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Anderson v. Vannoy

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 26, 2019


         SECTION: ''I''(5)



         This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to conduct a hearing, including an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and as applicable, Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. Upon review of the entire record, the Court has determined that this matter can be disposed of without an evidentiary hearing. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). For the following reasons, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the petition for habeas corpus relief be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         Procedural History

         Petitioner, Carter Anderson, is a convicted inmate currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. On March 21, 2011, Anderson was charged by bill of information with armed robbery and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.[1]On November 15, 2012, a jury found him guilty as charged.[2] His motions for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and new trial were denied. On February 4, 2013, the trial court sentenced him to 60 years at hard labor with the first 20 years to be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, and 10 years at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, respectively.[3] His motion to reconsider the sentence was denied. The State filed a multiple bill of information.[4] On April 16, 2013, his original sentences were vacated, and the trial court sentenced him as a third-felony offender to life imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently.

         Anderson appealed and asserted one claim of error. He argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession. On February 18, 2014, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions and sentences.[5]He filed an application for writ of certiorari with the Louisiana Supreme Court. On October 24, 2014, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied his writ application.[6]

         On December 28, 2015, Anderson submitted an application for post-conviction relief to the state district court.[7]In that application, he asserted the following claims: (1) the prosecution purposefully excluded all African-American prospective jurors, rendering his trial fundamentally unfair; (2) prosecutorial misconduct rendered his trial fundamentally unfair; and (3) he was denied the right to effective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise a Batson claim on direct appeal. On July 20, 2016, the district court denied relief.[8]On October 17, 2016, his related writ application with the Louisiana First Circuit was denied.[9] On August 3, 2018, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied his application for supervisory writs.[10]The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that Anderson failed to show that he received ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland and that he failed to satisfy his burden of proof as to the remaining claims.

         During the time he was seeking supervisory relief from the post-conviction ruling with the appellate courts, Anderson also submitted to the state district court a motion to vacate an illegal habitual-offender sentence.[11] In that motion, he argued that his adjudication and enhanced sentence as a third-felony offender was the result of an impermissible double enhancement, because the underlying offense the State used to charge him as a convicted felon in possession of a firearm was also used to have him adjudicated as a third-felony offender. On June 7, 2017, the trial court denied the motion to vacate because it was untimely, successive and the sentence had been reviewed on appeal.[12]On August 21, 2017, his timely filed supervisory writ application was denied by the Louisiana First Circuit without stated reasons.[13] On August 3, 2018, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a one-word denial of his related supervisory writ application.[14]

         On August 20, 2018, Anderson filed a federal application for relief in this Court. In that application, he raises the following combined five grounds for relief asserted on direct appeal and collateral review: (1) the trial court erroneously denied the motion to suppress his confession; (2) the trial court erred in overruling his Batson challenge to the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to remove the only three prospective African-American jurors; (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in failing to assert the Batson claim on direct appeal; (4) the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by presenting a case based on speculation and hearsay unsupported by any tangible evidence; and (5) the enhanced sentence is the result of an impermissible double enhancement.[15]In its response to the federal application, the State does not allege untimeliness, failure to exhaust, or procedural default.[16]Anderson submitted a Reply to the State's Response.[17]


         On direct appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal summarized the facts adduced at trial as follows:

