Ex parte Price

Decision Date04 September 1998
Citation725 So.2d 1063
PartiesEx parte Christopher Lee PRICE. (Re Christopher Lee Price v. State).
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Joel L. Sogol, Tuscaloosa, for petitioner.

Bill Pryor, atty. gen., and Sandra J. Stewart, asst. atty. gen., for respondent.

MADDOX, Justice.

Christopher Lee Price was convicted of capital murder for the intentional murder of Bill Lynn during the course of a robbery in the first degree. After a sentencing hearing, the jury returned an advisory verdict recommending, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Price be sentenced to death by electrocution. After holding a separate sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Price to death by electrocution. Price was also convicted of robbery in the first degree for the robbery of Bessie Lynn, Bill Lynn's wife, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment, without parole, for that conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Price's convictions and sentences. Price v. State, 725 So.2d 1003 (Ala.Cr.App.1997). This Court granted Price's petition for certiorari review pursuant to Rule 39(c), Ala. R.App. P. We affirm.

Facts

Through the testimony of Bessie Lynn and the admission of a statement Price had given to authorities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, approximately one week after the alleged offenses, the State presented evidence tending to show the following:

"On the evening of December 22, 1991, Bill and Bessie Lynn returned to their home following a church service at the Natural Springs Church of Christ, where Bill Lynn had served as minister. The victims' home was located in the Bazemore community of north Fayette County. Bill Lynn had begun assembling Christmas toys for his grandchildren, while Bessie Lynn had dressed for bed and was upstairs in her bedroom watching television. The electricity suddenly failed and, because the security lights outside remained on, and because the electricity was still on in a neighbor's home, Bill Lynn told his wife to call the power company to report the outage. He then walked outside to check the power box. Bessie Lynn heard a noise outside and, upon looking out of her window, saw an individual in what she called a `karate stance,' holding what appeared to be a sword in his right hand, high above his head in a striking position. Bessie Lynn testified that the individual was dressed completely in black. Bill Lynn yelled for his wife to telephone the police, and, upon discovering that the telephone lines had been cut, she hurried downstairs, where she picked up a candle and armed herself with a pistol that the Lynns kept in a kitchen drawer by a bank deposit bag. The bank deposit bag contained cash and checks received from an automobile parts business operated by Bill Lynn. Bessie Lynn testified that she then hurried outside and that when she did someone struck her and knocked her to the ground. She testified that she got up and fired a gunshot into the air and began calling for her husband. She found him in the yard and tried to give him the gun, telling him to shoot the people, but Bill Lynn, who had been severely wounded, told her there were no bullets left in the gun. She then told her husband that she was going for help; he told her to give the culprits anything that they wanted. Bill Lynn had told his wife at that point that he knew he was going to die. Bessie Lynn, who was in their van and attempting to insert the key into the ignition, became aware of two men, one on each side of the van. They ordered her out of the van, and when she got out she was beaten with an object. One of the individuals was demanding money. They ordered her back into the house, where the two individuals, both dressed in black, demanded her money and jewelry. They took a rifle and shotgun from the house, the pistol that Bill Lynn still had, and the checks and cash from the bank deposit bag. They also ordered Bessie Lynn to give them her jewelry. She responded that she did not wear jewelry other than her two rings and asked if she might keep her wedding ring. She was instructed to take her rings off and to drop them in a bag, which they took. The culprits instructed Mrs. Lynn to remain where she was and they searched for something in the kitchen and then outside the house. Bessie Lynn testified that when the two men came back in the house, a vehicle apparently drove by the house. The two men then went out the back door, and Bessie Lynn testified that she then ran out the front door. She ran back to her husband to tell him that she was going to go for help. He asked her to hurry, and she ran to her father's house, which was located nearby. From her father's house she telephoned for help. Bill Lynn died before he reached the hospital. Bessie Lynn was treated for wounds to her head, her hands, her chest, and her thighs.
"Several days later, [Price] was arrested in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he had been visiting friends. He gave a statement to the authorities in Tennessee, admitting his participation in the offenses, but claiming that his accomplice had actually killed Bill Lynn and wounded Bessie Lynn. He subsequently gave another statement to Alabama authorities."

