Thursday, February 18, 2016

KYSC - Gray - Confession

James Anthony Gray v. Commonwealth

Confessions - Use Manufactured Evidence Creates a Rebuttable Presumption that the Defendant’s Confession is Involuntary

The Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in failing to suppress a confession obtained through use of a falsified DNA report. During a five and a half hour unrecorded interview, the police told Anthony Gray that he was seen at the murder scene, and that gun shot residue and blood matching the victim’s DNA had been found inside his car. The police presented Anthony with a falsified DNA report on KSP letter head. In a unanimous decision, Justice Minton wrote that the court did not “view fabricated evidence in the same vein as any other factor in the totality of the circumstances analysis.”
While the Court declined a bright-line rule that the use of falsified documents is objectively coercive in all situations:
[W]e think the risk of constitutional infirmity is so severe that a petitioning defendant is entitled to a presumption in his favor. As is the case with other constitutional liberties, here we must place the burden on the Commonwealth to prove it did not abuse its power. When a criminal defendant, like Gray, can establish that the police use falsified documents to induce a confession, we will presume this tactic is unconstitutional until the Commonwealth can firmly establish that the document(s) did not overwhelm the defendant's will and was not a critical factor in the defendant's decision to confess.
Moreover, the  exclusion of aaltperp evidence was an abuse of discretion. The trial court found that Gray had demonstrated the aaltperp’s motive to kill but failed to show his opportunity to commit the murders. However, the motive-and-opportunity approach articulated in Beaty is not the only path to advance an aaltperp theory and it is certainly not an absolute prerequisite for admission into evidence. Rather aaltperp evidence that is more probative than prejudicial pursuant to the KRE 403 balancing test must be admitted at trial.

Erin Hoffman Yang represented Mr. Gray on Appeal
Rodney Barnes, Casey Holland, and Kristin  Gonzalez represented Mr. Gray at Trial