Arabzadegan v. State

Citation240 S.W.3d 44
Decision Date18 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. 03-05-00465-CR.,03-05-00465-CR.
PartiesLuke Masood ARABZADEGAN, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas

Alexander L. Calhoun, Austin, for Appellant.

M. Scott Taliaferro, Asst. Dist. Atty., Austin, for State.

Before Justices PURYEAR, WALDROP and B.A. SMITH.*



Appellant Luke Masood Arabzadegan pleaded guilty to murder. He was convicted and sentenced by the court to forty-five years in prison. Arabzadegan appeals his conviction complaining that the district court improperly denied his motion to suppress a videotaped confession he gave to investigating officers shortly after his arrest. In a single point of error, he contends that the confession was the result of an interrogation conducted in violation of his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 10 of the Texas Constitution.1 We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

Andrew Scott Vigil was found dead in his home on November 26, 2002. His wrists and ankles had been bound with speaker cord. He had been blindfolded, gagged with socks, sprayed with pepper spray, and shocked several times with a stun gun. An autopsy revealed that he had suffocated as a result of a rolled-up sock stuffed into his mouth and tied there with the gag. The coroner ruled the death a homicide. Arabzadegan and two others were implicated in the crime by an anonymous tip. After investigating the tip, the Travis County Sheriff's Department obtained a warrant for Arabzadegan's arrest on December 5, 2002. The warrant was issued by a Travis County district judge based on a five-page affidavit detailing the crime and the evidence against the three men submitted by the lead investigator, Detective Russell Halvorsen. Both the affidavit and warrant accused Arabzadegan of capital murder.

Arabzadegan was arrested in the Austin area on December 12, 2002, at 4:10 p.m.2 He was arrested at the apartment of a friend. At the time of the arrest, at least two other people were present in the apartment, a woman and a male friend of Arabzadegan's. Both were interviewed, but neither detained. After the arrest, Arabzadegan was driven immediately to the Travis County central booking facility, arriving at 4:50 p.m. He was then taken directly to an interrogation room before being booked into the computer system. In the interrogation room, Arabzadegan was read his Miranda warnings and supplied a "blue card" with the warnings written on it for him to read and sign. Arabzadegan then acknowledged the Miranda warnings, waived his rights, expressly declined the right to consult an attorney, signed the "blue card" acknowledging the waiver, and answered questions put to him by the officers in a manner that constituted a confession. The entire interview was videotaped and lasted an hour and ten minutes, concluding at approximately 6:00 p.m.

Arabzadegan filed a pretrial motion to suppress the confession. The trial court held a hearing and took evidence on the motion. Evidence at the hearing established that, after Arabzadegan became a suspect but before he was arrested, Detective Halvorsen received a telephone call from Austin criminal defense attorney Joe Turner. According to Detective Halvorsen, Turner indicated that either he or his firm "would probably be the attorneys of record" and "would be working on the case."3 Josh Saegert, an attorney with Turner's firm, testified that, after Arabzadegan was arrested, Turner was notified and he sent Saegert to meet with Arabzadegan.4 Saegert arrived at central booking sometime between 5:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and demanded to see Arabzadegan. The sheriff's deputies at the front desk told Saegert that they did not have any record of Arabzadegan in their computer system. Saegert told the deputies that he believed Arabzadegan was in custody and demanded that they locate him so that Saegert could have access to him. The deputies provided Saegert with telephone numbers for Detective Halvorsen and the head of the Major Crimes Unit, Lieutenant Art Cardenas. While he waited, Saegert telephoned Halvorsen, the sheriff's office dispatch (to talk to the arresting officer), and Cardenas and left messages. The message for Halvorsen was left at 5:38 p.m. at his Austin office5, the message for the arresting officer was left at 5:45 p.m., and the message for Cardenas was left at 5:55 p.m. according to notes made by Saegert at the time. Lieutenant Cardenas returned Saegert's call at approximately 6:00 p.m. and confirmed that Arabzadegan was in custody. Saegert then met with Arabzadegan. However, the interrogation was over and the videotaped confession had been recorded.

The trial court denied Arabzadegan's motion to suppress the videotaped confession. Arabzadegan then pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of murder and was sentenced by the court to 45 years' imprisonment.

