State v. DeWeese, No. 30733.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtDAVIS, Justice
Citation213 W.Va. 339,582 S.E.2d 786
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia Plaintiff Below, Appellee, v. Millard J. DeWEESE, Defendant Below, Appellant.
Decision Date15 April 2003
Docket NumberNo. 30733.

582 S.E.2d 786
213 W.Va.

STATE of West Virginia Plaintiff Below, Appellee,
Millard J. DeWEESE, Defendant Below, Appellant

No. 30733.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted March 11, 2003.

Decided April 15, 2003.

Dissenting Opinion of Justice Maynard July 2, 2003.

582 S.E.2d 789
Rodney C. Windom, Paul V. Morrison, II, Judith A. Isner, Harrisville, for the Appellant

Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Attorney General, Allen H. Loughry, II, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Charleston, for the Appellee.

582 S.E.2d 787

582 S.E.2d 788
DAVIS, Justice

Millard J. DeWeese, appellant/defendant below (hereinafter referred to as "Mr. DeWeese"), appeals his felony-murder conviction decided by a jury in the Circuit Court of Ritchie County. The circuit court sentenced Mr. DeWeese to life imprisonment without mercy. Here, Mr. DeWeese assigns error to (1) the admission of statements he made prior to being presented to a magistrate, (2) the admission of statements made during the course of two polygraph examinations, and (3) the manner in which a hearing was held to investigate alleged juror misconduct.1 After a careful review of the briefs and record, and having heard the oral arguments of the parties, we reverse the conviction and sentence, and remand this case for a new trial.



On the afternoon of August 30, 1999, Mr. DeWeese's stepdaughter, Josephine Spears, and her friend Crystal Trader, both approximately fifteen years old, went to the residence of the fifty year old victim in this case, Paul Rollins. The girls wanted to buy drugs. Mr. Rollins was at his home drinking beer with two companions when the girls arrived. One of Mr. Rollins' companions offered money to one of the girls if she would perform oral sex on him. The offer was declined. Crystal eventually purchased six green pills from Mr. Rollins.2 After the pills were purchased, both girls proceeded to the DeWeese home where they later consumed wine and beer. After consuming the wine and beer, Crystal became ill and began vomiting.

Several people were at the DeWeese home when the girls returned. Among those present was Lee Lawrence, a former boyfriend of Crystal's. Also present was Crystal's brother, Robert Trader. After Crystal became ill, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Trader were told that she had taken pills purchased from Mr. Rollins. The two young men were also told that Mr. Rollins had propositioned both girls for oral sex. Lee Lawrence and an unidentified person went to Mr. Rollins' home to confront him about the allegations.

Lee Lawrence and his companion found Mr. Rollins at home drinking beer with a guest, Mike Slater. A verbal dispute erupted between Lee Lawrence and Mr. Rollins. Lee Lawrence threatened to kill Mr. Rollins if Crystal died because of the pills. Mike Slater was apparently able to calm things down and suggested that everyone go to the DeWeese home to check on Crystal's condition.

Once the four men arrived at the DeWeese home they learned that Crystal's condition had improved. It appeared she would be fine. However, a dispute flared outside the DeWeese home between Mr. Rollins and Robert Trader. During the verbal confrontation, Robert Trader punched Mr. Rollins on the left side of his face. The blow rendered Mr. Rollins unconscious. No further physical attacks occurred. Mike Slater subsequently placed Mr. Rollins on his shoulder and carried him home.

When Mr. Slater arrived at Mr. Rollins' home, he placed Mr. Rollins on the front porch. Mr. Slater then returned to the DeWeese home where he stayed for approximately one hour. Mr. Slater then returned to check on Mr. Rollins, and found him lying on a couch in his living room. Mr. Rollins had no recollection of his encounter with Mr. Trader. In fact, Mr. Slater explained to Mr. Rollins that he had been hit and knocked unconscious. Mr. Slater observed that Mr. Rollins' eye was beginning to swell and he joked that Mr. Rollins would "have a real nice shiner tomorrow." Mr. Slater then left and went to the nearby home of another

582 S.E.2d 790
friend, but returned briefly to check on Mr. Rollins.

Later, sometime between 2:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., Mr. DeWeese, Mr. Lawrence, and Mr. Trader went to Mr. Rollins' home. The three men broke into Mr. Rollins' home and found him sleeping in bed. They proceeded to beat him. During Mr. DeWeese's trial, the evidence was conflicting as to the extent to which each man actually beat Mr. Rollins.3 The record is clear, however, in demonstrating that all three men did in fact assault Mr. Rollins. When the beating ended, all three men left the home.

