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State v. Lullen

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 28, 2017


          February 7, 2017 Session

         Interlocutory Appeal from the Circuit Court for Fayette County No. 15-CR-150 J. Weber McCraw, Judge

         We granted this interlocutory appeal to review the trial court's order granting the motion of the defendant, Mark Harold Lullen a.k.a. Luellen, to suppress his statement because officers did not give Miranda warnings. Upon review, we conclude Miranda warnings were unnecessary because the defendant was not in custody when questioned by law enforcement, so the trial court erred when granting the defendant's motion to suppress on that basis. Despite arguments by the defendant that he did not voluntarily give his statement because he was under the influence of prescription drugs, the trial court failed to make findings of fact in this regard. Accordingly, we remand for full hearing and additional findings as to whether the defendant's statement was voluntary.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed; Case Remanded

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; D. Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Matt Hooper, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Coleman Garrett, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mark Harold Lullen, a.k.a Luellen.

          J. Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Camille R. McMullen, J., joined.


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE

         Facts and Procedural History

         On April 20, 2015, Officer Eric Austin of the Moscow Police Department initiated a traffic stop of the defendant. The defendant became agitated during the stop and attempted to run Officer Austin over with his vehicle. Officer Austin fired his gun and shot the defendant on the right side of his chest. The defendant drove away and crashed into a light pole a short distance from Gurkin's convenience store. First responders were contacted and found the defendant unrestrained and sitting in the driver's seat of his car upon arrival. An ambulance subsequently transported the defendant to Regional One Health in Memphis for treatment, and the defendant underwent surgery later that day.

         The Fayette County District Attorney requested that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") investigate whether Officer Austin was justified in shooting the defendant, and Special Agent Ronnie Faulkner of the TBI was assigned to the matter. Agent Faulkner and Special Agent Ryan Fletcher, also with the TBI, went to the hospital around 10:30 a.m. on April 21, 2015, to interview the defendant. Upon arrival, the agents spoke with a nurse, who informed them the defendant was sleeping and directed them to his room.

         The defendant was asleep when the agents entered his hospital room, and his brother, Michael Lullen, was present. As Agent Faulkner was in the process of identifying himself to Michael Lullen, the defendant woke up and began talking about the shooting. Agents Faulkner and Fletcher stopped the defendant and identified themselves as TBI agents, showed the defendant their credentials, explained they were present to interview him as part of their investigation of the shooting, and advised the defendant he did not have to speak with them. Agent Faulkner also told the defendant he was not under arrest or being charged with a crime by the TBI. Agent Faulkner did not Mirandize the defendant because he was merely present to gather information to be given to the district attorney, who would decide whether to bring charges against the defendant. There were not any officers present in the defendant's room to prevent him from leaving the hospital.

         According to Agent Faulkner, the defendant was excited about being questioned by the TBI and wanted to tell his side of the story. As Agent Faulkner questioned the defendant, he wrote down his responses. The interview lasted approximately thirty minutes. At the conclusion of the interview, Agent Faulkner reviewed the statement line-by-line with the defendant, and the defendant signed it. Agent Faulkner believed the statement given by the defendant was consensual. He has been in law enforcement for twenty-eight years and has ample experience with intoxicated individuals. Based on this experience, Agent Faulkner did not believe the defendant was impaired at the time of the interview.

         The defendant was later indicted for attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, driving under the influence ("DUI"), and DUI per se for the incidents on April 20, 2015. The defendant filed a motion to suppress "all statements allegedly given by defendant to any and all law enforcement authorities, " arguing "said statements were obtained in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights" and that "the officers failed to follow the mandate of Miranda v. Arizona." The defendant then filed an amended motion to suppress, arguing that his statements to the TBI agents were not voluntary, and the agents did not advise him of his Mira ...

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