Sharp v Rohling

Sharp sought habeas relief arguing Kansas courts improperly denied her motion to suppress statements made to police. The district court denied her petition but granted a certificate of appealability. The panel reversed. Limiting its analysis to the question of whether the Kansas courts’ factual determinations were unreasonable, it held that the Kansas supreme Court made unreasonable determinations about promises allegedly made by the investigating detective because the only plausible reading of the interview transcript is the detective promised Sharp leniency by declaring she would not be going to jail even though Sharp had just made incriminating statements and further stated Sharp was not a suspect and the finding of no promise to help Sharp and her children was unreasonable because the detective explicitly promised to help get Sharp and her children into a shelter. The panel held the determination that Sharp’s statements were voluntary was unreasonable because the promise of no jail was misleading and false and induced further confessional statements thus overbearing sharp’s free will. The panel held the introduction of the involuntary statements was not harmless because the state relied heavily on the involuntary statements to prove its case and had a substantial and injurious effect in determining the guilty verdict. The panel thus granted habeas relief subject to Kansas’ right to retry sharp within a reasonable time.