1997 -NMSC- 58, State v. Cooper

Decision Date03 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. 22504,22504
Citation949 P.2d 660,1997 NMSC 58,124 N.M. 277
Parties, 1997 -NMSC- 58 STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Paul Randall COOPER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court

FRANCHINI, Chief Justice.

¶1 Paul Cooper was convicted for felony murder, second-degree murder, armed robbery, two counts of aggravated battery, and numerous other crimes in connection with the death of Gary Marquez. Cooper raises two issues: first, that he involuntarily made incriminating remarks to hostage negotiators during an armed standoff with police; second, that several of his convictions subject him to multiple punishments for the same offense in violation of his constitutional right to be protected from double jeopardy. We conclude that Cooper's remarks to the hostage negotiators were voluntary and affirm his felony murder conviction. However, we hold that all of Cooper's duplicative convictions, with the exception of one of his aggravated battery convictions, are unconstitutional. We vacate the unconstitutional convictions and remand for resentencing.


¶2 In May 1992, Paul Cooper learned that his HIV infection, which he had contracted several years earlier, had developed into AIDS. He concluded his death was imminent.

¶3 Cooper found the prospect of wasting away in a hospital to be intolerable. He admired Everett Ruess, an artist and adventurer who, in 1934, at the age of twenty, disappeared in the Escalante canyons of Utah. Cooper decided to emulate Ruess by leaving civilization for the Utah Canyonlands where he could die with dignity. He gathered camping gear, survival books, two hand guns, a hunting rifle, and a skinning knife. Some of these items were paid for with worthless checks. He also fashioned homemade bombs and several devices spiked with nails. He fancied using these to booby trap the road should anyone attempt to track him down because of the bad checks.

¶4 On the evening of Sunday, May 17, Cooper went to a gay bar called The Ranch. He intended to leave for the Canyonlands the following morning. Viewing that night as the last time he would see civilization, he decided to "party a little bit." Cooper met Gary Marquez at The Ranch that evening. Marquez had recently cashed his paycheck and was carrying several hundred dollars in cash. Cooper and Marquez agreed to meet at Cooper's apartment to engage in acts of sexual bondage.

¶5 Around midnight they arrived in separate cars at Cooper's apartment. Cooper testified that as they began their sexual encounter, he began to have second thoughts; he was unable to perform sexually because he feared transmitting the AIDS virus to Marquez and felt he should be preparing to leave town. Cooper testified that he asked Marquez to leave; Marquez was offended and berated Cooper saying, "What, am I not good enough for you?" Cooper stated that he pushed Marquez and the two began to struggle.

¶6 In contrast to this version of events, Cooper later told police, "I was just gonna take his car ... [a]nd just go to Utah. Just live ... in the wilderness, right? ... Well, he was just supposed to knock out. He wasn't supposed to fight back."

¶7 Cooper testified that, during the struggle, Marquez picked up the skinning knife from a pile of camping gear. When the fight was over, Marquez lay dead with twenty-two stab wounds. He also had been struck with a metal pipe and a barbell. The State's pathologist testified Marquez died from a combination of "multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma of the head, trunk, and extremities." Cooper's right hand was incapacitated, the tendons of two fingers having been severed.

¶8 All Cooper could think of was to "just get the hell out of there." He realized he could not manipulate with his wounded hand the manual transmission in his own Volkswagen. He also later told police investigators that his car "wasn't good enough to make the trip." In the early hours of May 18, 1992, he left Albuquerque in Marquez's car.

¶ 9 During the trip, he realized he could not function in the wilderness with his injury. He decided to drive to Malibu, California, to seek help from his sister, Gloria Cooper, who used to be a registered nurse. He testified that, while stopping for a rest in Arizona, he discovered Marquez's cash tucked into a pocket in the car door. At some point along the way, he concocted additional explosives.

¶10 In the afternoon hours of May 18, upon arriving in Ventura, California, Cooper was too exhausted to drive any further. He checked into the Shores Motel around 4:00 p.m., California time, and called his sister. To Gloria he sounded agitated, emotional, and irrational. During the conversation she eventually learned that Cooper had killed someone in Albuquerque. He told her about his hand injury and that he brought several firearms. He said his life was over and that he intended to kill himself. Fearing that he might hurt himself or someone else, she told him she would have to contact the Ventura police. He asked her to wait so he could figure out what to do.

