State v. Hauschultz

New Decision

After successfully completing a juvenile sentence, Damian Hauschultz was tried as an adult and sentenced to 20 years in prison for an incident that occurred when he was a 14-year-old eighth grader. As punishment for minor behaviors, Damian’s stepfather ordered Damian and his foster brothers to carry heavy logs around their yard for hours at a time. Damian was told to make sure his 7-year-old foster brother completed his punishment. When his foster brother collapsed, Damian and his siblings put wet snow on his body, thinking it would make him get up and finish the punishment. Instead, he became unresponsive and ultimately died of hypothermia. That night, Damian was interrogated three times, alone and without Miranda warnings, during which he made inculpatory statements. 

Juvenile Law Center, joined by fourteen advocacy organizations and experts, filed an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in support of Damian, arguing that Damian’s age and trauma history made his interrogations unconstitutional. Our brief emphasized the ways that adolescent brain development impacts youths’ abilities to appreciate and enforce their rights during interrogations, and how trauma compounds adolescent vulnerabilities during interrogations. 

Despite acknowledging the importance of age to a custody and voluntariness analysis, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that Damian was not subject to custodial interrogation that required Miranda warnings during his first and second interviews, and that his statements during these interviews were voluntary. The Court declined to determine whether the third interview was a custodial interrogation but held that, if it was, any error in admitting statements from that interview was harmless. 

Damian filed a Petition for Review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Juvenile Law Center, joined by thirteen advocacy organizations and experts, filed an amicus brief in support of the petition. Our brief argued that adolescent brain development must play a significant role in custody and voluntariness analysis, and that the Court of Appeals ignored and misunderstood the impacts of Damian’s age when assessing the constitutionality of his interrogations.



Jessica Feierman, Marsha Levick, Vic Wiener 


Tiffany Faith, Marissa Lariviere