Arabzadegan's complaint on appeal is that his videotaped confession was obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress. More specifically, he argues that his waiver of counsel at the beginning of his interrogation was invalid because his Sixth Amendment rights had attached, he was represented by counsel at the time of the waiver, and he made the waiver without the benefit of counsel. See Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 636, 106 S.Ct. 1404, 89 L.Ed.2d 631 (1986); Upton v. State, 853 S.W.2d 548, 553 (Tex.Crim.App.1993); Holloway v. State, 780 S.W.2d 787, 795 (Tex.Crim.App.1989). We conduct a two-step analysis to address this complaint. First, had Arabzadegan's Sixth Amendment rights attached at the time of the interrogation? If not, then there is no constitutional violation. Second, if his Sixth Amendment rights had attached when he was interrogated, was his waiver of his right to counsel during the interrogation valid?

In reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, we give almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts. Balentine v. State, 71 S.W.3d 763, 768 (Tex.Crim.App.2002). We review de novo mixed questions of law and fact that do not turn on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 89 (Tex.Crim.App.1997). We must affirm the trial court's ruling if it can be upheld on any valid theory of law applicable to the case—even if the trial court did not base its decision on the applicable theory. See State v. Steelman, 93 S.W.3d 102, 107 (Tex.Crim.App.2002).

Attachment of Sixth Amendment Rights

We first determine whether Arabzadegan's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had attached at the time he was interrogated. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches at the initiation of adversarial judicial proceedings whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment. Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387, 398, 97 S.Ct. 1232, 51 L.Ed.2d 424 (1977) (quoting Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682, 689, 92 S.Ct. 1877, 32 L.Ed.2d 411 (1972) (plurality opinion)); Robinson v. State, 851 S.W.2d 216, 224 (Tex.Crim.App.1991). "[T]he Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused, at least after the initiation of formal charges, the right to rely on counsel as a `medium' between him and the State." Maine v. Moulton, 474 U.S. 159, 176, 106 S.Ct. 477, 88 L.Ed.2d 481 (1985). After a formal charge is made, a person ceases being a "suspect" and becomes an "accused." The government has committed itself to prosecute and formalized its adversarial position with respect to the defendant. Kirby, 406 U.S. at 689, 92 S.Ct. 1877. The defendant then "finds himself faced with the prosecutorial forces of organized society, and immersed in the intricacies of substantive and procedural criminal law." Id. The Supreme Court reiterated this point in Moran v. Burbine: "It is clear, of course, that, absent a valid waiver, the defendant has the right to the presence of an attorney during any interrogation occurring after the first formal charging proceeding, the point at which the Sixth Amendment right to counsel initially attaches." 475 U.S. 412, 425, 106 S.Ct. 1135, 89 L.Ed.2d 410 (1986).

Following this authority, Texas courts have held that adversarial judicial proceedings have commenced when a person is arrested pursuant to a warrant obtained through a complaint filed with a court. See Barnhill v. State, 657 S.W.2d 131, 132 (Tex.Crim.App.1983) (formal judicial criminal proceedings had been instituted against the accused by the filing of a felony complaint in justice court); see also Green v. State, 872 S.W.2d 717, 720 (Tex. Crim.App.1994) (noting that Barnhill is "consistent with, if not dictated by," United States Supreme Court authority to treat the filing of a felony complaint as a point after which adversarial judicial proceedings have commenced); Terrell v. State, 891 S.W.2d 307, 312 (Tex.App.-El Paso 1994, pet. ref'd); Dams v. State, 872 S.W.2d 325, 328 (Tex.App.-Beaumont 1994, no pet.). In this case, a felony complaint was submitted to a district court accusing Arabzadegan of capital murder and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The police then arrested Arabzadegan on the basis of this warrant and initiated an interrogation that resulted in a confession. We hold that the State initiated formal judicial proceedings against Arabzadegan with the filing of the felony complaint accusing him of capital murder. Id. Consequently, Arabzadegan's Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel had attached at the time of the interrogation, and he was entitled to the assistance of counsel prior to answering questions unless he validly waived such right. Id.

Waiver of Right to Counsel

There is no dispute that the officers who interrogated Arabzadegan apprised him of his right to counsel and delivered the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (196...

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