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State v. Perea, 2013 UT 68 (November 15, 2013) 

Nov 15, 2013

The defendant was convicted on two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted murder and sentenced to life without parole. On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court determined that the trial court erred in refusing to allow a defense expert to testify about false confessions. The defendant sought to introduce such testimony arguing that juries “do not understand the prevalence of false confessions, the aggressive and persuasive techniques employed by police to elicit confessions from suspects, or other factors that contribute to false confessions.” Id. ¶ 59. The court agreed with the defendant explaining that the value of cautionary jury instructions on such issues is limited and that “research has shown that the potential infirmities of confessions are largely unknown to jurors.” Id. ¶ 69. Accordingly, it concluded expert testimony on false confessions “should be admitted so long as it meets the standards set out in rule 702 of the Utah Rules of Evidence and it is relevant to the facts of the specific case.” Id. ¶ 72. Next, the court decided that the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s request to suppress his confession due to alleged Miranda violations. Defendant argued that he anticipatorily invoked his right to counsel two days before he was arrested and that his confession post-arrest without the presence of counsel could not be used against him. The court disagreed, explaining that even if defendants could anticipatorily invoke their right to counsel prior to custodial interrogations, such right was subject to waiver, and that defendant did in fact waive his Miranda rights once in custody. The court also decided that Utah’s life without parole statute was constitutional and left for another day whether all station-house confessions should be recorded. The court determined any errors were harmless and affirmed the conviction.