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B.A. v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 29, 2017

B.A., Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, Juvenile Division Trial Court Cause No. 49D09-1602-JD-234 The Honorable Scott Stowers, Magistrate The Honorable Marilyn A. Moores, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Amy Karozos Greenwood, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caryn N. Szyper Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Brown, Judge

         [¶1] B.A. appeals the juvenile court's true finding that he committed delinquent acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute false reporting, a level 6 felony, and institutional criminal mischief as a class A misdemeanor. B.A. raises one issue which we revise and restate as whether the court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence certain statements, which he alleges were obtained in violation of his constitutional right against self-incrimination. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On Friday, February 5, 2016, Officer Paul Tutsie, Chief Administrative Officer for the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township School Police Department who worked primarily at the high school, received a call that one of the janitors at Decatur Middle School discovered a message written in pink marker on the wall of one of the boys' restrooms at the school reading: "I will got [sic] a bomb in the school Monday 8th 2016 Not a joke." State's Exhibit 1. Officer Tutsie, "immediately went into investigative mode, took it as a credible . . . threat" that was "ongoing." Transcript at 63. That evening, Officer Tutsie took pictures of the scene and reviewed footage from a hall camera to identify who was responsible. By the end of Friday evening, he had narrowed his search to four individuals that could have possibly been involved. The next day, Officer Tutsie met with Decatur Middle School Principal Val Barrantine for help identifying the four persons he had narrowed the search to from the video data. Officer Tutsie also showed photos to Vice Principal Missy Harvey to identify the individuals. By the end of the weekend, they had two "very viable suspects, " one of whom was B.A. Id. at 66.

         [¶3] On Monday morning, February 8, 2016, Vice Principal Al Remaly conducted a sweep of the school with School Resource Officers Lyday and Wheeler and determined there was no immediate threat. Afterwards, Remaly went back to his office and met with Officer Tutsie and Officer Lyday, who was primarily stationed at the elementary schools, to discuss how to handle the situation and specifically to "try to . . . handle everything as a school matter first." Id. at 13. Officer Tutsie suggested that the buses be boarded by both administrators and police officers to remove the suspects from the buses. They planned for the two school administrators, Remaly and Harvey, to board the buses "along with the . . . officers[] to get the students off the bus, bring them into school to separate areas, and start [their] investigation." Id. at 14.

         [¶4] When the buses arrived at the school, Remaly and Officer Lyday boarded the school bus B.A. was on, removed B.A., and brought him into Remaly's office, which is large and L-shaped. Officer Wheeler, who was primarily stationed at the middle school, went with Harvey to remove the other student suspect and took that student to Harvey's office. Remaly sat at his desk, and B.A. sat in a chair in front of the desk. Officer Lyday stood about five feet to the left of B.A. and out of B.A.'s direct line of sight. Remaly asked B.A. if he knew why he was there, and B.A. responded that he had no idea. Early on in the questioning, Officer Tutsie entered the room and took the spot where Officer Lyday was standing, and Officer Lyday backed up. Officer Lyday later sat at the conference table in the office about seven to ten feet behind B.A.

         [¶5] Meanwhile, Harvey engaged in questioning with the other student while in the presence of Officer Wheeler. The questions were posed at Harvey's discretion. She also obtained a handwriting sample from the student. After speaking with the student for about five or six minutes, she determined that he was not involved in making the threat. Harvey then went to Remaly's office where he was still speaking with B.A. Officer Wheeler also went to Remaly's office, arriving a few minutes ahead of Harvey, and he sat down at the conference table when Harvey arrived.

         [¶6] Remaly directed the interview with B.A. the entire time. B.A denied writing on the bathroom wall several times. At one point, Officer Lyday said to B.A.: "Come on, bud, let's just- let's- let's- can we just get- tell the truth and answer the questions." Id. at 54. Officer Tutsie handed a handwriting "scenario sample" that he had prepared to Remaly. Id. at 74. Remaly soon after handed it back to Officer Tutsie, who then passed it to B.A. at Remaly's direction. Officer Tutsie "explained" to B.A. that he needed B.A. "to fill out exactly how it was written on the paper." Id. at 74. After B.A. copied the scenario sample, Officer Tutsie examined it, handed it to Remaly, and Remaly compared it to a picture of the bathroom wall writing, circling letters from the scenario "that kinda matched the picture . . . ." Id.

         [¶7] After comparing the writings, Remaly came to the conclusion that B.A. wrote the threat on the bathroom wall and said to B.A. that the handwriting looks similar and asked him "why did you do it?" Id. at 120. B.A. then started to cry and responded: "I don't know. I'm sorry." Id. At that point, Remaly decided to move B.A. to the main office and call B.A.'s mother. The meeting in Remaly's office lasted approximately fifteen minutes.

         [¶8] B.A.'s mother arrived and asked B.A. what he did, and B.A. started to cry and said "I don't know, mom, I'm- I'm sorry." Id. at 122. He indicated that it was a joke and he did not know why he did it. Remaly decided to suspend B.A., pending expulsion, and then met in the hallway with the officers and informed them of his decision, and he noted it was up to law enforcement to determine what they wanted to do. Remaly later returned to the office and informed B.A. and his mother of his decision. Afterwards, Officer Tutsie and Officer Lyday discussed the potential legal ramifications with B.A. and his mother and made a decision to arrest B.A. He was ultimately expelled from the school as a result of the incident.

         [¶9] On February 9, 2016, the State alleged B.A. to be a delinquent child for false reporting, an act which would be a level 6 felony if committed by an adult, and for institutional criminal mischief, an act which would be a class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult. On May 18, 2016, B.A. filed a motion to suppress statements he had made. A denial hearing commenced the same day, at the outset of which the parties discussed whether to proceed as a hearing on a motion to suppress or a denial hearing. The court ruled to "handle the trial as normal" but to consider B.A.'s motion to suppress when raised at the hearing. Id. at 7.

         [¶10] During the direct examination of Remaly, defense counsel objected when Remaly began testifying about his questioning of B.A. and, after asking preliminary questions, moved to suppress the evidence of the conversation due to a violation of B.A.'s Miranda rights. Defense counsel also objected during the testimony of Officer Tutsie and argued that the investigation was "generated" by Officer Tutsie to determine whether an individual had committed a crime. Id. at 93. Defense counsel highlighted that the office had up to six adults, that B.A.'s parent was not present, and that there was not an advisement of rights. The prosecutor responded that "[t]here was an ongoing threat, " that "[t]here was a school purpose to talk to this student" and the other student, and that it was a "matter of school safety." Id. at 96. The prosecutor argued that, with the exception of a few statements by officers, the interview was conducted by Remaly to determine whether there was "a credible ongoing threat . . . ." Id. After hearing arguments, the court briefly recessed and, following recess, denied B.A.'s motion, ruling that

the investigation and questioning was led by . . . Remaly, um, either Officer Tutsie or one of his, uh colleagues was present. Uh, there's really no indication that, uh, Officer Tutsie or any of the police or school resource officers was feeding him questions or otherwise pulling his strings in an effort to circumvent Miranda.

Id. at 104. Following the court's ruling, the hearing adjourned for the day. The hearing resumed on June 6, 2016, at which the court entered findings of ...

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