On December 30, 2010, between midnight and 1:00 a.m., Larry Bennett (the victim) was in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Slidell, Louisiana, when an African- American male approached his 1993 Cadillac Seville. The victim, a retired truck driver from Toledo, Ohio, who came to Slidell to purchase a part for his antique airplane, was set to spend the night in his vehicle when the perpetrator suddenly smashed his rear window. When the victim turned towards the back, the perpetrator pointed a gun at the victim's face and told him to get out of the car. When the victim attempted to take the keys out of the ignition, the perpetrator told him to leave the keys in the ignition and get out of the car, and he began striking the victim in the back of his head. Before fleeing the scene in the victim's vehicle, the perpetrator forced the victim to place a blanket that was in his vehicle over his head, as blood from his head injury began to cover his neck. John Binder, a bystander who was in the Wal- Mart parking lot at the time, witnessed the robbery and contacted the police. Binder described the perpetrator as a short, African-American male with dreadlocks. The victim was taken to Ochsner Hospital where he received stitches in the back of his head.
After being released from the hospital, the victim provided the Slidell Police Department (SPD) with the telephone number for the cell phone that he left in the vehicle and with the clothing that he was wearing at the time of the incident. The police accessed the cell phone records and determined that the cell phone was used to call Laura Bolden. Bolden was defendant's girlfriend, with whom he was living at the time in a duplex apartment building at the corner of 11th Street and Cousin Street in Slidell. The victim's vehicle was recovered from an apartment complex within walking distance of the residence. SPD Detectives Daniel Suzeneaux[18]and Brian Brown observed surveillance footage[19]from the apartment complex showing that, shortly after the robbery, the vehicle was dropped off by an individual who fit the description provided by Binder. The victim's cell phone was found at the residence on Cousin Street, and defendant and the others who were present at the residence were asked to come to the police station for questioning. Defendant, before being questioned, initially denied any knowledge or involvement. Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights at the scene and again at the police station where a waiver of rights form was executed. Defendant made incriminating statements during an audio-recorded interview at the police station. SPD executed a search warrant for Bolden's vehicle that was at the residence on Cousin Street and found a bag containing a handgun and a traffic ticket in defendant's name. The victim's DNA was found during the testing of swabs processed from the recovered handgun. Defendant fit the basic description depicted on the surveillance footage and given by Binder; however, at the time of his arrest he had a short haircut with remaining twists, as opposed to full dreadlocks. During the audio-recorded interview, defendant admitted that his girlfriend recently styled his hair in dreadlocks, but due to the “good” texture of his hair he could not maintain the locks. During the trial, the victim identified defendant as the perpetrator, noting that he was able to focus on the perpetrator's eyes and nose as the gun was being held between the perpetrator's face and the victim's face.[20]

         Standards of Review on the Merits

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) and (2), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), provides the applicable standards of review for pure questions of fact, pure questions of law, and mixed questions of both. A state court's purely factual determinations are presumed to be correct and a federal court will give deference to the state court's decision unless it ''was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.'' 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) (''In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.''). With respect to a state court's determination of pure questions of law or mixed questions of law and fact, a federal court must defer to the decision on the merits of such a claim unless that decision ''was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.'' 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

         The '''contrary to' and 'unreasonable application' clauses [of' 2254(d)(1)] have independent meaning.'' Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in the United States Supreme Court's cases or if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the United States Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from United States Supreme Court precedent. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405B06 (2000); Wooten v. Thaler, 598 F.3d 215, 218 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 294 (2010). An ''unreasonable application'' of [United States Supreme Court] precedent occurs when a state court "identifies the correct governing legal rule... but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-08; White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 426 (2014).

         It is well-established that "an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.'' Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. A state court's merely incorrect application of Supreme Court precedent simply does not warrant habeas relief. Puckett v. Epps, 641 F.3d 657, 663 (5th Cir. 2011) (''Importantly, 'unreasonable' is not the same as 'erroneous' or 'incorrect'; an incorrect application of the law by a state court will nonetheless be affirmed if it is not simultaneously unreasonable.''). "[E]ven a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable” under the AEDPA. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). Section 2254(d) preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is "no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [United States Supreme Court] precedents." Id. at 102 (emphasis added); see also Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 779 (2010) (AAEDPA prevents defendants-and federal courts-from using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts.'').

         Claims for Relief

         I. Admission of Involuntary Confession

         Anderson claims that the trial court improperly denied the motion to suppress his statement. He asserts that his confession was involuntary and coerced with threats, promises and falsehoods. The confession was audio-recorded. The compact disc recordings and executed statements regarding his Miranda rights were introduced as evidence at the suppression hearing and submitted as part of the instant state-court record.[21]

         The Louisiana First Circuit rejected the claim on direct appeal as follows:

In his sole assignment of error, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession. He asserts that detectives threatened him and his girlfriend in order to get him to incriminate himself. Defendant contends that there was no eyewitness identification or DNA evidence linking him to the armed robbery offense. Defendant argues that the convictions should be reversed due to the police's use of coercion, threats, and promises to induce the confession. Defendant contends that the trial court should have granted the motion to suppress after hearing the detectives threatening him on the recording. Defendant notes that he was not the only person who had access to the vehicle and further contends that the police investigation was faulty because they lost evidence and they failed to identify the owner of the items seized from the vehicle that was searched. Defendant contends that he emotionally collapsed under the notion that his girlfriend could be falsely accused of this crime. Defendant notes that the detectives lied about his fingerprints being found in the victim's vehicle and about having a witness who already identified defendant as the perpetrator. Defendant also claims that the detectives promised to help his girlfriend, knowing that they intended to prosecute her.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, § 5 of the Louisiana Constitution protect persons against unreasonable searches and seizures. A defendant adversely affected may move to suppress any evidence from use at the trial on the merits on the ground that it was unconstitutionally obtained. LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 703A. The State bears the burden of proving the admissibility of a purported confession or any evidence seized during a search without a warrant. LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 703D. Louisiana Revised Statute 15:451 provides that before a purported confession can be introduced in evidence, it must be affirmatively shown to be free and voluntary and not made under the influence of fear, duress, intimidation, menaces, threats, inducements, or promises. It must also be established that an accused who makes a confession during custodial interrogation was first advised of his or her Miranda rights. State v. Plain, 99-1112 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/18/00), 752 So .2d 337, 342. The State must specifically rebut a defendant's specific allegations of police misconduct in eliciting a confession. State v. Thomas, 461 So.2d 1253, 1256 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1984), writ denied, 464 So.2d 1375 (La.1985).
Whether a showing of voluntariness has been made is analyzed on a case-by-case basis with regard to the facts and circumstances of each case. State v. Benoit, 440 So.2d 129, 131 (La. 1983). The trial court must consider the totality of the circumstances in deciding whether a confession is admissible. State v. Hernandez, 432 So.2d 350, 352 (La.App. 1 Cir.1983). Testimony of the interviewing police officer alone may be sufficient to prove a defendant's statements were freely and voluntarily given. State v. Maten, 04-1718 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/24/05), 899 So.2d 711, 721, writ denied, 05-1570 (La. 1/27/06), 922 So.2d 544.
A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress the evidence is entitled to great weight, because the court had the opportunity to observe the witnesses and weigh the credibility of their testimony. State v. Jones, 01-0908 (La.App. 1 Cir. 11/8/02), 835 So.2d 703, 706, writ denied, 02-2989 (La. 4/21/03), 841 So.2d 791. Correspondingly, when a trial court denies a motion to suppress, factual and credibility determinations should not be reversed in the absence of a clear abuse of the trial court's discretion, i.e., unless such ruling is not supported by the evidence. See State v. Green, 94-0887 (La. 5/22/95), 655 So.2d 272, 280- 81. However, a trial court's legal findings are subject to a de novo standard of review. See State v. Hunt, 09-1589 (La. 12/1/09), 25 So.3d 746, 751. When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, the entire record may be considered, including trial testimony. State v. Martin, 595 So.2d 592, 596 (La. 1992).
The following evidence was presented at the hearing on the motion to suppress. Detective Suzeneaux testified that everyone present at the duplex apartment on the day of the robbery, including defendant, was asked to come to the station for questioning regarding the robbery, and everyone agreed. After Bolden was interviewed, Detective Suzeneaux and SPD Detective Luke Irwin interviewed defendant. Detective Suzeneaux denied that defendant was coerced or forced into making a statement at the hearing and again during the trial.
The audio-recorded interview revealed that defendant's rights were read to him, and he stated that he understood his rights and further stated that he wished to make a statement. Defendant denied that he had been physically or verbally abused and confirmed that he was making the statement of his own free will. Defendant initially denied having specific information regarding, or being involved in, the robbery. He implicated his male roommate before eventually making incriminating statements that pointed to his personal involvement, but he did not initially make a full-blown confession. The police relayed some of the information that they had regarding the offense and admittedly used falsehoods. For example, the police indicated that they already knew what happened and that they had fingerprint evidence and witness statements implicating defendant. Vulgar language was also used along with repeated requests for truth, honesty, and details. The police also told defendant that he was not helping himself by lying and that he was being given the chance to tell the truth. Defendant eventually admitted to handling the gun, having personal contact with the stolen vehicle, and knowing that it had been stolen. Defendant ultimately stated that he hit the victim out of fear. The police informed defendant that if he continued to cooperate they would let his cooperation be known. The police reminded defendant that his child and girlfriend loved him and suggested that defendant may have committed the offense for them, as they continued to question defendant. Before defendant finally confessed, he again admitted that he was not being forced to make the statements. Defendant's emotional breakdown came after he confessed and became even more concerned about the consequences of his actions.
As to the voluntariness of defendant's statements, we note that the police testimony indicated that there were no promises or abuse to induce defendant's agreement to make a statement, and defendant indicated as such during the interview. As noted, defendant was fully advised of his rights and executed a waiver of rights form. We note that statements by the police to a defendant that he would be better off if he cooperated are not promises or inducements designed to extract a confession. State v. Lavalais, 95-0320 (La. 11/25/96), 685 So.2d 1048, 1053, cert. denied, 522 U.S. 825, 118 S.Ct. 85, 139 L.Ed.2d 42 (1997). A confession is not rendered inadmissible by the fact that law enforcement officers exhort or adjure a defendant to tell the truth, provided the exhortation is not accompanied by an inducement in the nature of a threat or one which implies a promise of reward. Further, a defendant's confession is not inadmissible merely because in making it he may have been motivated by a desire to protect his girlfriend. See State v. Lee, 577 So.2d 134, 143-44 (La.App. 1 Cir.), writ denied, 580 So.2d 667 (La. 1991); State v. Weinberg, 364 So.2d 964, 969-71 (La. 1978); State v. Brown, 504 So.2d 1025, 1031 (La.App. 1 Cir.), writ denied, 507 So.2d 225 (La. 1987). As did the Louisiana Supreme Court in Lavalais, we find in this case that, rather than being promises or inducements designed to extract a confession, the comments in question herein were more likely musings not much beyond what this defendant might well have concluded for himself. Lavalais, 685 So.2d at 1053-54. The totality of the interview clearly conveys that the statements were not being made according to any promises, coercion, or threats.
Regarding certain falsehoods used by the police during questioning, the issue is whether or not such tactics were sufficient to make an otherwise voluntary confession or statement inadmissible. See State v. Lockhart, 629 So.2d 1195, 1204 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1993), writ denied, 94-0050 (La. 4/7/94), 635 So.2d 1132. In Lockhart, a detective misled the defendant into believing that the police knew more about the case than they really did by telling him that the victims had identified him. Another detective stated that he would inform the district attorney's office that the defendant contended the shootings were accidental. This court found that the detectives' statements to the defendant were not sufficient inducements “to make an otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible.” Lockhart, 629 So.2d at 1204. Similarly, in State v. Sanford, 569 So.2d 147, 150-52 (La.App. 1 Cir.1990), writ denied, 623 So.2d 1299 (La. 1993), this court determined that a defendant's confession was not rendered involuntary, although the detective apparently misled the defendant into believing that one of his cohorts had confessed by informing him that the other suspects were “singing like birds.” Sanford, 569 So.2d at 151.
We have carefully reviewed the evidence presented at the suppression hearing and at trial and conclude that the lower court's ruling is supported by the record. While the officers admittedly utilized confrontational language, defendant, who had a criminal record, seemed to be more concerned about his realization that he was a multiple offender and admitted to being terrified in that regard. We find that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the making of the confession by defendant and his responses as a whole show that the confession was made freely and voluntarily. Considering the above, we further find that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion in denying the motion to suppress. The assignment of error is without merit.

