Submitted on Briefs: oral argument: November 14, 2 017
OF A DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS Reported at 375 Wis.2d
148, 895 N.W.2d 86 PDC No: 2017 WI.App. 23
Court Washington County L.C. No. 2013CF276 Todd K. Martens
the defendant-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs and an
oral argument by Leon W. Todd, assistant state public
the plaintiff-respondent, there was a brief by Amy C. Miller,
assistant solicitor general, Brad D. Schimel, attorney
general, Misha Tseytlin, solicitor general, and Ryan J.
Walsh, chief deputy solicitor general. There was an oral
argument by Amy C. Miller.
PATIENCE DRAKE ROGGENSACK, C.J.
This review concerns the point in time at which a person is
"in custody" for purposes of
Miranda. Daniel J.H. Bartelt asks us to overturn a
decision of the court of appeals, affirming the circuit
court's judgment entered in favor of the State
regarding Bartelt's motion to suppress incriminating
statements, and concluding that Bartelt was not in custody at
the time the statements were made.
Bartelt presents two issues: first, whether Bartelt's
confession to a serious crime transformed his custody status
from noncustodial to "in custody;" and second,
whether Bartelt's request for counsel was unequivocal
such that police officers violated his Fifth Amendment rights
when they questioned him the following day without counsel
On the first issue we conclude that, under the totality of
the circumstances attendant to his interview, Bartelt's
confession did not transform his custody status. Rather,
Bartelt was not in custody until Detectives Joel Clausing and
Aaron Walsh of the Washington County Sheriff's Department
took his cell phone, approximately ten minutes after his
confession, and instructed him to remain in the interview
room. Because we determine that Bartelt was not in custody
until this point, which was after his alleged request for
counsel, we need not and do not reach the issue of whether
his alleged request for counsel was unequivocal.
Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals.
This case arises from two crimes committed in July 2013. On
July 12, 2013, M.R. was assaulted by a male suspect with a
knife while walking her dog in Richfield Historical Park in
the Village of Richfield. M.R. was tackled to the ground and
suffered several knife wounds before disarming the suspect,
who fled the scene in a blue Dodge Caravan. Three days later,
on July 15, 2013, Jessie Blodgett, a friend and former
girlfriend of Bartelt, was found dead in her home in the City
of Hartford. According to preliminary autopsy findings, the
cause of death was ligature strangulation.
As of July 16, 2013, Clausing and Detective Richard Thickens
of the Hartford Police Department had identified Bartelt as a
person of interest in the attack on M.R. Earlier that month,
a deputy had noticed a blue Dodge Caravan at the same park
and had run the license plate, which revealed that the
vehicle was registered to Bartelt's parents. Police
learned that the Bartelts had a son, and were then able to
match Bartelt's photograph from the Wisconsin Department
of Transportation with the composite sketch drawn at
M.R.'s direction. Clausing contacted Bartelt around 5:00
p.m. on July 16, and told him that the police were
investigating an incident, and that they needed to speak with
him. Bartelt was "very compliant, " and agreed to
meet with detectives at the Slinger Police Department.
The Slinger Police Department is located inside a municipal
building that it shares with various other offices and
departments. There is one main entrance to the building. Once
inside, a separate entrance leads to the police department.
Neither the main door to the building nor the door to the
police department is secured during normal business hours,
and there are no metal detectors or other security screening
devices. Inside the police department, another door leads to
the "internal portion" of the department. This door
is locked from the outside, but one can freely exit. The
interview room is located about twenty-five feet inside this
secured area. The room is thirteen and one-half feet by ten
and one-half feet, and contains a table, three chairs and a
window. The room can be accessed by either of two doors,
neither of which can be locked.
Bartelt was dropped off by two friends at the Slinger Police
Department around 5:12 p.m. His friends waited outside.
Clausing testified that Bartelt was escorted to the interview
room but was not searched. Bartelt chose the seat on the far
side of the table, while Clausing sat at the end, and Walsh
sat opposite Bartelt. Clausing and Walsh were wearing
civilian clothes; however, they both had their badges
displayed on their belts, as well as their service weapons.
Clausing testified that one of the doors to the room was left
open. Unbeknownst to Bartelt, the interview was recorded by
both audio and visual means.
