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People v. Barritt

Court of Appeals of Michigan

February 14, 2017

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHN EDWARD BARRITT, Defendant-Appellee.

         Genesee Circuit Court LC No. 15-038224-FC

          Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Gleicher and Shapiro, JJ.

          SHAPIRO, J.

         The prosecution brings this interlocutory appeal[1] from the trial court's decision to suppress statements made by defendant during a police interview conducted without the provision of Miranda[2] warnings. Because defendant was subject to custodial interrogation we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         On May 4, 2015, the Mount Morris Township police department contacted the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department asking for their assistance in locating Amy Wienski, who had been reported as missing. Wienski was not at home when deputies arrived, and, suspecting foul play, the deputies obtained and executed a search warrant. While the deputies were at the home, defendant, who was Wienski's boyfriend, arrived in a vehicle driven by another civilian. The police asked him to accompany them to a Calhoun County Sheriff's Department office for an interview, and he was transported there in the back seat of a police car. At the station defendant was questioned for approximately 90 minutes by Detectives Bryan Gandy and Steve Hinkley but was not given Miranda warnings at any time. At the conclusion of the interrogation, he was handcuffed and transported to the custody of the Mt. Morris Police Department. He was later charged with multiple crimes related to the death of Wienski.[3]

         Defendant brought a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence of statements he made during the deputies' questioning on the grounds that he was subject to custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing at which it heard testimony from Deputy Mahan, who transported defendant to the station, and from Detective Gandy. The court also reviewed the transcript of the officers' questioning of defendant. The court granted defendant's motion, in part on reliance on MCL 763.7, and we granted the prosecution's interlocutory application for leave to appeal.

         During the hearing, Mahan and Gandy each testified that, while they were at Wienski's home, defendant arrived in a vehicle driven by another civilian. Mahan testified that defendant was approached by police officers upon his arrival. Gandy testified that he was one of the officers that approached defendant and that he told defendant he wished to speak to him about Wienski. Specifically, Gandy testified that he "ask[ed] [defendant] if he would go to the Homer Police Department with us so we could sit down and talk to him in a better area rather than standing out in the grass there at the home." Gandy stated that defendant rode with Mahan to the sheriff's office. Mahan testified "I had a marked car there and I had [defendant] have a seat in the back of my car." He also explained that his vehicle was one of "a whole line" of law enforcement vehicles leaving Wienski's house. Gandy testified that police also asked the person who had driven defendant to Wienski's house to follow them to the sheriff's office, and he acknowledged that defendant was not given the opportunity to ride to the sheriff's office with this person.

         Mahan testified that defendant was not handcuffed. He was not asked whether or not the back doors of the patrol car could be opened from the inside, but testified that he "let [defendant] out of the car" when they arrived at the sub-station. Defendant was then escorted into the building by Gandy and Hinkley, both of whom were armed. The building was the former township police department building, which had since been converted for use as a general township building with a section reserved for use by the sheriff's department. Gandy testified that the doors to the office are locked on the outside so that not just anyone can enter, but that the doors do not lock from the inside and so do not prevent anyone from leaving. Gandy testified that defendant was seated closer to the exit doors than was himself and Hinkley, but the record did not reveal whether it was objectively apparent that the doors were not locked from the inside.

         Gandy testified that the interview was not confrontational, but the transcript of the interview contains multiple exchanges that were clearly heated, specifically when the detectives repeatedly accused defendant of not being truthful in his statements. For example, when defendant denied knowledge of what had happened to Wienski, Hinkley replied: "I don't like bullshit. I'm not going to bullshit you and you don't bullshit me. Listen to me, dude, I'm square business. No bullshit. Okay?"

         The questioning lasted about 90 minutes. Gandy acknowledged that neither he nor Hinkley ever told defendant that he was free to leave, and the interview transcript reveals that defendant was not told that he was not under arrest until page 79 of the 90 page interview transcript and then only in response to defendant's statement "I think I need a lawyer now." When defendant responded by asking that the interview end, Hinkley twice said "we can finish at any time, " but rather than ending the questioning, Hinkley continued the interrogation, saying to defendant:

You're lying about the car. Lying, lying, lying. Okay. That's just it, period. Okay? I mean I know enough, I'm so positive about that, I will call you a liar to your face, and I don't do that to people. Okay? You lied, lied, lied. Okay? So that means to me either you did something on purpose to her or something accidentally happened to her. Okay? Now, this is a real simple choice for you. Okay? All right? This is an accident or it's on purpose. Okay? You - you got to man up sometime in your life. You've got to man up and you've got to come to some type of reasonable situation from this. Something happened. You know it happened. I know it happened. I know you're lying about the car, dude. I know you're lying about the car. I - you're lying about the car dude. I mean, I'd frickin' put my paycheck - that troubles me about her. I don't think you did it on purpose. I think it was an accident. All right, dude? I'm - I'm telling you, I'm pretty sure it was an accident. All right. You know it was an accident. I know it was an accident. What happened to her?

         When defendant answered "I don't know, " Hinkley responded, "you do know." Defendant again said "I don't know" and Hinkley responded, "you definitely know" and then left the room.

         While Hinkley was out of the room, defendant, speaking to Gandy, asked for an attorney a second time, and Gandy responded, "We're going to wait for Detective Hinkley to come back." Shortly thereafter, Hinkley returned to the interview room with a K-9 officer and dog. The K-9 officer, Sergeant Brad, told defendant that the dog was "a good boy" and "friendly." Defendant responded to these comments about the dog by stating "I bet he has his moments where he isn't" to which Sergeant Brad responded, "Oh, he'll blow you right off your feet if I send him." While the dog remained in the room, Sergeant Brad said to defendant:

I'm not in charge of nothing. I just stand around, do things, sit here with you while they - while they, you know discuss other information and things that might've come in . . . . But I'll tell you what, the truth always comes out.
* * *
You know what I mean? So, I guess it's one of those things if you - the sooner the truth comes out, the easier it is to - to deal with, you know what I mean?
* * *
You want to make sure that you're as truthful as possible because - because you know, it's going to be rough otherwise. You see what I mean?

         After Gandy explained that they were going to take defendant to the Mt. Morris Police Department, Brad stated, "Listen, John, before you go, is there anything else that you want to tell 'em? We talked for a second. I know you got something else there. I can see it written all over your face." Defendant answered, "No" and Brad said, "You can't stick with it forever, bud . . . . Just got to say - say the truth. Say what happened." Defendant again stated that he did not know what happened, and was then handcuffed for transport to Mt. Morris. At that point defendant asked, "[A]m I being arrested?" Two officers responded to the question by offering obfuscating responses.[4]

         At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled that defendant had been in custody during the questioning and so granted defendant's motion. In setting forth its reasoning, the trial court substantially relied on the statutory definition of "place of detention" provided at MCL 763.7, [5] which provides: "a police station, correctional facility, or prisoner holding facility or another governmental facility where an individual may be held in connection with a criminal charge that has been or may be filed against the individual." The trial court reasoned that because the interrogation of defendant occurred in a police station, which, by statute, constitutes a "place of detention, " he was in custody for purposes of Miranda.

         ANALYSIS

         Although we reject the trial court's reliance on MCL 763.7, we agree that defendant was in custody at the time of his interrogation and so affirm.[6]

         Consistent with the right against self-incrimination:

[T]he prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in ...

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