Supreme Court sides with accused in child molestation case in Miranda fight

A child molestation case in Jackson County may be over after an Indiana Supreme Court ruling regarding Miranda warnings.

Ernesto B. Ruiz was accused of Child Molesting for allegedly touching the nine-year-old friend of his daughter, who was staying overnight at Ruiz’s home in October of 2015. A few days later, Seymour Police detectives asked Ruiz to come to the station to be questioned about the incident. When he arrived at the Seymour Police Department, Ruiz was taken into a windowless room and questioned by one detective who informed Ruiz that he could leave at any time. Minutes later, a second detective joined the interrogation. During questioning, prosecutors say Ruiz made statements that could result in his conviction.

Ruiz was formally charges with Level 4 Child Molesting a few weeks later. Two days before the start of the December 2017 trial in Jackson Circuit Court, the defense team filed a motion to suppress Ruiz’s statement to police. After the jury was seated, Judge Richard Poynter heard the defense argument and agreed that Ruiz’s statement was inadmissible.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Monday that Ruiz, who was not born in the U.S., should have been read his Miranda rights. They say a communication barrier could have been an issue, as Ruiz may have felt compelled to answer police questions. The court specifically takes Seymour Police to task for having the second detective, who was in plain clothes, aggressively question Ruiz without indicating that the first detective’s statement that Ruiz could leave at any time was still in effect. In fact, Ruiz was told multiple times by detectives during the interview to “sit tight.” The court also pointed to detectives lying about the alleged victim having passed a lie-detector test. They add that questions were asked in an accusatory fashion, not exploratory. All of these factors, says the court, would reasonably allow someone to believe they are being held in police custody. In these cases, suspects must be made aware of their Miranda rights.

In a filing with the Indiana State Supreme Court, prosecutors noted that without the suppressed evidence, they could not proceed on the charge against Ruiz.

The Indiana Supreme Court voted to uphold the lower court’s decision to throw out Ruiz’s statement.