Graham v. U.S., No. 04-CF-1015.

Decision Date19 June 2008
Docket NumberNo. 04-CF-1015.
Citation950 A.2d 717
PartiesMarcus GRAHAM, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee.
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

Thomas T. Heslep, Washington, for appellant.

Elizabeth H. Danello, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Kenneth Wainstein, United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Roy W. McLeese III, Thomas J. Tourish, Jr., and Karen L. Melnik, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before RUIZ, REID and GLICKMAN, Associate Judges.

GLICKMAN, Associate Judge:

A jury found appellant Marcus Graham guilty of robbing and killing his next-door neighbor, Lucille Batchelor.1 Appellant's two confessions to the police, made four days after the murder, were the centerpiece of the prosecution's case, and his Fifth Amendment challenges to their admission are the principal focus of this appeal. Appellant asserts that his first confession, in which he admitted stealing from Batchelor but denied killing her, was the product of custodial interrogation not preceded by the required Miranda2 warnings and a valid waiver of his rights. Appellant contends his second confession, in which he admitted committing the murder, was obtained in violation of Edwards3 because the police allowed his mother to continue interrogating him after he invoked his right to counsel. Finally, appellant contends that the prolonged interrogation he endured together with other coercive factors operated to overcome his will and rendered his statements to the police involuntary. In addition to advancing these Fifth Amendment claims, appellant asserts the government violated its disclosure obligations under (i) Brady,4 with respect to evidence supporting his suppression motion, and (ii) Criminal Rule 16,5 with respect to the introduction of his statements at trial.

We conclude the trial judge did not err by denying appellant's motion to suppress his statements. Specifically, we hold appellant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda when he made his first confession; the police did not violate appellant's Fifth Amendment right to counsel by permitting his mother to question him after he asked for an attorney; and his statements to the police were not the product of impermissible governmental coercion. We also reject appellant's other claims of error and therefore affirm appellant's convictions.

I.

The trial judge orally denied appellant's motion to suppress his statements after a pretrial evidentiary hearing at which three witnesses testified. The main witness was Metropolitan Police Department Detective Jeffrey Williams, who was in charge of the investigation of Batchelor's murder, questioned appellant, and obtained his confessions. The judge also heard brief testimony from Detective Christopher Kauffman, who assisted Williams and made contemporaneous notes during the questioning of appellant, and from appellant himself. In a post-verdict motion for a new trial, appellant asked the judge to reconsider his ruling admitting his confessions in light of all the evidence—including a videotaped interview of appellant's parents by Detective Williams that had been withheld from appellant until the middle of trial. The judge denied appellant's request for reconsideration in a written opinion.

The judge specifically credited much of Williams's testimony, finding it corroborated by Kauffman's notes and other evidence. The judge did not credit appellant's testimony. We summarize the evidence relevant to appellant's Fifth Amendment claims, including the videotape interview turned over after the suppression hearing, in accordance with the trial judge's credibility determinations and findings of historical fact.6

A.

On Sunday morning, November 17, 2002, sixty-seven-year-old Lucille Batchelor was murdered in her apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C. Her body was discovered that afternoon. She had been beaten about her head and stabbed in her chest, and the dresser drawers in her bedroom had been ransacked. Canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, Detective Williams spoke with appellant, nineteen-year-old Marcus Graham, who lived next door to Batchelor. Appellant told Williams he had taken soup and tea to Batchelor on Saturday afternoon, the day before the murder, at his mother's request. Pressed for time, Williams said he would meet with appellant at a later time to take a formal statement.

The First Confession

Four days later, on November 21, 2002, Williams returned to appellant's home with Detective Kauffman. Williams asked appellant "if he would mind coming to my office and talking to me in reference to Ms. Lucille's death." Appellant agreed to do so, and he rode with the two detectives in an unmarked police car to the Violent Crime Branch at a police station in Southeast Washington, D.C. Appellant sat in the front passenger seat. He was not frisked or handcuffed.

Upon arriving at the Violent Crime Branch at 2:52 p.m., Williams escorted appellant past some secured doors to a small room used for conducting interrogations and interviews. The door to the room locked automatically; it was necessary to punch in a special code on a keypad to enter or exit the room. Williams propped open the door with a chair to improve ventilation and, as he testified, so that appellant would not feel "closed in." At some point later in the afternoon, however, Williams allowed the door to close. Unbeknownst to appellant, Kauffman listened in on the interview from an adjacent room equipped with audio and visual equipment.

