The Defendant appealed his conviction for capital sexual battery and the resulting life sentence, raising four grounds for reversal. the appeals court found merit only in defendant's argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the statements he gave to police after he made a comment that indicated that he did not understand the Miranda warnings that had been given to him. On this basis, the court reversed and sent the case back to the trial court for a new trial.
Defendant was arrested and charged with capital sexual battery after his former stepdaughter who told her father that defendant had engaged in certain sexual activity with her when she was nine years old. Defendant was subsequently brought to the police station for an interview. After the investigating detective spoke with the defendant for a few minutes, the following conversation took place:
DETECTIVE: Okay. All right. I'm just gonna read you the questions, then I'm gonna have you read them to yourself, okay? Do you understand you have the right to remain silent?
DETECTIVE: All right. Do you understand that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law?
DETECTIVE: Do you understand that you have the right to speak to a lawyer and have him or her present with you while you are being questioned?
DETECTIVE: Do you understand that, if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish?
DETECTIVE: Do you understand that you can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements?
DETECTIVE: Do you understand each of these rights I've explained to you?
DETECTIVE: Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to me now?
DEFENDANT: That's fine.
DETECTIVE: Is that a yes?
DETECTIVE: Okay. All right. What I need you to do, if you would for me, I just want you to read through each one of these.
DEFENDANT: All right.
DETECTIVE: Just --
DEFENDANT: It's just kind of funny. You all put it in writing now where you used to never do it.
DETECTIVE: Yeah. It's just -- it's just I wanna make sure people understand. 'Cause, see --
DEFENDANT: I know.
DETECTIVE: -- see, here's the thing, Richard. I'm not here to trick anybody.
DEFENDANT: I know.
DETECTIVE: I wanna talk to you. I wanna clear this stuff up and get you home. That's kind of what I wanna do, okay. So, um, if --
DEFENDANT: Kind of what you wanna do?
DETECTIVE: That's absolutely what I wanna do. You know, I -- I mean I gotta -- I gotta do my job. You know what I mean?
DETECTIVE: So, what I need you to do is I just need you to read through each one, sign each one, and then just witness it here for me, if you would.
DEFENDANT: Just -- just sign each one?
DETECTIVE: Initial each one.
DEFENDANT: Oh, okay.
DETECTIVE: Read through each one, initial each one --
DETECTIVE: -- and then, uh, sign right there for me at the bottom. Okay?
DEFENDANT: I can't afford a lawyer anyhow.
DETECTIVE: Oops. Sorry.
DEFENDANT: Okay. Right here?
At that point, without any further discussion or clarification of the fact that defendant could have an attorney appointed at no cost to him, the detective began questioning defendant about his stepdaughter's allegations, and defendant made several incriminating statements during the interview.
Prior to trial, defendant asked the court to suppress his statements, arguing that the State could not establish that he had knowingly and intelligently waived his rights because the detective did not clarify, in response to defendant's comment, that defendant was entitled to have a lawyer appointed at no cost to him if he wanted one. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that defendant's comment constituted only an ambiguous request for counsel; therefore, defendant's statement was admitted at trial. Defendant was subsequently convicted as charged and sentenced to life in prison.
In the appeal, as the defendant did in the trial court argued that his motion to suppress should have been granted because the transcript does not establish that he knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights before speaking with the detective. The appeal court agreed.