7 hours of interrogation as well as three previous
interrogation sessions. Prior to signing the statement, accused expressed that
the words in the statement were not his and that he did not desire to adopt
them as his own until he had a chance to look them over at home. The agents
overcame his will through 15-20 minutes of intense, two-on-one interrogation
following his clear request.
m. Overall, the issue is whether the suspect's will has been overborne,
i.e., has he been deprived "of that freedom of will essential to the
voluntariness of his confession?"
U.S. v. Askew, 34 CMR 37 (CMA, 1963).
Telling the suspect that his wife would not have to be questioned if he
confessed resulted in the suppression of a confession. The court held that it
"cannot condone the making of such an illicit bargain with a suspect or accused
in order to obtain his statement. Confessions, when motivated by promises to
leave one's wife alone, are simply not the product of a free and unfettered
choice between speaking and remaining silent." The courts will look at all of
the circumstances, including the length, duration, and nature