After the three men left, Mr. Slater again returned to Mr. Rollins' home. During the trial, Mr. Slater testified that he found Mr. Rollins in a badly beaten condition. His face was swollen and he was having trouble breathing. Mr. Slater summoned emergency medical technicians (EMTs). When the EMTs arrived they examined Mr. Rollins and requested that he permit them to take him to a hospital. He refused. The EMTs left an ice pack for Mr. Rollins and then departed. Mr. Slater stayed with Mr. Rollins until sometime after daybreak. Mr. Slater testified that Mr. Rollins was alive when he left the home. At about 11:00 a.m., Mr. Slater was advised that Mr. Rollins was dead.4

Shortly after authorities learned of Mr. Rollins' death, arrest warrants were issued for Mr. DeWeese, Mr. Lawrence, and Mr. Trader. At 4:00 a.m., on September 2, 1999, Mr. DeWeese was arrested at his mother-in-law's home in Huntington. Mr. DeWeese was taken to the Cabell County jail pending transfer to Ritchie County. While at the Cabell County jail, Mr. DeWeese was given Miranda warnings. He subsequently gave a statement denying any involvement in Mr. Rollins' death. Mr. DeWeese was not taken before a magistrate while he was being held by Cabell County officials.

At 5:00 p.m. on September 2, a State Trooper picked up Mr. DeWeese and transported him to the State Police Detachment in Harrisville, Ritchie County. The Trooper arrived with Mr. DeWeese at about 8:00 p.m. Mr. DeWeese was interrogated upon his arrival in Harrisville. He gave a statement implicating his involvement in the beating of Mr. Rollins. The statement, which was recorded, was concluded at 9:30 p.m. At about 10:45 a.m. the next morning, Mr. DeWeese was presented for the very first time to a magistrate. He remained in custody and, on September 9, 1999, he submitted to two consecutive polygraph examinations. During the examinations, he gave additional incriminating statements about his role in the beating of Mr. Rollins.5

Mr. DeWeese ultimately was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Mr. Rollins. He was tried before a jury in August, 2000. A mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. A second trial began on March 26, 2001. On April 3, 2001, the jury returned a verdict of felony-murder, without mercy.6 Mr. DeWeese filed a motion for a new trial. His motion was denied. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. From these rulings, Mr. DeWeese now appeals.



Mr. DeWeese's appeal is from the circuit court's order denying his motion for a new trial. Our general standard for reviewing such a case has been stated as follows:

In reviewing challenges to findings and rulings made by a circuit court, we apply a two-pronged deferential standard of review. We review the rulings of the circuit

582 S.E.2d 791
court concerning a new trial and its conclusion as to the existence of reversible error under an abuse of discretion standard, and we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard. Questions of law are subject to a de novo review.

Syl. pt. 3, State v. Vance, 207 W.Va. 640, 535 S.E.2d 484 (2000). See also, State v. Crouch, 191 W.Va. 272, 275, 445 S.E.2d 213, 216 (1994) ("The question of whether a new trial should be granted is within the discretion of the trial court and is reviewable only in the case of abuse." (citation omitted)).

The dispositive issues raised in Mr. DeWeese's appeal concern the trial court's denial of his pretrial motion to suppress statements given while in custody. In Syllabus point 1 of State v. Lacy, 196 W.Va. 104, 468 S.E.2d 719 (1996), we set out the standard of review of a circuit court's ruling on a motion to suppress:

When reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, an appellate court should construe all facts in the light most favorable to the State, as it was the prevailing party below. Because of the highly fact-specific nature of a motion to suppress, particular deference is given to the findings of the circuit court because it had the opportunity to observe the witnesses and to hear testimony on the issues. Therefore, the circuit court's factual findings are reviewed for clear error.

It has also been held by this Court that "we review de novo questions of law and the circuit court's ultimate conclusion as to the constitutionality of the law enforcement action." State v. Lilly, 194 W.Va. 595, 600, 461 S.E.2d 101, 106 (1995).



A. Prompt Presentment

The first issue presented by Mr. DeWeese concerns the incriminating statements he made prior to being taken to a magistrate. Mr. DeWeese asserts these statements should have been suppressed as they were obtained in violation of the prompt presentment rule.

Our prompt presentment rule is contained in W. Va.Code § 62-1-5(a)(1) (1997) (Repl. Vol.2000) and provides in relevant part:

An officer making an arrest under a warrant issued upon a complaint ..., shall take the arrested person without unnecessary delay before a magistrate of the county where the arrest is made.

See also, W. Va. R.Crim. P. 5(a) ("An officer making an arrest under a warrant issued upon a complaint ... shall take the arrested person without unnecessary delay before a magistrate within the county where the arrest is made."). In Syllabus point 1...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT