OPD: Suspect’s ‘confession’ was coerced

Defense says defendant was intoxicated, soaked in his own urine during interrogation

The Office of the Public Defender is asking the Superior Court to suppress the statements a murder suspect gave to police as they were allegedly involuntarily made, in violation of his Fifth Amendment and due process rights.

Assistant public defender Jean Pierre Nogues, counsel for Alfonso Sebastian Parongan, asserted that the questioning of Parongan while he was in custody was done in violation of the Miranda rule.

Miranda refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that concludes that statements made by a suspect in police custody are generally inadmissible if the suspect has not been made aware of his or her Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Nogues said Parongan’s statements were made involuntarily and were illegally elicited because he did not “knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his constitutional rights.”

The defense lawyer asked the court to suppress all testimony related to the identification of Parongan by three witnesses on the grounds that the identification procedures were overly suggestive.

He said Parongan was allegedly informed of his Miranda rights at around 9:17pm on Oct. 29, 2017, before being transported to the hospital.

The Office of the Attorney General had charged Parongan with first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, and assault with a dangerous weapon over the killing of his landlord and injuring the landlord’s husband in Chalan Kanoa in October 2017.

The woman sustained multiple stab wounds, while her husband sustained 12 injuries in different parts of the body.

Nogues said it is highly unlikely that this was understood by Parongan, or that he was able to meaningfully ask questions about his rights, both because the legal information was provided in English—a language he barely understands—and because he was, apparently, “intoxicated and soaked in his own urine—saying very few words with slurred speech.”

Nogues pointed out that, although two police detectives claim not to have obtained any information out of Parongan, this attempted interrogation must be remembered in the context of the three hours of police interrogation that resumed the next morning after Parongan had been transferred from the hospital to jail.

He said during the subsequent interrogation, Parongan was again allegedly read his constitutional rights but, again, in English, a language he does not fluently understand or read.

The lawyer said it then took three hours of questioning before Parongan produced a “statement.”

“Under these circumstances, involving deprivation of sleep, physical and mental incapacitation and disorientation, language barriers, and extended hours of questioning, Parongan’s waiver and subsequent statement were products of “intimidation, coercion, or deception” rather than “free [and] deliberate,” Nogues said.

Parongan allegedly did not understand his right to remain silent or to speak only with counsel present, nor did he appreciate the consequences associated with waiving those rights.

The defense counsel said the identification procedure used in this case was unquestionably suggestive.

Nogues said the parading of a handcuffed Parongan in front of a large crowd, including all three of the witnesses in question, constitutes a one-person lineup or “showup,” thereby emphasizing the focus on Parongan and increasing the likelihood of misidentification.

Police said that during their interview, Parongan confessed to smoking methamphetamine and drinking 12 cans of beer on the day of the incident.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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