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United States v. LeBrun

363 F.3d 715 (2004)

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United States v. LeBrun

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

363 F.3d 715 (2004)

Facts

Michael LeBrun (defendant) and Ensign Andrew Muns worked in the disbursing office aboard a United States Navy ship during the Vietnam War. Muns disappeared from the ship in 1968 while the ship was moored overseas. The Navy’s investigation concluded that Muns had stolen $8,600 from the ship’s safe and deserted with the money. Muns was never heard from again. Thirty years later, Muns’s sister convinced the Navy to reopen the investigation. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents soon narrowed the investigation to LeBrun as their prime suspect. LeBrun cooperated during four interviews with NCIS agents in the fall of 1999 and was read his Miranda rights during three of those interviews. LeBrun was brought in for another interview in September 2000. LeBrun came voluntarily to the police station and was not given a Miranda warning but understood that he was not under arrest and was free to leave at any time. Two NCIS agents interviewed LeBrun and told him that he was the prime suspect in Muns’s disappearance. The NCIS agents did not threaten LeBrun or use any physical intimidation but used psychological ploys to get LeBrun to confess. The agents intimated to LeBrun that it was possible he would not be prosecuted if he confessed because of a statute-of-limitation issue. The agents also stated that a criminal investigation without a confession would be financially and emotionally damaging to LeBrun’s family. After 33 minutes, LeBrun confessed that he had strangled Muns after Muns found him attempting to steal money from the office and that he had hidden Muns’s body and the money in a barrel of fuel oil. LeBrun was charged with felony murder. LeBrun moved to suppress his confession, arguing that it had been obtained in violation of his due-process rights. The district court suppressed the confession on these grounds. The government (plaintiff) appealed, and a divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed the judgment. The government’s petition for a rehearing en ban was granted.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hansen, J.)

Dissent (Arnold, J.)

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