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Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii–SCWC-12-0001017

No. SCWC-12-0001017, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 10 a.m.

STATE OF HAWAI`I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. RICK TRINQUE, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellee.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

McKinley High School Auditorium
1039 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814

Attorneys for Petitioner:

James S. Tabe, Jon N. Ikenaga, and Hayley Y.C. Cheng, Deputy Public Defenders

Attorney for Respondent County of Kaua`i:

Tracy Murakami, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 06/02/16.

COURT: MER, CJ; PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format

Brief Description:

Petitioner/Defendant-Appellee Rick Trinque was charged by indictment with Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the First Degree and Unlawful Use of Drug Paraphernalia in the Circuit Court of the Fifth Circuit (circuit court).

On the day Trinque was arrested, the Kaua`i Police Department were conducting an investigation based on information received regarding a marijuana growing operation in a twenty-five acre pasture in Kilauea, Kaua`i. While conducting nighttime surveillance in the pasture, they encountered Trinque, who was placed under arrest and handcuffed. As the investigating officers were escorting Trinque out of the pasture, one of the officers asked him how he came into the field; Trinque replied that he came over the fence using a ladder and that they caught him “red handed” (Statement 1).

Once out of the pasture, Trinque was instructed to sit on a wooden bench, at which time Sergeant Richard Rosa approached Trinque and told Trinque that he had worked on Trinque’s daughter’s case and “that if [Trinque] did not believe him, he could talk to his daughter about it.” Officer Rosa told Trinque that “he would not lie to [Trinque]” or “jerk his chain,” and that he would be “completely honest” with Trinque. Officer Rosa told Trinque not to make any statements until they got to the station where he would be advised of his rights; Trinque responded, “What for? You caught us red handed, there’s nothing left to say, times are hard and we needed the money” (Statement 2).

After Trinque was transported to the Lihue police station, he was booked and placed in an interrogation room where Officer Rosa and another officer informed Trinque of his constitutional rights at which time Trinque indicated that he wanted to speak with an attorney. Trinque was then asked whether or not he wanted to make a statement, to which he replied that he did not want to make a statement since he “got caught red-handed and was going to jail anyway” (Statement 3).

The State filed a motion to determine the voluntariness of the statements, and Trinque sought to suppress the three statements on the grounds that they were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. The circuit court suppressed all three statements. With regard to Statement 1, the court concluded that the arresting officer’s questioning of Trinque without Miranda warnings, as to how he entered the pasture, constituted custodial interrogation that the officer knew or should have known was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating offense. Similarly, the court concluded that the statements made by Officer Rosa prior to Trinque’s Statement 2 were designed to garner trust and solicit an incriminating response. As to Statement 3, the circuit court concluded that Statement 3 was a “fruit” or an “exploitation of the prior illegality of the ‘pre-interview’ conducted by Officer Rosa” because it was not sufficiently attenuated to dissipate the “taint” from the prior illegality.

The State appealed the circuit court’s rulings as to Statements 2 and 3. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) vacated both rulings. The ICA concluded that Statement 2 was not the product of police interrogation but, rather, made in response to Officer Rosa telling Trinque not to make a statement until he was advised of his constitutional rights. The ICA concluded that Statements 2 and 3 were not subject to suppression as unlawful fruits of Statement 1. The ICA also noted that Statement 3 would not be considered the unlawful fruit of Statement 2 if Statement 2 was considered the product of an illegal interrogation.

On certiorari, Trinque contends the ICA gravely erred in holding that the circuit court erred in suppressing Statements 2 and 3. Trinque maintains that each statement was either illegally obtained or was the “fruit of the poisonous tree” of the previously illegally-obtained statement. The State submits that the ICA correctly determined that Statement 2 was not made in response to custodial interrogation and Statements 2 and 3 were not unlawful fruits of illegal interrogation.