Clausing began the interview by telling Bartelt that he was
not in trouble, he was not under arrest, and he could leave
at any time. Clausing did not read Bartelt his
Miranda rights. Bartelt, who had just come from the
Blodgett residence to pay his respects to the family,
believed the police were meeting with him about
Blodgett's murder. However, Clausing explained that law
enforcement was investigating an attack that had occurred at
Richfield Historic Park on the previous Friday. Bartelt was
asked a number of preliminary questions and initially denied
any involvement. Bartelt stated that he had been with his
girlfriend on the day in question, although he could not
"remember any specifics." Clausing then explained
that cell phones "are kind of like GPS's, " and
told Bartelt, "I don't want any lies."
Clausing then observed some scrapes and a cut on
Bartelt's hand and arm. Bartelt stated he did not
remember how he scraped his arm, but that he had stabbed his
hand "with a screw at work." The following exchange
DET. CLAUSING: ... So what do you think evidence is?
MR. BARTELT: Incriminating items, documents.
DET. CLAUSING: First - but I'm more of a nuts-and-bolts
type of guy. Like, what would you consider to be evidence?
MR. BARTELT: Well -
DET. CLAUSING: Fingerprints?
MR. BARTELT: Yeah.
DET. CLAUSING: Okay. Fibers? Hairs?
MR. BARTELT: Yeah.
DET. CLAUSING: Any DNA? You know, footwear impressions?
MR. BARTELT: Yeah.
DET. CLAUSING: Witness statements, right? Video surveillance,
stuff like that, right?
MR. BARTELT: Yeah.
DET. CLAUSING: Is there any evidence that we just talked
about which would show that you would be in this park at the
time of this incident that had occurred? Is there any
evidence out there that would show that?
MR. BARTELT: I don't think so . . . What is this about?
After reminding Bartelt that police were investigating an
incident at Richfield Historical Park, Clausing said,
"What if I were to tell you that there might be
something that links you there." Clausing then proceeded
to explain "Locard's exchange principle, "
which holds that the perpetrator of a crime will bring
something into the crime scene-such as fingerprints, sweat,
DNA, or clothing fibers-and leave it behind. The detectives
added that they had found evidence "from the person that
was out there, " which needed to be analyzed by the
state crime laboratory.
Clausing next told Bartelt that they had an eyewitness,
stating, "I would hate to put down your picture in front
of the eyewitness and have them say, that's the guy that
was out there." Further, Clausing stated, "I can
prove that you were out there. It's not just a tip. I can
prove it. And all I'm getting at is that if you were out
there, just talk to us about what happened or what you saw or
what you observed or whatever." Walsh told Bartelt they
knew that his vehicle had been spotted at the park on several
occasions when Bartelt was supposed to be at work. Bartelt
admitted that he had been laid off for several months, and
that the injury was actually the result of a cooking
At this time Clausing moved his chair closer to Bartelt. When
Clausing's face was about two feet from Bartelt's,
Clausing told him, "No more lies. It just makes things
worse. It is spiraling out of control right now .... Nobody
in their right mind would lie about cutting themselves if it
happened at home cooking .... What happened? Just be
honest." Bartelt admitted that he had been to the park
before and that he had seen the sketch on television, but
that "it wasn't me."
Walsh then urged Bartelt to help bring closure to M.R.
"Daniel, the truth is going to help us bring some
resolution to this for everybody involved .... We have one
scared person out there right now . . . and the easiest way
to put some resolution to this is [for] the [ ] person that
did this to take responsibility." Walsh added that he
could understand why someone would do this, "especially
if the person that did it explains to us what they were
thinking, where they were in their life." For example,
Bartelt had lost his job and hid that from his parents, and
he had dropped out of college after only one semester. Walsh
stated that "when things are not going well for people,
they do things that are very out of character." He
added, "I think you are a good person . . . [g]ood
people can explain things away and we can understand why they
do things. So tell us about the park."
Following a lengthy narrative from Clausing about the two
types of people in this situation-those who take
responsibility and those who say "prove it"-Bartelt
admitted to being at the park and going "after that
girl" because he "wanted to scare someone."
Bartelt told the officers that he had been reading when he
saw M.R., and in the "spur of the moment, " he
decided to "run at her and knock her down and scare
her." Bartelt admitted there was no real explanation or
motive for the attack; he was "just numb" and
scared because "life scares me." Bartelt targeted
M.R. because "[t]here was no one else there."
Following this admission, Clausing asked Bartelt if he would
be willing to provide a written statement of confession.
Walsh explained that the written statement would be
Bartelt's chance to apologize. When Bartelt asked what
would happen after he gave his statement, Clausing responded,
"I can't say what happens then. We'll probably
have more questions for you, quite honestly." Clausing
later testified that, once Bartelt had confessed, he
"was going to be under arrest, and he probably
wasn't free to get up and leave."
