Colorado v. Connelly
Annotate this Case
479 U.S. 157 (1986)
U.S. Supreme Court
Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986)
Colorado v. Connelly
Argued Oct. 8, 1986
Decided Dec. 10, 1986
479 U.S. 157
Respondent approached a Denver police officer and stated that he had murdered someone and wanted to talk about it. The officer advised respondent of his Miranda rights, and respondent said that he understood those rights, but still wanted to talk about the murder. Shortly thereafter, a detective arrived and again advised respondent of his rights. After respondent answered that he had come all the way from Boston to confess to the murder, he was taken to police headquarters. He then openly detailed his story to the police and subsequently pointed out the exact location of the murder. He was held overnight, and the next day he became visibly disoriented during an interview with the public defender's office and was sent to a state hospital for evaluation. Interviews with a psychiatrist revealed that respondent was following the "voice of God" in confessing to the murder. On the basis of the psychiatrist's testimony that respondent suffered from a psychosis that interfered with his ability to make free and rational choices and, although not preventing him from understanding his rights, motivated his confession, the trial court suppressed respondent's initial statements and custodial confession because they were "involuntary," notwithstanding the fact that the police had done nothing wrong or coercive in securing the confession. The court also found that respondent's mental state vitiated his attempted waiver of the right to counsel and the privilege against self-incrimination. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Federal Constitution requires a court to suppress a confession when the defendant's mental state, at the time he confessed, interfered with his "rational intellect" and his "free will," the very admission of the evidence in a court of law being sufficient state action to implicate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court further held that respondent's mental condition precluded his ability to make a valid waiver of his Miranda rights, and that the State had not met its burden of proving a waiver by "clear and convincing evidence."
1. Coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to finding that a confession is not "voluntary" within the meaning of the Due Process Clause. Here, the taking of respondent's statements and their admission into evidence constituted no violation of that Clause. While a defendant's mental condition may be a "significant" factor in the "voluntariness"
calculus, this does not justify a conclusion that his mental condition, by itself and apart from its relation to official coercion, should ever dispose of the inquiry into constitutional "voluntariness." Pp. 479 U. S. 163-167.
2. Whenever the State bears the burden of proof in a motion to suppress a statement allegedly obtained in violation of the Miranda doctrine, the State need prove waiver only by a preponderance of the evidence. Lego v. Twomey,, 404 U. S. 477, reaffirmed. Thus, the Colorado Supreme Court erred in applying a "clear and convincing evidence" standard. That court also erred in its analysis of the question whether respondent had waived his Miranda rights. Notions of "free will" have no place in this area of constitutional law. Respondent's perception of coercion flowing from the "voice of God" is a matter to which the Federal Constitution does not speak. Pp. 479 U. S. 167-171.
702 P.2d 722, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, POWELL, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined, and in all but Part III-A of which BLACKMUN, J., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 479 U. S. 171. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 479 U. S. 171. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 479 U. S. 174.