State v. Bennett

Decision Date18 July 1984
Docket NumberNo. KA,KA
Citation454 So.2d 1165
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US
PartiesSTATE of Louisiana v. Dedrick BENNETT. 83 1447.

Ossie B. Brown, Dist. Atty., by Joseph Lotwick, Asst. Dist. Atty., Baton Rouge, for plaintiff-appellee.

Kathleen S. Richey, Asst. Public Defender, Baton Rouge, for defendant-appellant.


LANIER, Judge.

Dedrick Bennett was charged by grand jury indictment with two counts of first degree murder in violation of La.R.S. 14:30. He pled not guilty, was tried by a jury and was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder in violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1. He was sentenced to serve life at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections on each count, and the court specified that the sentences were to run consecutively with each other and consecutively to any other sentence that Bennett was then serving.


Between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. on December 12, 1981, an armed robbery was committed at the 7-11 Store located at 5288 Lavey Lane in Baker, Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During the course of the armed robbery, Deputy Michael W. Ritchie of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and Ronald Robique, the store clerk, were killed.


(Assignment of Error 2)

Bennett contends that his confession was not free and voluntary and was the product of fear, duress, intimidation, threats and promises.

Sergeant Bobby Dale Callender of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office testified that he was involved in the investigation of this case from its beginning on December 12, 1981. On May 24, 1982, he secured a warrant for the arrest of Bennett. Bennett was arrested at approximately 1:30 a.m. on May 25, 1982, at a residence in Scotlandville by Officer Steve Doener. Officer Doener was assisted by Officers Jay Thompson, Joey Booth and David Denicola. Bennett was brought to the Scotlandville substation where he was turned over to Callender and Captain Silas Geralds of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. Callender and Geralds then took Bennett to the courthouse where he was placed in a room in the narcotics office. Callender orally advised Bennett of his rights when he was put in the police unit. Callender also told Bennett he was arrested for armed robbery and murder at the 7-11 on Lavey where Deputy Ritchie and Clerk Robique were killed. Bennett was not questioned in the police unit. After arriving at the courthouse, Callender got a Miranda rights form, filled it out and read it to Bennett. Geralds was a witness to this. Bennett said he understood his rights and signed the form at 2:13 a.m. Bennett did not request to speak with a lawyer and agreed to answer questions. Bennett was not impaired by alcohol, drugs or illness. No promises were made and no force or threats were used. Neither Callender nor Geralds left during the questioning. Callender asked Bennett to tell him about the robbery and Bennett did. Callender asked Bennett if he would give a taped statement and Bennett consented. Callender again read Bennett his rights at the start of the taped statement. After the taped statement was completed, Callender attempted to play it back and discovered that the tape was inaudible. Callender asked Bennett to make a second taped statement and Bennett agreed. Callender again advised Bennett of his Miranda rights at the commencement of the second taped statement. Callender never talked to Bennett again after taking the second taped statement. Lieutenant Cecil Jarreau was present for the second taped statement. All of the answers given by Bennett were freely and voluntarily made. The door to the room where the statements were taken was shut during interrogation. Bennett never refused to answer questions. Bennett did not ask to speak to his mother. Callender opened the door to the room and walked out in the hall of the narcotics office to get a tape recorder but never left the narcotics office. Callender did not discuss other robberies with Bennett. Deputy Ritchie (who was killed in the robbery) was Callender's cousin.

Captain Silas Geralds testified that Bennett was arrested on May 25, 1982, on Morganza Street. He was present when Callender gave Bennett his Miranda rights. Officer Jarreau came in the room for taking the second taped statement. Geralds did not discuss a lawyer with Bennett. No one discussed the death penalty with Bennett in Geralds' presence. There were other deputies in the narcotics office, but they did not come in the room where Bennett was being interrogated. Geralds never left the room during questioning, and no one entered the room during questioning. The only three people who talked to Bennett were Callender, Jarreau and himself.