It was at this point that Bartelt asked, "Should I or
can I speak to a lawyer or anything?" Clausing told him,
"Sure, yes. That is your option." Bartelt
responded, "I think I'd prefer that." At 5:45
p.m., roughly 33 minutes after Bartelt arrived at the station
for questioning, Clausing and Walsh suspended the interview,
took Bartelt's cell phone, and left the room. When the
detectives returned seven or eight minutes later, Clausing
told Bartelt he was under arrest, handcuffed him, and
searched him. Bartelt was then transported to the Washington
Clausing testified that, during the course of the interview,
both he and Walsh spoke in a conversational tone, which did
not change even after Bartelt's admission. Neither
detective ever made reference to or unholstered their
weapons. Bartelt never asked to use the restroom or take a
break. At one point during the interview Clausing gave
Bartelt permission to answer his cell phone, which Bartelt
declined to do.
The following day, on July 17, 2013, Bartelt was brought to
the interview room at the Washington County Sheriff's
Department to be questioned by Thickens and Detective James
Wolf regarding his relationship with Blodgett. Before
commencing with questioning, Thickens read Bartelt his
Miranda rights, which Bartelt knowingly and
Bartelt was questioned for approximately 90 minutes about his
relationship with Blodgett and his whereabouts on the day of
Blodgett's death. Bartelt denied being at the Blodgett
residence on July 15, 2013, or having any knowledge of
Blodgett's death. Bartelt stated that on the morning of
July 15 he had left his house at 6:30 a.m. and drove
"all over" before spending a few hours at Woodlawn
Union Park. Bartelt then asked for an attorney, at which
point the questioning stopped.
Thickens later drove to Woodlawn Union Park to investigate,
and in doing so he collected garbage from the park's
receptacles. In one container he found a Frosted Mini-Wheats
cereal box containing paper toweling, numerous types of rope
and tape, and antiseptic wipes with red stains. One of the
ropes later revealed DNA that belonged to both Bartelt and
Blodgett, and which matched the ligature marks on
Blodgett's neck. Another rope matched the ligature marks
on her wrists and ankles. Based on this evidence and the
confession Bartelt made during his first interview, Bartelt
was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide,
first-degree reckless endangerment, and attempted false
imprisonment for the attack on M.R., as well as first-degree
intentional homicide for the murder of Blodgett.
Bartelt moved to suppress his statements, and any evidence
derived from them, on the grounds that the officers had
violated his Miranda rights when they questioned
him. The circuit court denied Bartelt's motion,
concluding that at the time of his July 16, 2013, interview,
Bartelt had voluntarily agreed to speak with police. The
circuit court concluded that Bartelt was not in custody until
after he had requested an attorney, roughly ten minutes after
his confession. Therefore, no Miranda warnings were
necessary with respect to the July 16 interview, and police
were free to initiate questioning on July 17 because "an
assertion of Miranda . . . which a person makes
while they are not in custody, does not prospectively
prohibit law enforcement from attempting to interview an
individual later." Further, with respect to the July 17
interview, the circuit court found that Bartelt was properly
given his Miranda warning, which he voluntarily
Following the denial of Bartelt's suppression motion, the
circuit court ordered that the Blodgett homicide charge be
separated from the charges related to M.R. After a seven-day
jury trial, Bartelt was found guilty of Blodgett's
murder. Consequently, he was sentenced to life imprisonment
without the possibility of release to extended supervision.
Shortly thereafter, the parties reached a plea agreement
regarding the attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and
false imprisonment charges. In exchange for Bartelt's
guilty plea to first-degree reckless endangerment, the State
agreed to dismiss and read-in the remaining counts, and
Bartelt was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and
five years' extended supervision consecutive to his life
Bartelt appealed his murder conviction on the grounds that
the circuit court improperly denied his suppression motion.
Specifically, Bartelt argued that once he confessed to
attacking M.R., a reasonable person in his circumstances
would have believed he was not free to leave the station,
thereby transforming the non-custodial interview into a
custodial interrogation. Bartelt therefore argued that all
statements made after his admissions about M.R. were
inadmissible under the principles of Miranda and
Edwards. As a consequence, Bartelt alleges that
detectives violated his Fifth Amendment rights when they
approached him to question him about Blodgett's murder
without counsel being present. Under the exclusionary rule,
Bartelt alleged that all derivative evidence discovered as a
result of his statements should have been
The court of appeals rejected Bartelt's arguments and
affirmed the circuit court's judgment. Bartelt sought
review, which we granted. For the reasons explained below, we
affirm the court of appeals.