People v. Villarreal

CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado
Citation131 P.3d 1119
Docket NumberNo. 03CA2396.,03CA2396.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Henrietta VILLARREAL, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date08 September 2005
131 P.3d 1119
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Henrietta VILLARREAL, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 03CA2396.
Colorado Court of Appeals, Division V.
September 8, 2005.
Certiorari Denied April 17, 2006.*

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John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Deborah Isenberg Pratt, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

David S. Kaplan, Colorado State Public Defender, Andrea R. Manning, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.


Defendant, Henrietta Villarreal, appeals the judgments of conviction and sentences entered upon jury verdicts finding her guilty of attempted first degree murder, first degree assault, and first degree burglary, all of

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which involved the use of a deadly weapon. We affirm.

I. Facts

The victim was settling in to watch a movie when she heard a knock on her apartment door and a sound like someone fumbling with the doorknob. Upon opening the door, she was attacked by an intruder who grabbed her hair, punched her, and bit off a chunk of her ear; the intruder then drew a knife and repeatedly stabbed her in the back of the neck, the lower back, the chest, and the face, as well as her extremities. According to the victim, the intruder expressed an intent to remain on the premises until the victim died, but had a change of mind and left upon discovering that the victim was expecting the imminent arrival of a friend.

The telephone line had been cut, and the door to the apartment shut when the intruder left. The victim nonetheless managed to open the door and fall outside, where neighbors found and assisted her. Her injuries were such that, if left untreated, she could have died; as it was, she was permanently disfigured.

The victim told a law enforcement officer dispatched to the scene that her assailant was a woman. At trial, the victim identified defendant as the assailant. The victim had seen defendant before on several occasions with the victim's former boyfriend (Karl). Karl had told the victim that defendant was his cousin. Defendant was not, however, Karl's cousin: she had lived and been romantically involved with Karl for over ten years.

At trial, the victim testified that, during the assault, defendant had called her a slut and a whore, and said things like, "I'm not gonna let you take my man away from me," "We've been together for 12 years," "[Y]ou won't be seeing Karl again . . . [i]f I can help it," and (repeatedly) "I'm gonna kill you."

The police found a duplicate key on the floor of the victim's apartment. The victim had given Karl a key, which he had placed on his keyring; within a couple of weeks, however, it had disappeared, and he told the victim that defendant may have taken it.

When questioned by the police, defendant admitted knowing of Karl's affair with the victim, but indicated her belief that the affair had ended nearly four months earlier. She informed the police that she had drunk a six-pack of beer and could not remember the events of that evening. After considerable prompting by the police, however, she seemed to recall going to the victim's apartment, arguing with her, punching her, picking up a knife, and cutting the phone line.

Defendant did not testify at trial. Her defense, however, was that she was not the person who attacked the victim. No physical evidence linked her to the crime. Defendant argued that she had no motive because Karl had already "blown off" the intimate relationship with the victim four months before the attack. Karl provided testimony supportive of an alibi defense. Defendant argued that the police had cajoled her into incriminating herself, despite her problems recalling the evening of the incident.

Defendant pointed out that, on one police report, the police recorded a neighbor's description of seeing what appeared to be a male running from the scene. Defendant posited that it may have been Karl himself who attacked the victim and forced her to blame defendant. Defendant argued that Karl was motivated to deprive her (defendant) of a share of insurance proceeds from a house fire. Defendant also asserted that the victim went along with this plan out of love for Karl and a desire to have him all to herself.

The victim testified that she now regarded Karl as a "nobody." And evidence was presented that (1) even after the affair was supposedly over, the victim kept contacting Karl "on and off" at work; (2) as of the date of the attack, Karl still had items of clothing in the victim's apartment; (3) the police felt it was unnecessary to pursue other physical evidence in light of defendant's admissions; and (4) the neighbor had reported seeing either a male, or a large female, leaving the scene.

The jury found defendant guilty, and the trial court sentenced her to concurrent terms of twenty-eight years imprisonment for each of the three crimes.

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II. Voluntariness of Statements

Defendant contends that the trial court erred in not suppressing the videotaped and written statements that she gave to the police. We disagree.

On appeal, defendant asserts that (1) she could not have knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived her Miranda rights because she was not told, at the time of the interview, that the police had already secured a warrant for her arrest; and (2) her statements were involuntary because they were the product of deception, implied promises of leniency, psychological pressure, and aggressive questioning by the police.