Dedrick Bennett testified he was arrested on Morganza Avenue by officers in three police vehicles. He was not told what he was arrested for or advised of his rights. Sergeant Callender and another deputy took him to the Scotlandville substation. Callender and Geralds then took him from the substation to the courthouse and put him in a small room with two desks. Bennett heard people talking next door to the room in which he was located. Geralds told him he was charged with armed robbery and two counts of murder. Bennett asked for a lawyer, and Callender told him he could have one appointed when he went to court in the morning. Bennett asked to speak to his mother before questioning, and Geralds told him he could not because he had already talked to her. Callender and Geralds left the room. While they were gone, two deputies came in the room with Bennett. One had blonde hair, a blonde mustache, glasses, cowboy boots, jeans and was approximately 5'8"" tall. The other deputy had on a blue suit. The blonde deputy asked Bennett if he wanted to take a test (apparently a polygraph test). He also talked to Bennett about a robbery of a lady and the murders of two ladies in a laundromat. The deputy in the blue suit had some pictures (apparently artist sketches) which he showed to Bennett. These conversations lasted approximately thirty minutes. Callender and Geralds returned to the room but left again. Another deputy came into the room, put his leg on top of the desk and asked Bennett if he knew about the robbery. This deputy asked Bennett to cooperate. Bennett told him he did not know anything about the robbery, and the deputy then asked him if he would rather burn up in the electric chair. Bennett did not remember what this deputy looked like. This conversation lasted about twenty minutes. Callender and Geralds then came back in the room. Geralds again left, and Callender took Bennett to a room with packages in it. In this second room, Callender told Bennett that it was his cousin who was killed in the robbery (Deputy Ritchie). Callender also told Bennett that if he told the truth he would help him. Callender asked Bennett if he wanted to get burned in the electric chair. Callender then brought Bennett back to the first room. Bennett thought about what everyone told him and decided to give a statement. Bennett kept telling the officers he did not do it, but they said he did. Callender and Geralds started questioning Bennett without advising him of his rights. Bennett did not sign the Advice of Rights form until after he gave his first statement. He did not know what the form was and thought it was a paper saying he was arrested. After the first taped statement, Bennett did not talk to anyone. He asked for a lawyer and to speak to his mother. After the first statement, Bennett was put in a cell. Bennett was taken out of the cell to give the second taped statement. The sun had come up by the time he made the second taped statement. During the course of one of the interrogations, Geralds left the room and went to the other side of the narcotics office where other deputies were located. Subsequently, Geralds and Callender told Bennett that the other deputies were mad because of Deputy Ritchie's death. Also, during one of the interrogations, Geralds told Bennett that he would help him with the grand jury. The deputy in the blue suit was present for the second statement.

Sergeant Callender was recalled for rebuttal testimony. He testified that, during the entire interrogation of Bennett, he never left Bennett except to step into the hall momentarily. No one else was involved in the interrogation process except Geralds, Jarreau and himself. Callender went into the hall for a few minutes to get a tape recorder. It was not possible for someone to go into the room, close the door and interrogate Bennett without him knowing of it. No one else went in. Bennett never asked for a lawyer. Callender explained the Advice of Rights form to Bennett, and Bennett signed it before the interrogation started. The time between going to the narcotics office and starting the first taped statement was less than an hour. Callender did not tell Bennett that he would talk to the grand jury for him. After the first taped statement, Bennett asked Callender and Geralds if they would help, and Callender said "I don't know if we can help you." Callender did not interrogate Bennett by himself in another room.

Lieutenant Cecil Jarreau, Jr. of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office was also called as a rebuttal witness. Jarreau testified that he sat in on taking the second taped statement commencing at 3:30 a.m. on May 25, 1982. The first taped interview had started when he arrived at the narcotics office. He waited outside the interrogation room while the first statement was being taken. Callender came out of the room and said that the first tape did not come out so good and that he wanted to take a second tape. Jarreau went into the room for the second taped statement. Jarreau had no conversation with Bennett until the second taped statement. Jarreau never saw Bennett...

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