¶11 Gloria related what she knew about Cooper's circumstances to the Ventura police. Around 10:00 p.m. New Mexico time, the Albuquerque Police Department received notice from Ventura of a possible homicide in Cooper's apartment. The Albuquerque police obtained a key from Cooper's landlord and opened the door to discover Marquez's nude body. They proceeded to obtain a search warrant and a warrant for Cooper's arrest.

¶12 About an hour before midnight, California time, a Ventura Police Department SWAT unit began to assemble at the Shores Motel where Cooper was staying. They secured the area to prevent Cooper from leaving and removed other guests from the motel. Eventually, at least twenty police, including a sharpshooter were surrounding the motel. A "Hostage Negotiating Team" set up a command post in a trailer nearby. The Ventura Police Department did not attempt to contact Cooper until the warrant for his arrest had been obtained by the Albuquerque police.

¶13 About 4:45 a.m., on May 19, 1992, the Negotiating Team established phone contact with Cooper. At first he hung up several times, saying he did not want to talk. After repeated phone calls and exhortations shouted through a police bullhorn from the motel parking lot, Cooper spoke to the negotiators. Rotating members of the Negotiating Team kept Cooper on the phone.

¶14 While they talked, the police in the command post tape recorded the conversation. Homicide investigators stood by listening. The negotiators never informed Cooper they were taping the conversation. Nor did they advise him that anything he said could be used against him in a court of law. In testimony, Cooper depicted himself as being in physical and emotional anguish; he felt trapped and surmised that the motel was surrounded by armed officers. He claims that he attempted to avoid answering their questions, but could not resist the constant phone calls and commands over the bullhorn.

¶15 The police, on the other hand, considered this to be a high-risk situation involving a suicidal murder suspect who was barricaded in a motel room with weapons and explosives. Detective David Williams, one of the officers at the scene, indicated the SWAT team had two main objectives: to arrest Cooper under the homicide investigation and to prevent him from killing himself and hurting anyone else. In testimony, Detective Bob Anderson, who was also at the scene, described the methods used to achieve these goals: "The SWAT technique is to continue conversation and to talk and talk and talk until you convince them to surrender peacefully." In cross examination, Anderson was asked, "So you were employing a technique of trying to break down his will; isn't that right?" He responded, "That's one way you can put it, I guess."

¶16 The police negotiators, on several occasions during the two-and-one-half hours of conversation, asked Cooper to tell his "story." Some of their questions directly requested information about the murder, as when one negotiator said, "Well, hey Paul, why don't you tell me the story again. Start from the beginning." Cooper made numerous incriminating statements. For example My side of the story is, I'm crazy and I killed somebody okay.

Yeah, uh, you know, I've killed somebody and I'm the killer now, it's like there's nothing to stop me from doing it more.

Cooper repeatedly complained of exhaustion, confusion, hopelessness, and physical pain. They promised to obtain medical help for his hand. They also promised, upon his request, that they could provide psychiatric help.

¶17 Cooper finally surrendered at 7:20 a.m. Among his belongings, police found his voter registration card with a notation on the back, hand-written and scratched out, stating, "Kill Reagan, then myself."

¶18 He was taken to a hospital for medical treatment, and thereafter to the Ventura Police headquarters for interrogation. Ten days later Cooper was extradited to New Mexico. In each of these three situations, he made incriminating remarks. At the hospital and during the Ventura interrogation he stated that he thought he should have an attorney. The police continued asking questions.

¶19 In Albuquerque Cooper did sign a waiver of his Miranda rights and gave a statement to police. Cooper claimed that he felt asking for an attorney would be useless because, as he testified, "I had already asked for one repeatedly. Obviously I wasn't going to get one so what difference does it make." In his statement to the Albuquerque police he claimed he went to California to assassinate former presidents Nixon and Reagan; in testimony he claimed this was a lie. On several occasions he...

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