Assigned on Briefs November 4, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-01862 James M. Lammey, Jr., Judge
Mark Mesler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Devin Rogers.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jose Leon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., joined.
ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE
The defendant was indicted for one count of aggravated robbery as a result of his participation in the robbery of Foodland grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 17, 2011.
Motion to Suppress
Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement to police. The defendant asserted that he was questioned at length before being "properly mirandized" and that the statements he gave "were the result of threats, force and/or coercion." He additionally asserted that the investigators "made promises and assurances about the potential cases against him and those promises and assurances overcame his will not to speak or give statements to the investigators."
The trial court conducted a hearing on the defendant's motion at which Officer Lawrence Barr with the Memphis Police Department testified that he received a call from dispatch on December 3, 2011 that the defendant was in the parking lot of his apartment complex and that he matched the description of a suspect involved in a recent aggravated robbery. Officer Barr confirmed that the defendant matched the description and took him into custody. The defendant did not give his real name or correct identifying information to the officers. Officer Barr and his partner transported the defendant to the police station and, while en route, did not ask the defendant any questions or converse with him. Officer Barr did not read the defendant his Miranda rights at that time because he did not have any questions for the defendant. The defendant did not appear to be under the influence and was cooperative with the officers, aside from giving them a false name and birth date.
Detective Fausto Frias with the robbery unit of the Memphis Police Department testified that he participated in the investigation of several aggravated robberies that involved an individual by the defendant's name. On December 3, 2011, Detective Frias received a call from a witness in another robbery that the person responsible for that robbery was at her apartment complex, and the witness gave a description and location for that individual. Detective Frias had uniform patrol respond to the scene, and the officers brought the defendant to the police station. The defendant initially gave the officers a false name and identifying information. However, when told that he was going to be fingerprinted to ascertain his identity, the defendant told Detective Frias that his name was Devin Rogers and that he had been afraid to give his real name because there was an active burglary warrant out on him.
Detective Frias testified that it took him approximately one hour to research Devin Rogers and confirm that there was a burglary warrant for him. After which, he advised the defendant of his Miranda rights by reading them out loud to the defendant as well as going through them line-by-line. The defendant verbally acknowledged that he understood his rights, then read and signed the advice of rights form.
Detective Frias testified that he explained to the defendant that he was being investigated because he was implicated in a robbery, and the defendant initially denied any involvement in a robbery. The detective asked the defendant to recall what he did the day of the Foodland store robbery, and the defendant said that he "couldn't remember that far back." The detective told the defendant that he had witnesses who told him that the defendant committed the robbery, and then the defendant confessed and explained his actions in detail. Detective Frias told the defendant that he would document his statement by typing it. The defendant admitted participating in several robberies, including the one in this case. The defendant gave separate statements for each robbery.
Detective Frias testified that at no time during the interview and giving of the statement did the defendant indicate that he was in physical discomfort or request to have an attorney present. The defendant was given several restroom breaks, as well as food to eat. The defendant was cooperative throughout the process and seemed to understand what was going on. Detective Frias stated that the defendant "was very remorseful and sorry for everything he's done."
On cross-examination, Detective Frias agreed that the defendant arrived at the police station at 3:20 p.m., and the advice of rights was read to him at 4:42 p.m. Detective Frias explained that, during that time period, he introduced himself to the defendant and informed the defendant why he was there. Then, it took thirty minutes or more to ascertain the defendant's real name because he gave officers false identifying information. Detective Frias said that he did not ask the defendant any incriminating questions during that time, but instead asked him his name, address, social security number, birth date, and other identifying information.
Detective Frias agreed that, when he reviewed the advice of rights form with the defendant, he asked the defendant if he suffered from any mental disorders and the defendant responded that he had ADHD and bipolar disorder. The defendant told the detective that he was taking the appropriate medications for his conditions. Detective Frias began interviewing the defendant about the present robbery around 5:00 p.m., and, by 5:30 p.m., he had admitted participating in it. Detective Frias denied threatening the defendant with life in prison before he confessed to the robbery. He also denied showing the defendant a blue piece of paper and telling him that the paper meant that he would receive life in prison or life without parole. The detective said that he did not tell the defendant that he would never see his family again if he did not confess to the robbery, or that the defendant would be free to leave if he just confessed. They began the typed statement related to this case at 6:53 p.m. Detective Frias stated that the defendant never asked for a lawyer or said that he wanted to stop talking to the officers.
Sergeant Albert Bonner, an officer with the Memphis Police Department assigned to the robbery bureau in December of 2011, testified that he assisted Detective Frias in the witness room during the questioning of the defendant. Sergeant Bonner stated that the defendant appeared to understand the detective's questions. He never asked for a lawyer or indicated that he was in physical pain or discomfort. The defendant was offered bathroom breaks, food, and water. He did not appear to be under the influence of anything.
On cross-examination, Sergeant Bonner denied threatening the defendant, showing him a blue piece of paper to indicate that he would spend the rest of his life in prison, or telling him that he was never going to see his family again. He also denied promising the defendant anything to get him to talk or telling him that he could go home if he just confessed.
The defendant testified that he had several indictments against him for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary and that he gave detectives statements of admission to each of the different crimes. However, he felt that the statements were obtained in an improper fashion. The defendant stated that the officers showed up at the apartment where he was staying and obtained consent to search the residence, but they did not have a warrant for his arrest. The officers did not ask his name and placed him in handcuffs. The defendant told the officers that his name was Terrelle McGhee and gave them a fake social security number. He recalled that, with the exception of when the officers took him to urinate in a garbage can, he sat handcuffed in the patrol car for an hour and then was taken to the police station. During the ride, the officers told him that he was just going in for questioning and was not under arrest. At the police station, he sat on a bench for about an hour with handcuffs around his leg and then the officers started talking to him trying to find out his real name. He had not been read his Miranda rights at that point.
The defendant testified that he eventually told the officers his real name and that he had lied to them at first because he "thought they were picking [him] up for [his] aggravated burglary." The officers then started to ask him about a robbery. When shown a copy of the advice of rights form that he signed, the defendant stated that the time noted on it was consistent with his memory. However, he said that the officers questioned him about a robbery, not the one in this case, for approximately thirty minutes before he signed the advice of rights. He said that they only gave him the advice of rights after he confessed to the robbery. Also, before he was given the advice of rights, the "Mexican" officer told him that if he kept lying, the officer would "sign a blue piece of paper" that would keep him from seeing his family again and he would "have life without parole." The defendant claimed that after the officer threatened him for forty-five minutes, he started to cry. The officer was so loud and threatening that the defendant just gave up and confessed to the robbery. The defendant said that he did not know what the Miranda rights were when all this was taking place and that the officers did not read the advice of rights form until after he signed it. The defendant acknowledged that he never asked for a lawyer and that the officers gave him food and water.
On cross-examination, the defendant claimed that he signed the statements without reading them because he was tired and wanted to go home. He also claimed that the officers repeatedly told him ...