Argued October 6, 2015.
As Corrected March 15, 2016.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE ROBIN J. HOUWMAN, Judge.
MARTY J. JACKLEY, Attorney General, JARED C. TIDEMANN, PAUL S. SWEDLUND, Assistant Attorneys General, Pierre, South Dakota and AARON F. MCGOWAN, Minnehaha County State's Attorney, SARA E. SNOW, Minnehaha County Deputy State's Attorney, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.
LYNDSAY E. DEMATTEO, Minnehaha County Public Advocate's Office, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellee.
ZINTER, Justice. GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, and SEVERSON, WILBUR, and KERN, Justices, concur.
[¶1] The State, by way of intermediate appeal, challenges the circuit court's suppression of Alvin Plastow's admission that he raped a three-year old girl. The circuit court suppressed the admission in accordance with our cases holding that a conviction cannot stand on an admission alone: the admission must be corroborated with independent evidence establishing the corpus delicti of the offense. Many state and federal courts have adopted a more flexible rule. Instead of requiring evidence of the corpus delicti, those courts allow evidence of the admission's trustworthiness to corroborate the admission and establish
guilt. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we adopt the trustworthiness standard as an alternative method of corroborating admissions. However, under Supreme Court precedent, we apply this change prospectively. We therefore affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶2] Alvin Plastow spent fifteen years in prison after pleading guilty to raping a five-year-old African American female (N.H.). After his release from prison, Plastow lived with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Paige (mother of N.H.), Teerra Raglan, and Raglan's three-year-old African American daughter (S.G.). S.G.'s father, Michael Grace, frequently visited the home.
[¶3] At some point, Grace observed Plastow stroking S.G.'s face while S.G. was sitting on Plastow's lap. Aware of Plastow's criminal history, Grace became suspicious and later telephoned Plastow, asking him if he had ever inappropriately touched S.G. Plastow admitted to putting his hand down S.G.'s pants, but claimed he did not penetrate her. After the telephone call, Grace asked S.G. where Plastow touched her, she pointed to her genitals, buttocks, and face.
[¶4] Grace reported these occurrences to the police. During a subsequent investigation, in a police officer's presence, Grace asked S.G. where Plastow had touched her. S.G. pointed to her genitals. At another point, S.G. approached the police officer and grabbed her genitalia, saying: " He touched me down here."
[¶5] A detective conducted a follow-up interview. During the interview, Plastow admitted that he was attracted to children, especially African American females. He also admitted that after getting out of prison, he struggled with thoughts of children. Plastow specifically admitted raping S.G. on two occasions, once when he was helping her in the bathroom and once in a bedroom. Regarding the bathroom incident, Plastow indicated that he attained an erection while placing his index finger in between S.G.'s vaginal lips. He also indicated that he masturbated while thinking of this incident. Regarding the bedroom incident, Plastow indicated that he ran his finger between S.G.'s vaginal lips, but denied " reaching S.G.'s hole." Plastow also admitted taking a picture of S.G.'s partially naked ...