People v. Humphrey

Decision Date17 April 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05SA364.,05SA364.
Citation132 P.3d 352
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Andrea HUMPHREY, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Carol Chambers, District Attorney, Daniel Plattner, Deputy District Attorney, Centennial, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

David S. Kaplan, Colorado State Public Defender, Gina K. Shimeall, Deputy State Public Defender, Daniel B. King, Deputy State Public Defender, Englewood, for Defendant-Appellee.

MARTINEZ, Justice.

The People bring this interlocutory appeal challenging the trial court's suppression of statements made by the Defendant, Andrea Humphrey, during a custodial interrogation by a police officer. The trial court found the statements were both involuntary and made pursuant to an invalid waiver of Humphrey's rights under Miranda v. Arizona. The People contend that the trial court erred as a matter of law and lacked a factual basis for its judgment. We agree with the People in part. Consequently, we reverse the ruling of the trial court in part and affirm in part.

I. Facts and Proceedings Below

On February 26, 2005, Aurora police officers, Luke Mossburgh and Anthony Guzman, responded to a call involving an assault at a residence on South Salem Street. The officers were advised that a male had been stabbed by a female who then left the scene. When the officers arrived at approximately 1:00 a.m., they found Defendant, Andrea Humphrey, a few blocks from the location of the dispatch. Humphrey was bleeding, incoherent, and in need of medical attention. After ascertaining that Humphrey was unarmed, the officers asked her several questions about what had transpired and proceeded to call for an ambulance. A trail of blood was later traced from Humphrey's location back to the Salem Street residence where the victim, Jason Johnson, was found dead from a single stab wound to the chest.

Humphrey was taken to a hospital where her injuries were treated. Humphrey was not asked any questions or interrogated en route to the hospital. At the hospital, she consented to a blood draw after receiving medical attention. She also answered basic biographical questions posed by Detective Hershel Stowell. After a four or four and a half hour hospital stay, she was released to Officer Mossburgh for transport to Aurora Police headquarters.

Blood alcohol tests revealed that Humphrey had blood alcohol levels of 0.104 at 3:24 a.m. and 0.090 at 4:27 a.m. The physician who treated Humphrey noted in his report, however, that Humphrey was "clinically sober" upon release from the hospital.

After being transported to the station, Humphrey was taken to an interview room for questioning at around 6:00 a.m. Detective Stowell conducted a custodial interrogation and Detective Tom Welton observed. Both officers were dressed in casual attire and were unarmed. Detective Stowell told Humphrey that "the interrogation was to get her side of the story."

At the time of the interview, Humphrey had not slept for over a day and appeared exhausted. Detective Stowell testified, however, that Humphrey did not appear intoxicated, did not slur her speech, did not smell of alcohol, and was responsive to interview questions. She was "more aware" than she had been previously.

Detective Stowell advised Humphrey of her Miranda rights. When Detective Stowell read each of the five advisement statements to Humphrey, she remained silent when asked if she understood each individual right, but did initial each advisement as Detective Stowell went over the advisement form. She also had an opportunity to read the form and signed it, acknowledging that she understood her rights as a whole. Finally, Humphrey verbally affirmed that she understood all of the rights previously read to her and indicated that she was willing to speak with Detective Stowell.

The custodial interrogation lasted over two hours. During that time, Humphrey was responsive to questions and did not appear confused or intoxicated. The interrogation was recorded on both video and audio tape. At no point during the interview did Humphrey request legal representation or indicate that she did not understand the nature of the rights she had waived.

Late in the interrogation, Detective Stowell informed Humphrey that the victim died. This was the first time Humphrey had been made aware of his death. She reacted strongly, collapsing into tears and hysterics. Her answers to further questions were partially incoherent.

Humphrey was charged with first degree murder and felony menacing. She moved the trial court to suppress the statements made when approached by the officers on the street. The motion was denied. Humphrey next moved the court to suppress the statements she made during the interrogation at the station. The parties did not dispute that Humphrey was in custody at the time of the interrogation, only whether Humphrey's statements were made voluntarily and whether her waiver of her Miranda rights was made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted Humphrey's motion to suppress. The People bring this interlocutory appeal challenging the decision of the trial court.

II. Trial Court Findings

In granting the defendant's motion, the trial court found Humphrey's statements following the disclosure of the victim's death were involuntary, and her waiver was invalid given the circumstances surrounding her interrogation. The court noted a number of factors in its decision:

(1) Humphrey's experience and exposure to the criminal justice system were minimal. She had no prior arrests, was unfamiliar with the proceedings, and had no friends or family present to assist her before or during the interrogation. The court was troubled that Humphrey "was told only that the interrogation was to get `her side of the story,'" and that this suggested "her statement was in her behalf and not inculpatory." Although Humphrey was aware of the subject matter of the investigation, she was not informed at the time of her Miranda advisement and waiver that she was being investigated for murder. The court found that only after learning of the victim's death did she "realize the gravity of the situation."

(2) The court noted Humphrey's age, education level, and background. At the time of her arrest, she was 19, a high school graduate, and employed.

(3) The court emphasized Humphrey's physical and emotional state at the time of the interrogation. The court noted that she "did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol," but nonetheless inferred from her earlier intoxication and blood alcohol levels that Humphrey remained impaired by alcohol. The court also considered the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma Humphrey had experienced earlier in the evening. She sustained significant injuries about her head and face from being beaten and having her head hit a counter. The court also noted her apparent exhaustion, lack of sleep, slumped posture, and the dull affect exhibited during the interrogation. However, the court also noted factors suggesting Humphrey was alert and coherent. Humphrey was able to answer questions, drew a diagram of the kitchen, and did not slur her speech when answering questions. She also "withstood constant repetition of the same questions from the officer without apparent irritation or resentment for a period of almost two hours."

(4) The court considered other factors which adversely affected Humphrey's emotional state, such as the fact that she was in custody, the length of the interrogation, her earlier hospitalization, and her distress over her car being taken without her permission.

(5) Finally, the court found the interrogation by Detective Stowell following the disclosure of the victim's death psychologically coercive. In this "post-disclosure" period, the trial court found these interrogation techniques "argumentative and suggestive of answers, mischaracterizing what the Defendant had previously said."

Taking these circumstances into account, the trial court found the prosecution failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Humphrey made a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of her Miranda rights, or that Humphrey's statements following the disclosure of the victim's death were voluntary.

Because the trial court placed significant emphasis on the psychological coercion and emotional vulnerability of Humphrey following the disclosure of the victim's death, we address the Miranda waiver and the voluntariness issue first with respect to the pre-disclosure period of the interrogation and then to the post-disclosure period. We reverse the trial court's determinations on both the Miranda waiver and the voluntariness issue with respect to the pre-disclosure period of the interrogation. Because we ultimately affirm the trial court's voluntariness determination with respect to the post-disclosure period of the interrogation, we do not find it necessary to address the Miranda waiver further.

III. Defendant's Miranda Waiver

In reviewing the trial court's determination of the validity of a Miranda waiver, we defer to the trial court's resolution of disputed facts "when the resolution is supported by competent evidence in the record." People v. Al-Yousif, 49 P.3d 1165, 1169 (Colo. 2002). Purely factual determinations by the trial court are accorded due deference. Id. However, the application of the legal standard to those facts is a question we review de novo. Id.

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the United States Supreme Court established certain guidelines to safeguard the due process rights of a suspect during a custodial interrogation. See People v. May, 859 P.2d 879, 882 (Colo.1993). These rights may be waived provided the waiver is made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Id. The validity of a defendant's waiver turns upon two elements: (1) voluntariness, that is, whether the waiver ...

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