Smith v. State, 6 Div. 229

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation466 So.2d 1026
Docket Number6 Div. 229
PartiesRichmond Clayton SMITH, alias v. STATE.
Decision Date12 February 1985

Richard S. Jaffe, Birmingham, for appellant.

Charles A. Graddick, Atty. Gen., and Thomas K. Brantley, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

TYSON, Judge.

Richmond Clayton Smith was indicted for the intentional killing of one Charles Franklin Simmons by "shooting him with a rifle and/or pistol", in violation of § 13A-6-2, Code of Alabama 1975. The jury found the appellant "guilty of murder as charged" and following a sentencing hearing, the trial court fixed punishment at 15 years in the penitentiary.

The appellant does not challenge the weight and sufficiency of the evidence. Therefore, rendering a complete statement of facts is unnecessary. The facts necessary for a discussion of the issues are set out within appellant's issues presented for this court's review.


Appellant argues that the trial court committed reversible error in failing to suppress his statement given to the investigating officers. He alleges the statement was involuntary because he was intoxicated, emotionally disturbed and severely beaten.

Charles Sharit testified that he was employed by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. On September 2, 1981, he received a dispatch that gunshots were heard in the area of apartments 503 and 504, Pinson Place Apartments. When he arrived at the apartment complex, one Charles Ellison, a resident of 507 Pinson Place Apartments, told Sharit that he heard "gunshots and then some fighting and some more gunshots coming from Apartment 503 or 504 ..." (R. 4).

Deputy Sharit, Deputy Creel and Sergeant James went up the stairway at the apartment complex and as they reached the top of the stairs the appellant stepped out of apartment 504 and said he had been shot. Appellant had blood all over his face, hands, arms and clothes. Deputy Sharit noticed the door to the apartment next to 504, apartment 503, was partially open. He looked inside and saw a man lying on the floor with blood all over him. At this time they called the paramedics. Sergeant James sat down with the appellant at appellant's kitchen table until the paramedics arrived. The paramedics cleaned the appellant up, put a bandage on a cut over appellant's eye, and left.

Sharit stated that he could smell a strong odor of alcohol on appellant's breath but he could not say whether appellant appeared to be intoxicated because of appellant's head injury. When the paramedics left, Sharit, Sergeant James, Deputy Williams and Deputy Creel took a statement from the appellant. Appellant was asked whether he wanted to give a statement and he responded that he did. The appellant was read his Miranda rights at this time. Sharit further stated that the appellant was not threatened, forced, coerced or induced into making a statement, nor was appellant promised any benefit or reward to make the statement. After the appellant gave the statement to the officers he was arrested by Sergeant House.

The appellant testified that on September 2, 1981, he was living at 504 Pinson Place Apartments. In the late night hours of September 1, 1981, and early morning hours of September 2, 1981, the appellant went to the deceased's apartment and along with several other people consumed a case and one-half of beer and a fifth of whiskey.

The appellant further testified that he remembered the police coming to his apartment and that he was injured. Appellant talked with the officers but alleged that he was "drunk". He stated that while he was in his apartment the officers did not read his "rights" to him. Appellant could not recall talking with the officers after the paramedics treated him for a cut over his eye. He further stated that he did not recall giving a statement to officers about the events that took place earlier that night.

Robert Trautwein testified that he was a fireman paramedic. On September 2, 1981, he was called to Pinson Place Apartments. Upon arriving at the apartment complex he was directed into apartment 504 where he met appellant. The appellant was bleeding from the head and asked if he had been shot. Trautwein cleaned the appellant up, bandaged a cut over the appellant's eye and checked appellant's vital signs.

Trautwein testified that he could smell alcohol on appellant's breath but that the appellant was not drunk. Appellant did appear to be confused and a little upset. (R. 86). Appellant had a slight slurring of speech but was cooperative with Trautwein. Since the appellant was okay, Trautwein began to leave the apartment. As he was leaving he heard the officers begin questioning the appellant and advising him of his Miranda rights. (R. 77).

