864 P.2d 890 (Utah 1993), 910444, State v. Mabe

Docket Nº:910444.
Citation:864 P.2d 890
Opinion Judge:DURHAM, Justice:
Party Name:STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Gary Lee MABE, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:R. Paul Van Dam, Atty. Gen., Kenneth A. Bronston, Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff and appellee. Lynn R. Brown, Joan C. Watt, Kimberly Clark, Deborah Kreek Mendez, Salt Lake City, for defendant and appellant.
Case Date:November 23, 1993
Court:Supreme Court of Utah
 
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864 P.2d 890 (Utah 1993)

STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee,

v.

Gary Lee MABE, Defendant and Appellant.

No. 910444.

Supreme Court of Utah.

November 23, 1993

R. Paul Van Dam, Atty. Gen., Kenneth A. Bronston, Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff and appellee.

Lynn R. Brown, Joan C. Watt, Kimberly Clark, Deborah Kreek Mendez, Salt Lake City, for defendant and appellant.

DURHAM, Justice:

Defendant Gary Lee Mabe appeals his conviction for second degree murder, a first degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-203. Mabe raises only one issue on appeal: whether his confession was involuntarily given in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. We affirm.

On December 5, 1990, the body of Carol Mabe, Mabe's wife, was discovered at her place of employment. An autopsy revealed that she had died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head. Evidence at the scene of the crime indicated that Carol Mabe

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might have been murdered during a robbery attempt. The police, however, suspected that Mabe was responsible for his wife's death and that he had altered the crime scene to make it appear as though her death occurred during an attempted robbery. Although the police investigation focused on Mabe from the beginning, the police lacked sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges against him. By early January 1991, their investigation was at a standstill.

On Friday, January 4, 1991, Mabe voluntarily appeared for an interview at the Salt Lake City Police Department. The purpose of the interview was to discuss his wife's death. At the time of the interview, Mabe was thirty-eight years old and in good physical condition. He had three years of college education and an IQ of 127. Although he is a recovering alcoholic, the trial court found that at the time of the interview, Mabe did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that he was in full control of his faculties.

The interview lasted approximately three hours and was videotaped. Mabe was seated at a table opposite the door to the interrogation room. The two interviewing detectives sat next to him on either side, thereby blocking his access to the door. The interview was continuous; Mabe was not provided with any food or drink and was not given an opportunity--nor did he request one--to use the rest room. 1 The detectives never gave Mabe a Miranda warning. The trial court, however, found that Mabe was never placed under arrest nor involuntarily detained and that he never requested the assistance of counsel.

Midway through the interview, the detectives confronted Mabe with the evidence against him. They told him that he was their primary suspect and in their opinion he was guilty of killing his wife. From that point on, the interview was confrontational. The detectives made numerous references to a guilty plea that Mabe entered in a prior, unrelated theft offense (referred to by them as the "Brink's deal"). In that case, Mabe's guilty plea and cooperation with police resulted in probation rather than incarceration. The detectives compared the Brink's deal to the present case and suggested that pleading guilty might result in similarly lenient treatment. 2 In addition, the detectives told Mabe that if he refused to cooperate, he might be charged with a more serious offense. 3 Nonetheless, Mabe steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the interview. 4

Three days after the initial interview, on Monday, January 7, 1991, Mabe called and asked one of the detectives to pick him up at his home. 5 Mabe indicated that he wanted to discuss his wife's death. Both detectives picked up Mabe and drove him to the

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Salt Lake City Police Department. They did not discuss the matter while en route to the police station. Upon their arrival, the detectives gave Mabe a Miranda warning. He acknowledged that he understood his rights and agreed to talk to them. He then confessed to killing his wife. Although Mabe was very emotional, the trial court found that he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that he understood the consequences of his confession. Mabe also told the detectives that he was distraught over his wife's death and had attempted to commit suicide three times over the weekend.

The State subsequently charged Mabe with second degree murder. He moved to suppress his January 7 confession on the ground that it was involuntary and its use at trial violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Mabe's motion. Mabe then entered a conditional guilty plea, specifically reserving his right to appeal the trial court's ruling on the motion to suppress. See State v. Sery, 758 P.2d 935, 937-38 (Utah Ct.App.1988).

Before considering the merits of Mabe's claim, we address briefly the appropriate standard of review. In...

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