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State v. Heden

August 10, 2006



District court did not clearly err when it denied motion to suppress defendant's statement because the evidence supported the court's conclusion that defendant was not in custody when he was interrogated.

The evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction of causing the death of a human being while committing criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence.

Defendant's mandatory life sentence without possibility of release did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Paul H., Justice.

Pennington County

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.


On April 4, 2005, a Pennington County jury found John Russell Heden guilty of first-degree murder--criminal sexual conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(2) (2004); first-degree murder--child abuse, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(5) (2004); and second-degree felony murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 2(1) (2004), for the March 1, 2004 "shaken infant" death of his three-month-old daughter. The district court then convicted Heden of first-degree murder--criminal sexual conduct and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of release. Heden raises seven issues on this direct appeal and asks us to reverse and dismiss the charge of first-degree murder--criminal sexual conduct and remand for a new trial on first-degree murder--child abuse and second-degree felony murder. We affirm.

At 6:40 a.m. on March 1, 2004, appellant John Russell Heden dialed 911 to report that his three-month-old daughter, Rose, was not breathing. Emergency responders arrived within minutes, but they were unable to revive Rose, who was not breathing, had no pulse, and had blood coming out of her nose. When a paramedic informed Heden that further resuscitation efforts would be futile, he responded by shrugging his shoulders and making a statement to the effect that, unfortunately, bad things happen. Heden's wife, Shawna, who had been at work, was picked up by first responders and arrived home after the resuscitation efforts were terminated. After securing the scene, a deputy asked Heden and Shawna to go to the county law enforcement center to be interviewed. A first responder gave Heden and Shawna a ride because the Hedens' only working vehicle was still at Shawna's place of employment.

Heden and Shawna waited in the lobby of the law enforcement center for a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agent to interview them. When BCA Agent Philip Hodapp arrived, he introduced himself and explained that he was going to the county attorney's office, but would be back to speak with them. At that time, a deputy was at the county attorney's office preparing a search warrant for the Hedens' home.

Shawna, who was interviewed first, informed Hodapp that she had gotten up around 5:00 a.m. and left for work at approximately 5:15 a.m. Shawna stated that she had last checked on Rose at 1:00 a.m., at which point Rose had been fine. Hodapp interviewed Heden next. This interview, like the interview of Shawna, was recorded. Heden was neither under arrest nor physically restrained during the interview. Heden's stepsister, who was in the lobby of the law enforcement center during the interviews, testified that Heden and Shawna were "free to go in and out" of the building.

During this first interview, Heden initially told Hodapp that he had woken up around 6:00 a.m. to find Rose unresponsive and then called 911. Later in the one-hour interview, Heden said that he had gotten up a little bit earlier to feed Rose, and then found her unresponsive when he checked on her at about 6:00 a.m. Heden denied striking or shaking Rose that morning, but acknowledged that he had shaken her lightly on or about February 14. He also acknowledged having performed "rescue breathing" on Rose about one month earlier. Both Heden and Shawna gave permission to search their home and agreed to provide Hodapp with the clothing they were wearing that morning. Hodapp then suggested that Heden and Shawna meet him at their home so that they could give him their clothing.

Heden and Shawna left the law enforcement center in Heden's stepsister's car. Hodapp arrived at the Hedens' home about 20 to 30 minutes before the Hedens and, while there, he observed blood spatters around Rose's crib. Based on discrepancies between the evidence at the scene and Heden's earlier statement, Hodapp decided to interview Heden again. After Heden and Shawna arrived, they were admitted to the home one at a time to change their clothes. When it was Heden's turn, Hodapp followed him into a bedroom. When Hodapp and Heden were alone in the bedroom, Hodapp began to ask Heden some questions. Heden was not physically restrained. Hodapp also recorded this conversation, but this time the audio recorder was hidden in a pocket of Hodapp's notebook and Heden was probably unaware that he was being recorded.

Hodapp asked Heden about some discrepancies between his earlier statement and other evidence, and after a number of other questions, asked Heden if he had done something to Rose to stop her from crying. Heden responded, "Yeah, I guess I ain't sure if I did shake her a little bit." Hodapp then encouraged Heden to tell the truth. Heden stated that he was "a little antsy" because he did not want to go to prison. Hodapp informed Heden that he could make him no promises in that respect. Heden then admitted to shaking Rose back and forth "too hard." Hodapp asked Heden to demonstrate how he had shaken her, and Heden complied by showing Hodapp what he had done. Hodapp asked Heden how many times he had shaken Rose back and forth, and Heden responded that he had shaken her approximately five times. Heden also acknowledged that Rose's head had snapped back and forth when he shook her.

About 15 minutes into the interview, Hodapp told Heden that he was turning on his tape recorder, pretended to activate the recorder, and then asked Heden to repeat what he had told him. At this point, Heden left the bedroom to use the bathroom. When he returned to the bedroom, Heden repeated his admission, after which Hodapp asked questions highlighting Heden's cooperation ...

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