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E.C. v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

November 30, 2018



          BRIEF AND ORAL ARGUMENT FOR APPELLANT: Renee Sara Vandenwallbake Frankfort, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Ken W. Riggs Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky

          ORAL ARGUMENT FOR APPELLEE: Mark Berry Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky



          JONES, JUDGE

         This case is before us on discretionary review. During the proceedings below, the Leslie District Court determined that the Appellant, E.C., was a juvenile sexual offender. On appeal, the Leslie Circuit Court affirmed. We granted discretionary review. E.C. asserts that the district court's adjudication cannot stand because it is based on a statement he made to law enforcement without having received any Miranda[1] warnings, and therefore, violates the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Alternatively, E.C. maintains that he was denied Due Process when the district court failed to afford him a proper formal adjudication hearing. Having reviewed the record in conjunction with applicable legal authority, we REVERSE and REMAND this matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background

         On August 25, 2014, E.C., who was thirteen years old, traveled with his mother, Christine, to the Office of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (the "Cabinet") to meet with their social worker, Paula Roberts. E.C. and his mother believed they were going to meet with Ms. Roberts to discuss E.C.'s placement. E.C.'s maternal grandmother had legal custody of E.C.[2] However, the grandmother requested E.C. to leave her house after he was alleged to have sexually abused his two-year-old cousin, S.F. The abuse allegedly took place on August 21, 2014, four days prior to the meeting in question.

         Unbeknownst to E.C. and Christine, Kentucky State Police Detective, Vickie Day, had requested the Cabinet to set up the meeting so that Detective Day could question E.C. about the sexual abuse allegations. Detective Day first spoke to Christine. During their conversation, Detective Day asked Christine a series of questions about E.C., his school, and the like. Detective Day then asked Christine if she was aware of the allegations against E.C. Christine indicated that she was aware of the allegations but that she did not have any idea what transpired between E.C. and his cousin. Christine explained that on the day in question, E.C. came home from school and went upstairs. S.F. and E.C.'s younger brother were already upstairs. When S.F. came downstairs, S.F.'s mother observed what appeared to be blood on her leg. Upon further examination, S.F.'s mother noted that she also had blood on her panties. Christine told Detective Day that around the same time, E.C. came downstairs to use the restroom. After doing so, he told Christine that his penis burned when he urinated. Christine told Detective Day that she gave E.C. some Vaseline to put on his penis. Detective Day asked Christine if she thought it was a rather large coincidence that E.C. was complaining of pain in his genital region at about the same time the family noticed blood on S.F.'s panties. In response, Christine denied that E.C. was capable of sexually abusing his cousin. She also denied being aware of E.C.'s having ever been sexually abused himself.

         Detective Day then told Christine that she wanted to talk to E.C. and "get his side of the story." Christine told Detective Day that she did not have a problem with her talking to E.C. At this point, Detective Day asked Christine who had custody of E.C. Christine responded that her mother had custody, but it was her understanding that her mother was going to sign custody back over to her. At this point, Christine began asking questions about how to obtain E.C.'s clothing and other belongings from her mother's house. Ms. Roberts answered these questions. All three then began discussing whether E.C. should continue with his current school placement, as some of his classmates had learned about the allegations against E.C. Near the end of the conversation, when discussing counseling for E.C., Detective Day told Christine, for the first time, that the matter involved a "criminal charge" and the court might have to order counseling for E.C.

         After securing Christine's permission to question E.C., Detective Day invited E.C. into a conference room. E.C. was seated in the conference room with Detective Day and Ms. Roberts. The door was closed, but not locked. Christine remained in a separate waiting room adjacent to the conference room. After E.C. was seated, Detective Day introduced herself and told E.C. that she was a detective with the Kentucky State Police. She explained that most of the cases she worked were cases with social services. At this point, E.C. asked Detective Day what she meant by social services. Detective Day responded that social services would be cases with people like Ms. Roberts. Detective Day told E.C. that she was involved because of the "situation that happened last week" with E.C.'s cousin.

         Detective Day then asked E.C. some basic questions such as his full name, birthdate, and the names of his parents and grandparents. Detective Day then began asking E.C. about his relationship with his parents, specifically his father. E.C. told Detective Day that his father was "mean" to him when he lived with him. Detective Day asked E.C. to explain how his father was mean to him. E.C. provided some examples regarding his father's disciplining him harshly. For the next several minutes, E.C. discussed his basketball career.

         Thereafter, Detective Day explained to E.C. that most of the cases she works on deal with children and matters of a "sexual nature." She told E.C. that she got the complaint about S.F. the night of the alleged incident. She explained that she was "just trying to get [his] side of the story and get to the bottom of it and just see what we need to do and where we need to go from here." Detective Day then asked E.C. to tell her what happened on the day in question beginning with the time after he got home from school. E.C. explained that he did not go to his scheduled work out that day, but instead went home. He stated that he was upstairs with his younger brother and S.F. He watched the two younger children play a video game. After a while, E.C. went downstairs to use the bathroom. E.C. explained that when he urinated, he noticed that his penis was a little raw and bloody from him being sweaty the last several days.

         Detective Day then told E.C. that when S.F. came downstairs she had blood on her. E.C. immediately responded that he did not know "what happened there." Detective Day continued to explain to E.C. that S.F. told the adults downstairs that E.C. "had hurt her frog."[3] E.C. told Detective Day that he had no idea why S.F. said he hurt her. He again reiterated that he was just sitting in the room while the two younger children played with each other. Detective Day asked E.C. how he thought S.F. got blood on her. E.C. said he "had no clue." Detective Day then explained to E.C. that S.F.'s mother took her to the hospital where hospital staff performed a sexual assault kit on her. Detective Day explained that the hospital staff could tell from the examination whether anyone put an object, like a penis, into S.F.'s vagina. E.C. again denied doing anything to S.F.

         Despite E.C. having already denied the allegations several times, Detective Day pressed on. At this point, Detective Day told E.C. that "if something has happened we need to get you counseling." She told E.C. that sometimes people sexually abuse other people because they have been abused in the past. E.C. told Detective Day he understood her point. She then asked him what happened with his father. E.C. responded that his father was "always touching him with his hands." In response to Detective Day's question, E.C. said the touching was inside his clothing and occurred in 2009 or 2010. E.C. said his father only did this once, and that he smacked his father's face when he tried to touch him. E.C. denied that his father ever asked E.C. to touch him. E.C. also denied that anyone else had ever touched him. Detective Day asked E.C. if he wanted to ...

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