The district court found that “the defendant's statements made to Officers Cross and Axeman should be suppressed because of the defendant's inability to knowingly and intelligently waive his privilege against self-incrimination and his right to retain appointed counsel.” The district court supported its finding with several facts: (1) the recorded interview showed that Barnum was ambivalent and possibly lacked a full understanding of the importance of waiving his Miranda rights; (2) the recorded interview showed that Barnum had difficulty reading and writing; (3) Barnum had suffered a serious brain injury that affected his mental abilities; (4) the expert opinion of Athey was that Barnum was incapable of knowingly waiving his Miranda rights; and (5) the State did not present expert testimony on Barnum's ability to waive his Miranda rights.
There was substantial competent evidence to support the facts cited by the district court. The recorded interview showed that Barnum hesitantly waived his Miranda rights and that he could neither read nor complete a form without the officers' assistance. There was also testimony that Barnum had suffered a severe brain injury that affected his cognitive abilities. Finally, Athey testified that he conducted a variety of tests, which caused him to conclude that Barnum was incapable of waiving his Miranda rights.
. . . .
In summary, the district court was faced with conflicting evidence which it was in the best position to resolve. Although the record contains evidence which may have supported a different disposition in this case, the record also contains substantial competent evidence supporting the district court's decision that Barnum did not knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda rights.
Wow, nice to see application of the standard of review equally on a state's appeal as in a defendant's appeal. This panel gets it right. Under a substantial competent evidence standard, there should be a spectrum of cases that support either a grant or denial of relief.
By the way, there is an argument that "substantial competent evidence" is not the right standard of review for this type of case. If the state had the burden of proof, which it admitted, the district court's finding is essentially a negative finding (i.e. the state failed to meet its burden of proof that the statements were voluntary). As noted by Sarah in her brief, "[a] negative finding will not be rejected on appeal unless the party challenging the finding proves an 'arbitrary disregard of undisputed evidence, or some extrinsic consideration such as bias, passion, or prejudice.' City of Dodge City v. Norton, 262 Kan. 199, 203, 936 P.3d 1356 (1997)." Why wouldn't this be the right standard of review for a state suppression case?
[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on November 8, 2007.]