Jones v. State, 74060.

Citation119 S.W.3d 766
Decision Date05 November 2003
Docket NumberNo. 74060.,74060.
PartiesQuintin Phillippe JONES, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

David A. Pearson, IV, Fort Worth, for appellant.

Charles M. Mallin, Helena F. Faulkner, Asst. Dist. Attys., Fort Worth, Matthew Paul, State's Attorney, Austin, for state.

Before the court en banc.

OPINION

COCHRAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by MEYERS, PRICE, HERVEY and HOLCOMB, JJ.

Appellant was convicted in February 2001 of capital murder. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a). Pursuant to the jury's answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071, §§ 2(b) and 2(e), the trial judge sentenced appellant to death. Art. 37.071 § 2(g).1 Direct appeal to this Court is automatic. Art. 37.071 § 2(h). Appellant raises sixteen points of error. We affirm.

I. Miranda violation claim.

In his first point of error, appellant claims the trial court erred by admitting into evidence at punishment a written confession taken in connection with an extraneous offense. Appellant claims that the statement was taken in violation of Miranda v. Arizona2 because he was not informed of his rights until the written statement was prepared pursuant to appellant's oral statements and appellant was about to sign it. We agree.

A. The evidence at the guilt-innocence stage.

We begin with a summary of the evidence. The victim was appellant's eighty-three-year-old great-aunt, Berthena Bryant. Despite her income of less than $500.00 a month, Bryant occasionally made small loans to various people, including appellant, and she kept a ledger recording the loans and their repayments. On September 10, 1999, Bryant told her sister, Mattie Long, that she had refused appellant's request for a loan earlier in the day. Long testified that Bryant seemed uneasy about her conversation with appellant. The next morning, Bryant's body was discovered in her home by neighbors. A bloody, broken baseball bat was recovered at the scene. Bryant's car was located a half mile from her house and her purse and wallet were found in the car. The medical examiner, Dan Konzelman, testified to the existence of defensive bruising on Bryant's wrists and arms. Konzelman also described Bryant's various abrasions bruises, and fractures, which included a broken collarbone and shoulder blade, two fractured ribs, and a fracture at the base of the skull.

Appellant was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants and for possession of a controlled substance on the same day that Bryant's body was discovered. While in custody, appellant was questioned twice about Bryant's murder by Detective Ann Gates. The first interview took place on the day he was arrested. Gates read appellant his Miranda warnings when she noticed that appellant had no reaction to the news of Bryant's death. Appellant gave a statement denying any involvement in Bryant's murder and claiming an alibi. The next day, after being informed of his rights again, appellant accompanied Gates to various locations in an effort to corroborate his alibi. That same day he took a polygraph examination.

When appellant's alibi information did not check out and the polygraph indicated deception, Gates interviewed appellant a second time. Gates again read appellant his Miranda rights, appellant agreed to waive them, and appellant gave a second written statement (the "Gates statement"). In the Gates statement appellant stated that he had "another personality" named James who lived in his head. He stated that James had started living in his head since age ten or eleven when he was molested by his brother and cousin. Appellant stated that James went to Bryant's house to steal some money. After Bryant let him in and James could not find her purse, appellant stated that James lost his temper and started hitting Bryant with a bat she kept by the door. After that, James found Bryant's purse and left in Bryant's car. Appellant stated there was $30.00 in Bryant's purse. Appellant then went to a friend's house and bought drugs with the money. He later left Bryant's car in a parking lot. Appellant does not object to the admission of the Gates statement.

B. The written statement concerning extraneous murders admitted at the punishment stage.

Appellant's complaint is directed at the admission of statements he made to Texas Ranger Lane Akin nine or ten days later in which he implicated himself in two extraneous murders that were introduced at the punishment phase of his trial. Texas Ranger Richard Johnson testified at the suppression hearing that he investigated the homicides of Marc Sanders and Clark Peoples. Sanders' and Peoples' bodies were both found in the Trinity River in Wise County in the first week of June, 1999. Based on a lead from appellant's sister Keisha Jones, Johnson and Akin obtained a search warrant for appellant's residence, which was executed in the early morning hours of September 22, 1999.