The State must show voluntariness and a Miranda predicate in order for a statement to be deemed admissible. Thomas v. State, 373 So.2d 1149 (Ala.Crim.App.), affirmed, 373 So.2d 1167 (Ala.1979). "The voluntariness of an alleged confession is a question of law addressed to the trial court whose ruling, upon preliminary proof, will not be disturbed on appeal unless it appears to be contrary to the great weight of the evidence or is manifestly wrong. Garrison v. State, Ala.Cr.App., 372 So.2d 55 (1979). The degree of intoxication which would affect the voluntariness of a statement is a question of fact initially addressed to the trial court and, depending upon its ruling, then to the jury for its consideration. Scott v. State, Ala.Cr.App., 333 So.2d 619 (1976); Winn v. State, 44 Ala.App. 271, 207 So.2d 138 (1968)." Tice v. State, 386 So.2d 1180, 1185 (Ala.Crim.App.), cert. denied, 386 So.2d 1187 (Ala.1980).

This court stated in Boggan v. State, 455 So.2d 228 (Ala.Crim.App.1984) that "in order for intoxication to render a confession inadmissible it must amount to a 'mania' which impairs the will and mind to the extent that the person confessing is unconscious of the meaning of his words. A lesser state of intoxication will not render a confession inadmissible. Willis v. State, 342 So.2d 802 (Ala.Crim.App.1976); Tice v. State, 386 So.2d 1180 (Ala.Crim.App.1980); Palmer v. State, 401 So.2d 266 (Ala.Crim.App.1981)." Boggan, supra at 236. See also, Kendrick v. State, 444 So.2d 905 (Ala.Crim.App.1984) and Campbell v. State, 444 So.2d 913 (Ala.Crim.App.1984).

"In Palmer v. State, 401 So.2d 266, 268 (Ala.Cr.App.1981), the court held, '[W]here ample evidence, even though conflicting, exists from which the trial judge could conclude that the appellant was not intoxicated to the extent of mania, the admission of a confession for a jury's consideration is not an abuse of discretion.' In further regard to contradictory evidence at a voluntariness hearing, the court in Snider v. State, 422 So.2d 807 (Ala.Cr.App.1982), held that when conflicting evidence is presented great weight will be given to the trial court's determination of the issue." Campbell, supra at 915. See also, Kendrick, supra at 910.

The prosecution brought forth testimony which properly showed that the appellant was advised of his Miranda rights, that he had not been threatened, coerced, intimidated or promised any reward for making a statement and that he freely and voluntarily waived his rights. The record indicates that the appellant was not injured severely and that he was "okay" before he made the statement. Further, in the present case, it was not demonstrated that the appellant was so intoxicated as to be at a point of "mania". The trial judge's conclusion that the statement was voluntary was adequately supported by the facts, and the trial judge properly admitted his statement into evidence.


The appellant argues that the trial court committed reversible error in allowing into evidence matters allegedly obtained through an illegal search and seizure. He specifically argues that the search of appellant's apartment was not subject to any exception to the warrant requirement. Appellant argues that he gave officers permission to look through his apartment for any other persons that may have been there and not to search for any evidence.

The evidence on the search in question is in conflict. The defendant testified that he only gave consent to look for people. The testimony of Deputy Sharit indicated that the defendant gave his consent for the officers to search for persons and evidence. The trial judge heard the testimony outside the presence of the jury and determined that evidence obtained through the search and seizure in question was admissible. The trial judge was in a better position to resolve this conflict in the evidence and determine the facts surrounding the search and his determination will not be disturbed on this appeal. Further, the officers in this case had facts available to them which sufficiently furnished reasonable cause to go forward with the investigation and therefore search the apartment. See § 15-10-3, Code of Alabama 1975; Retowsky v. State, 333 So.2d 193 (Ala.Crim.App.1976). At the time the search was conducted, the officers knew that Charles Simmons had been killed, the appellant had given a statement indicating his involvement, and the officers knew that the incident had occurred in two locations, the apartment of the deceased and appellant's apartment nearby.

Moreover, the United States Supreme Court in Thompson v. Louisiana, 469 U.S. 17, 105 S.Ct. 409, 83 L.Ed.2d 246 (1984) held evidence in plain view may be justifiably seized when officers are on the scene conducting an investigation of a murder. Similarly, "the same doctrine may justify seizure of evidence obtained in the limited 'victim-or-suspect' search discussed in Mincey [v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 98 S.Ct. 2408, 57 L.Ed.2d 290 (1978) ]." Thompson v. Louisiana, supra at 412. Here, the evidence was discovered in plain view while the officers were attending to appellant's injuries and checking his apartment for other suspects.

The trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress.


The appellant contends that the trial...

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