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Hawai’i Supreme Court: Showing Jury Video of Defendant Declining Officer’s Request to Reenact Crime Violates Right to Remain Silent

Anthony G. Beaudet-Close had an altercation with Luke Ault. Ault sustained life-threatening injuries, was hospitalized, and was in a coma.

Detective Walter Ah Mow videotaped his interrogation of Beaudet-Close. The video opened with Ah Mow confirming with Beaudet-Close that he had turned himself in and that he had reviewed the Advice of Rights form with Ah Mow. Beaudet-Close verbally waived his right to an attorney and his right to remain silent before signing the form.

Beaudet-Close then described the altercation: He had been walking to a gas station when a man approached him, saying, “There you are, we got some shit to settle.” The man identified himself as Ault and lunged at Beaudet-Close with a knife. Beaudet-Close said he punched Ault once and kicked him seven to eight times, including two or three kicks to the head. When Ault was on the ground, apparently unconscious, Beaudet-Close kicked the knife from Ault’s hand and then called police. But Beaudet-Close was scared, so he left when he heard the sirens approaching.

Ah Mow requested Beaudet-Close to participate in a video reconstruction of the altercation “because I want your side of the story.” Ah Mow told Beaudet-Close that he did not have to participate. Beaudet-Close stated he was scared for himself and his family because Ault had come after him due to his ex-girlfriend, and now, Ault’s friends would come after him for revenge. Ah Mow then asked Beaudet-Close again if he would reenact the altercation on video. Beaudet-Close replied, “Right now I’m not comfortable with that,” and again expressed to Ah Mow that he feared for his family. Ah Mow ended the interrogation.

Beaudet-Close was charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.

At trial, defense objected twice when the State moved to place the videotape of the interview into evidence. The trial court overruled the objections, and the videotape was shown to the jury.

That same day, defense moved for a mistrial, arguing that showing the video to the jury violated Beaudet-Close’s rights against compelled self-incrimination under article I, section 10 of the Hawai’i Constitution because Beaudet-Close had invoked his right to remain silent when he declined to participate in the video reconstruction of the altercation. The trial court denied the motion.

Beaudet-Close was convicted of the attempted murder and was sentenced to life in prison. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (“ICA”) affirmed, holding that Beaudet-Close had not invoked his right to remain silent, and the trial court did not err in admitting the video. The Supreme Court of Hawai’i granted discretionary review.

The Court was persuaded by Hurd v. Terhune, 619 F.3d 1080 (9th Cir. 2010), in holding that Beaudet-Close had invoked his right to remain silent. In Hurd, the defendant waived his rights and told police he had offered to loan his gun to his estranged wife. When he attempted to load it for her, the gun discharged, fatally injuring her. When the police asked him to reenact how the shooting occurred, he refused. At trial, the prosecutor did not play a video of Hurd’s interrogation, but he told the jury that Hurd had refused to reenact the shooting. The Ninth Circuit explained that “a suspect may invoke his right to remain silent at any time during questioning and that ... silence cannot be used against him at trial.” The Ninth Circuit vacated Hurd’s conviction because the error was not harmless.

The Hawai’i Court further observed that article I, section 10 of the Hawai’i Constitution similarly provides for a defendant’s right to remain silent. And the prosecution is prohibited from commenting on a person’s exercise of that right. State v. Tsujimura, 400 P.3d 500 (Haw. 2017). Introduction of the video infringed upon Beaudet-Close’s right to remain silent. State v. Domingo, 733 P.2d 690 (Haw. 1987). Because the jury could have concluded that Beaudet-Close’s refusal to reenact the altercation meant he had something to hide, the error was not harmless. Id.

Related legal case

State v. Beaudet-Close

 

 

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