Williams, who was unarmed, employed a conversational tone when questioning appellant. After inquiring whether appellant wished to use the bathroom or have something to eat, Williams began the interview by asking him about his visit with Batchelor the day before she was killed. Appellant affirmed his earlier statement and added that on Sunday morning he was at church with his wife, his parents, and other members of his family. After something less than half an hour, at 3:22 p.m., Williams excused himself and left the room to phone Daniel Zachem, the Deputy Chief of the Homicide Section of the United States Attorney's Office. Williams sought Zachem's advice as to whether he was required to read appellant his Miranda rights before questioning him further. Zachem advised Williams that Miranda warnings were unnecessary because appellant had come to the Violent Crime Branch voluntarily and had not been taken into custody. While Williams was talking with Zachem, appellant was left alone in the interview room with the door open.

Williams returned to appellant at 4:10 p.m. In response to the detective's increasingly focused questions, appellant said he left church on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. and went straight home, making no stops on the way. He denied having gone to a bank after church or at any time that weekend; denied having either an ATM card or a bank account; and denied having received property belonging to someone else. At 4:35 p.m., appellant declined Williams's renewed offers to let him go to the bathroom and have something to drink or eat.

Williams then momentarily left the room again. He returned five minutes later, at 4:40 p.m., with a bank surveillance photograph showing appellant by a Sun Trust Bank ATM machine at Stanton Road and Alabama Avenue, Southeast. The time-stamped photograph had been taken at eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, November 17, 2006. Confronted with the photograph and the (concededly false) assertion by Williams that a witness had identified him, appellant admitted that when he brought Batchelor soup and tea on Saturday, he stole credit cards and $15 in cash from a purse on her table. Appellant said he tried to use one of the cards at the bank, but was unsuccessful because he did not have the PIN.

At 5:25 p.m., after making those admissions, appellant asked to use the bathroom down the hall. Williams entered the code to open the interview room door and allowed appellant to walk down the hall to the bathroom by himself. The bathroom was located near the building's exit, which was not locked. It is not clear from the record whether appellant knew it or not, but as Kauffman later testified, "there was nothing to stop him" from leaving the police station at that time. When appellant returned to the interview room, Williams again offered to get him something to eat or drink, which he declined. At 6:10 p.m., following additional probing by Williams of appellant's account, Kauffman entered the room with a large pizza. Appellant was offered some pizza but did not take any of it.

Williams then asked appellant if he would agree to make a formal statement, which could either be transcribed on a typewriter or videotaped. Appellant agreed and chose to be videotaped. The taping began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted 55 minutes. Appellant repeated his earlier statements about the theft, explaining that he was in need of money and saw an opportunity to get some fast. He denied going to Batchelor's house on Sunday or having anything to do with her death. Appellant confirmed he had come to the police station voluntarily; no one had threatened or forced him to make a statement; he had been offered food and drink; he had been able to leave the room and go to the bathroom on his own; he was not under the influence of drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol; and he had completed the 11th grade and could read and write.

The Second Confession

While appellant was being videotaped, his parents, Irene and Clarence Perry, arrived at the station. They had not been summoned, but came on their own initiative. Williams met with them, told them appellant had been photographed using Batchelor's credit card, and said he did not believe appellant was being completely truthful. Appellant's mother asked to speak with her son. At 8:25 p.m., Williams escorted her into the interview room and left her alone with him. Appellant and his mother spoke privately for one...

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    ...to consider in evaluating whether a reasonable person would believe he or she was free to leave. See id.; Graham v. United States, 950 A.2d 717, 730–31 (D.C.2008); State v. Champion, 533 N.W.2d 40, 43 (Minn.1995).The court stated that “the severity of the crime confessed to affects the weig......
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    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Suppressing Criminal Evidence Confessions and other statements
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    ...is questioned by a relative acting on their own without “scripting, guidance or encouragement from the police.” Graham v. United States , 950 A.2d 717,735 (D.C. C.A. 2008); U.S. ex rel. Church v. DeRobertis , 771 F.2d 1015 (7th Cir.1985). However, Miranda was violated when an off-duty deput......
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    ...is questioned by a relative acting on their own without “script-ing, guidance or encouragement from the police.” Graham v. United States , 950 A.2d 717,735 (D.C. C.A. 2008); U.S. ex rel. Church v. DeRobertis , 771 F.2d 1015 (7th Cir.1985). However Miranda was violated when an o൵-duty deputy......
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