In the trial court, however, defendant argued only that her statements should be suppressed because the police (1) deceived her by not telling her that they were executing a search warrant on her residence while they were interviewing her at the police station and (2) aggressively questioned her during the interview.

We consider only the issues raised in the trial court concerning the voluntariness of defendant's statements. See People v. Salyer, 80 P.3d 831, 835 (Colo.App.2003) (declining to consider new grounds for challenging the voluntariness of a statement).

To render a statement involuntary, coercive governmental conduct must play a significant role in inducing a confession or inculpatory statement. People v. Owens, 97 P.3d 227, 234 (Colo.App.2004). "In essence, the question at issue is whether the individual's will has been overborne." People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d 208, 211 (Colo.1998).

Whether an individual's will has been overborne depends upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the statements. See People v. Valdez, supra (listing several relevant factors for consideration); see also People v. Klausner, 74 P.3d 421, 425 (Colo. App.2003).

In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to those factual findings that are supported by competent evidence in the record, but review de novo the ultimate legal determination of whether a statement is voluntary. See People v. Cardenas, 25 P.3d 1258, 1264 (Colo.App.2000).

Here, the trial court, after reviewing the videotape twice, found:

While I suppose I was as surprised as [defense counsel] in how [defendant] was not told about a search warrant, that doesn't change — whether she was or was not told about the search warrant doesn't change the fact that she appeared voluntarily, and then after the advisory, her willingness to speak.

I do not find that her statements are a result of any duress or undue influence or coercion or any other untoward police conduct.

After reviewing the transcript of the suppression hearing and the videotape of the police interrogation, we agree with the trial court's conclusion.

The police requested that defendant go to the station for an interview. If she chose to do so, they also offered her a ride to the station, but told her that she did not have to ride with them. She agreed and rode without restraint to the station in the front seat of the police cruiser.

In our view, the record supports the trial court's conclusion that defendant willingly went to the station, and this conclusion is in no way undermined because the police did not tell her about the search warrant. Cf. Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 422, 106 S.Ct. 1135, 1141, 89 L.Ed.2d 410 (1986)(assessing validity of waiver of Miranda rights: "No doubt the additional information would have been useful to [defendant]; perhaps even it might have affected his decision to confess. But we have never read the Constitution to require that the police supply a suspect with a flow of information to help him calibrate his self-interest in deciding whether to speak or stand by his rights.").

Nor do we consider defendant to have been in custody during the interrogation simply because the police did not reveal their intent to subsequently arrest her. See People v. Matheny, 46 P.3d 453, 468 (Colo.2002).

We agree with defendant that the police were, at times, aggressive and insistent in their questioning, particularly when she

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claimed not to remember the events of the evening. But that fact alone would not render her statements involuntary. See People v. Stephenson, 56 P.3d 1112, 1120 (Colo.App.2001)(police badgering of suspect not considered coercive); People v. Joyce, 878 P.2d 48, 49-50 (Colo.App.1994)(statement not rendered involuntary because police officer indicated that he did not feel defendant was telling the truth).

Defendant was interviewed for a little over two hours in a small room by two detectives in plainclothes. One detective appeared to be armed, but not conspicuously so. Defendant was advised of her Miranda rights and indicated both her understanding of and willingness to waive such rights.

Neither detective made any threats or promises of leniency during the interrogation. The officers spoke, at all times, to defendant in a conversational tone of voice. They did not raise their voices or otherwise become confrontational with defendant. They worked to...

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    • June 29, 2017 voluntariness issues. People v. Zadra , 2013 COA 140, ¶ 26, 396 P.3d 34, aff'd , 2017 CO 18, 389 P.3d 885 ; People v. Villarreal , 131 P.3d 1119, 1123 (Colo. App. 2005), aff'd on other grounds , 2012 CO 64, 288 P.3d 125 ; People v. Vigil , 104 P.3d 258, 267 (Colo. App. 2004), aff'd in pa......
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    ...never engaged in sexual acts with A.J.—did not preclude the affirmative defense. The Attorney General's reliance on People v. Villarreal, 131 P.3d 1119, 1128 (Colo.App.2005), is misplaced. In Villarreal, the division concluded that the trial court's failure to instruct the jury sua sponte o......
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    ...stage, he waives his right to remain silent, and a court may consider what the defendant says and does not say. People v. Villarreal, 131 P.3d 1119, 1129 Here, defendant made comments during the presentence evaluation demonstrating a lack of remorse for the crimes. The trial court noted def......
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