Akin left during that search to meet with appellant at the Tarrant County Jail, together with a Tarrant County Sheriff's deputy, in the early hours of the morning. Akin informed appellant that he was investigating the murders of Sanders and Peoples. Appellant admitted having known the victims, but denied any involvement in their murders. Akin then asked appellant what he would say if "they" (meaning Akin and his fellow investigators) told him that they had already talked to appellant's good friend, Ricky "Red" Roosa, and that Red had told them that appellant was the "bad guy," primarily responsible for the murders. At that point, appellant orally admitted his involvement in the two murders. As appellant confessed and described details of the offense, Akin wrote down "verbatim" what appellant said on a statement form, asking questions and transcribing the answers as they went along. The entire interview lasted about an hour-and-a-half. When appellant finished his story, Akin got up, sat down next to appellant, and went over the legal rights that appeared at the top of the written form. Then Akin and appellant read the statement together and appellant corrected mistakes, initialed revisions, and signed the statement at the bottom. Appellant's written statement (the "Akin statement") appears in the Appendix to this opinion.

C. The failure to Mirandize appellant before interrogating him led to constitutional error in the admission of his written statement at trial.

Appellant argues that Akin's failure to inform him of his rights at the outset of the interrogation violated his Fifth Amendment rights as protected by Miranda and that this violation was not harmless. The State argues that, even though appellant was not warned until after he made his oral statement, under Oregon v. Elstad,3 appellant's receipt of the required warnings before signing the Akin statement rendered it voluntary and admissible.

In Miranda, the United States Supreme Court was unequivocal in holding that an accused, held in custody, must be given the required warnings "prior to questioning."4 A failure to do so results in forfeiture of the use of any statement obtained during that interrogation by the prosecution during its case-in-chief.5

As the State points out, the failure to comply with Miranda during a custodial interrogation does not necessarily taint all subsequent confessions. In Elstad, the 18-year-old defendant was implicated in the burglary of a friend's family home in which $150,000 worth of art and furnishings were taken.6 Two local officers were dispatched to the defendant's home with an arrest warrant. They found the defendant partially dressed in his room. They asked him to dress and accompany them to the living room. One of the officers asked the defendant's mother to step into the kitchen where he informed her that they had a warrant for her son's arrest for the burglary of a neighbor's home. The other officer waited with the defendant in the living room. The officer who remained with the defendant in the living room later testified:

I sat down with Mr. Elstad and I asked him if he was aware of why Detective McAllister and myself were there to talk with him. He stated no, he had no idea why we were there. I then asked him if he knew a person by the name of Gross, and he said yes, he did, and also added that he heard that there was a robbery at the Gross house. And at that point I told Mr. Elstad that I felt he was involved in that, and he looked at me and stated, `Yes, I was there.'7

After Elstad was taken to the police station and advised of his Miranda rights, he indicated he wanted to visit with the officers. He then gave a full statement describing his involvement in the burglary.8 At trial, Elstad moved to suppress the oral statement ("I was there") and the written statement, claiming the oral statement made in response to questioning at his house "let the cat out of the bag" and tainted the later written confession as "fruit of the poisonous tree."9

The Supreme Court held that while Elstad's unwarned statement made at his home must be suppressed, the alleged "fruit" of a noncoercive violation might not be suppressed if it was given voluntarily.10 A failure to give Miranda warnings where there has not been any actual coercion or circumstances calculated to undermine the suspect's ability to exercise his free will does not so taint the process that a later voluntary and informed waiver will not be effective.11 The relevant inquiry is whether the later, properly warned statement was voluntarily made. "As in any such inquiry, the finder of fact must examine the surrounding circumstances and the entire course of police conduct with respect to the suspect in evaluating the voluntariness of" a subsequent warned statement.12

Examining "the surrounding circumstances and the entire course of police conduct with respect to [appellant] in evaluating the voluntariness" of appellant's written statement, we cannot place the Akin statement in...

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