Price v. State, 725 So.2d at 1011-1012.

I.

Before this Court, Price raises 23 issues, all of which were considered and rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Although we have carefully reviewed and considered all of Price's arguments, we will address only one issue in this opinion: whether the trial court erred when it denied Price's motion to suppress any extrajudicial inculpatory statements Price gave to law enforcement authorities.

II.

Before trial, Price gave two statements to law enforcement authorities. He gave the first statement to Detective Michael Mathis of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Police Department on December 29, 1991 (the "Tennessee statement"). The record indicates that Detective Mathis made audiotapes of that interview and later provided the audiotapes to Sheriff James Turner in Fayette County, Alabama. Sheriff Turner testified that his secretary prepared a typed transcript of the tapes of Detective Mathis's interview.1

Price gave the second statement to Sheriff Turner on December 29, 1991, in Fayette County (the "Alabama statement"). Sheriff Turner testified that this interview was also recorded on audiotape and that a typed transcript was prepared.2

Price filed a pretrial motion to suppress, requesting that the trial court suppress "[a]ny statements made by [Price], whether oral, written or videotaped, which the State intends to introduce into evidence or otherwise use at the trial of this case." Price did not specify in the motion why the statements should be suppressed. The trial court conducted a hearing on Price's motion on December 15, 1992, during which the State presented evidence regarding both statements. At the hearing, the trial judge denied Price's motion to suppress, as to both statements.

On appeal, Price contends that both statements should have been suppressed because, he says: (1) with regard to both of the statements, the State failed to adequately demonstrate that the law enforcement authorities had properly advised him of his Miranda rights (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)) before questioning him; and (2) the Tennessee statement was the product of an improper inducement.

III.

It is well established that extrajudicial confessions and other inculpatory statements are prima facie involuntary and that for such a statement or confession to be admissible the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it was voluntary. Ex parte Singleton, 465 So.2d 443, 445 (Ala. 1985). To satisfy this burden, the State must show: (1) that proper Miranda warnings were given before any questioning by the police and (2) that the statement was voluntary, i.e., that it was not procured through coercion or improper inducement. See Stariks v. State, 572 So.2d 1301, 1304 (Ala.Crim. App.1990); McLeod v. State, 718 So.2d 727, 729 (Ala.1998). The initial determination of admissibility is made by the trial court, and the trial court's determination will not be disturbed unless it is contrary to the great weight of the evidence or is manifestly wrong. McLeod, supra; Stariks, supra.

IV.

Price argues that, with regard to both statements, the State failed to demonstrate that he was properly advised of his Miranda rights before being questioned. Although there is no talismanic incantation required to satisfy the requirements of Miranda, it is well settled that, before being questioned, an accused in custody must be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in court, that he has the right to have counsel present at the interrogation, and that if he is indigent and cannot afford to pay a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent him during the interrogation. See Ex parte Siebert, 555 So.2d 780, 781-82 (Ala.1989), citing, California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355, 359-60, 101 S.Ct. 2806, 69 L.Ed.2d 696 (1981); Wallace v. State, 290 Ala. 201, 275 So.2d 634 (1973). If the defendant is not advised of each of these rights before being questioned, then any statement he makes during the questioning is not admissible against him as evidence of guilt. See, e.g., Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 429, 104 S.Ct. 3138, 82 L.Ed.2d 317 (1984) (statements made in response to custodial interrogation are inadmissible as evidence of guilt unless the defendant was advised of the rights established in Miranda).

V.

We will first consider whether the State demonstrated that Price had been properly advised of his Miranda rights before being questioned by Detective Mathis in Chattanooga.

Price argues that this Court may consider only the evidence that was before the trial court when it denied the motion to suppress and, therefore, that it may not consider any additional evidence...

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