         The Louisiana Supreme Court likewise denied relief.

         The admissibility of a confession is a mixed question of law and fact. Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 112 (1985); ShisInday v. Quarterman, 511 F.3d 514, 522 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Miller, 474 U.S. at 112). On federal habeas review, this Court must determine if the state court's ruling on voluntariness was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Barnes v. Johnson, 160 F.3d 218, 222 (5th Cir. 1998). If the underlying facts as determined by the state court indicate the presence of some coercive tactic, the impact that factor had on the voluntariness of the confession is a matter for independent federal determination and is ultimately a legal determination. Miller, 474 U.S. at 117, 106 S.Ct. 445; ShisInday, 511 F.3d at 522.

         Under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), a statement made by a person in custody is inadmissible unless that person was informed that “he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney.” Id. at 444-45. Waiver or relinquishment of these rights must be knowing and voluntary, that is, made with full awareness of the nature of the right being waived, and not the result of intimidation, coercion or deception. Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986). The court must consider the “totality of all the surrounding circumstances-both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation.” Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226 (1973).

         “Coercive police conduct is a necessary prerequisite to the conclusion that a confession was involuntary, and the defendant must establish a causal link between the coercive conduct and the confession.” United States v. Blake, 481 Fed.Appx. 961, 962 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 163-67, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986)). In the absence of evidence of official coercion, a defendant cannot establish that his confession was involuntary. Carter v. Johnson, 131 F.3d 452, 462-63 (5th Cir. 1997).

         The United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently reviewed Supreme Court precedent regarding psychological interrogation tactics and coercion:

Interrogation tactics short of physical force can amount to coercion. The Court has condemned tactics designed to exhaust suspects physically and mentally. Such tactics include long interrogation sessions or prolonged detention paired with repeated but relatively short questioning. Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 752, 86 S.Ct. 1761, 16 L.Ed.2d 895 (1966) (finding coercive the practice of repeated interrogations over sixteen days while the suspect was being held incommunicado).
The Supreme Court has not found that police tactics not involving physical or mental exhaustion taken alone were sufficient to show involuntariness. In several cases, the Court has held that officers may deceive suspects through appeals to a suspect's conscience, by posing as a false friend, and by other means of trickery and bluff. See, e.g., Procunier v. Atchley, 400 U.S. 446, 453- 54, 91 S.Ct. 485, 27 L.Ed.2d 524 (1971) (suspect was deceived into confessing to false friend to obtain insurance payout to children and stepchildren); Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 739, 89 S.Ct. 1420, 22 L.Ed.2d 684 (1969) (deceiving suspect about another suspect's confession). False promises to a suspect have similarly not been seen as per se coercion, at least if they are not quite specific. See Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 285, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991) (rejecting language in Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897), stating that a confession could not be obtained by “any direct or implied promises, ” id. at 542-43, 18 S.Ct. 183, but finding promise to protect suspect from threatened violence by others rendered confession involuntary); Welsh S. White, Confessions Induced by Broken Government Promises, 43 Duke L.J. 947, 953 (1994).
False promises may be evidence of involuntariness, at least when paired with more coercive practices or especially vulnerable defendants as part of the totality of the circumstances. E.g., Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 534, 83 S.Ct. 917, 9 L.Ed.2d 922 (1963) (pre-Miranda confession found involuntary based on false promise of leniency to indigent mother with young children, combined with threats to remove her children and to terminate welfare benefits, along with other factors). But the Supreme Court allows police interrogators to tell a suspect that “a cooperative attitude” would be to his benefit. Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 727, 99 S.Ct. 2560, 61 L.Ed.2d 197 (1979) (reversing finding that confession was involuntary). Supreme Court precedents do not draw bright lines on this subject.

Dassey v. Dittmann, 877 F.3d 297, 304 (7th Cir. 2017). Similarly, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has analyzed instances of alleged coercive conduct in varying contexts:

         Such conduct includes official overreach and direct coercion, as well as promises and inducements. See United States v. Blake, 481 Fed.Appx. 961, 962 (5th Cir. 2012) (unpublished) (per curiam). Trickery or deceit only constitutes coercion “to the extent [the defendant is deprived] of knowledge essential to his ability to understand the nature of his rights and the consequences of abandoning them.” Hopkins, 325 F.3d at 584. “Neither mere emotionalism and confusion, nor mere trickery will alone necessarily invalidate a confession.” Self v. Collins, 973 F.2d 1198, 1205 (5th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations marks omitted). For instance, this Court found that coercion occurred when a defendant confessed to a murder after being assured by police that the conversation was confidential. Hopkins, 325 F.3d at 584-85. The defendant had been isolated for fifteen days and was even interviewed by a close friend in order to help elicit a confession. Id. at 584. Likewise, coercion was found when a mother confessed only after police threatened to cut off her state financial aid and take custody of her children. Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 534, 83 S.Ct. 917, 9 L.Ed.2d 922 (1963).

         Byrom v. Epps, 518 Fed.Appx. 243, 256-57 (5th Cir. 2013). In Byrom, the Fifth Circuit acknowledged that officers used deception and cajoling, but rejected the assertion that the confessions were coerced, reasoning:

Having reviewed the transcripts of these interviews, it is clear that Byrom's confessions were not coerced. While the sheriff's statements were certainly intended to cajole Byrom into confessing using her emotions and a measure of deception, they did not constitute coercion. Byrom first implicated herself after the sheriff implored Byrom to not leave Junior “hanging out there to bite the big bullet.” The sheriff made that statement early during the interview, after a series of denials from Byrom. While the statement certainly suggested that Junior was facing serious legal consequences regarding Edward's murder, the police did not make any threats, promises, or other coercive statements. Insofar as the sheriff made other, subsequent statements, Byrom had already confessed and continued to do so. In any event, Byrom was not promised leniency and she was not threatened in any capacity. The sheriff merely utilized an appeal to emotion and urged ...

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