State v. Gill, ED 109852

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtJohn P. Torbitzky, J.
Citation642 S.W.3d 356
Parties STATE of Missouri, Appellant, v. Paul E. GILL, Respondent.
Docket NumberED 109852
Decision Date22 March 2022

642 S.W.3d 356

STATE of Missouri, Appellant,
v.
Paul E. GILL, Respondent.

No. ED 109852

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION ONE.

Filed: March 22, 2022


Douglas S. Pribble, PO Box 100, Hillsboro, MO 63050, Kristen S. Johnson, Garrick Aplin, PO Box 899, Jefferson City, MO 65102, for appellant.

W. Scott Rose, Lea Neilson, 10820 Sunset Office Drive, Ste. 123, Saint Louis, MO 63127, for respondent.

John P. Torbitzky, J.

Introduction

The State charged Respondent Paul Gill with one count of possession of a controlled substance under § 579.015 after officers found methamphetamine in his work bag. Officers discovered the evidence after Gill called 911 to report the sudden death of his friend in an Arnold, Missouri hotel room. Gill sought dismissal of the charges under § 195.205, commonly referred to as the Good Samaritan Law. That statute provides immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain enumerated offenses to anyone who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for a person experiencing a drug overdose or other medical emergency. The State's opposition to Gill's motion primarily argued that Gill did not seek medical assistance in good faith.

The circuit court granted Gill's motion to dismiss. In doing so, the circuit court committed two errors that require reversal. First, the circuit court's written ruling placed the burden of persuasion for the non-application of § 195.205 on the State. But sections 579.015 and 579.180 direct that the defendant bears the burden to produce evidence of defenses found in Chapter 195. Second, the circuit court narrowed § 195.205's good faith requirement to include only the caller's subjective intent at the time of the call for help. But good faith under § 195.205 requires an analysis of the circumstances surrounding the seeking of aid, including any delay in calling for medical assistance.

The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On February 23, 2021, the State charged Gill with possession of a controlled substance in violation of § 579.015. The probable cause statement supporting the information stated that, on May 5, 2020, officers from the Arnold Police Department responded to a hotel for a reported sudden death. Upon arrival, the officers found Gill and the body of a deceased 25-year-old man. The Arnold Police initially treated the death as suspicious until an autopsy determined that the victim had died from an overdose.

Gill told the responding officers that he and the victim had been sharing the room for a couple of days. Gill also told the officers that all of the victim's personal belongings were in Gill's car, which was parked in the hotel parking lot. Gill then showed the officers to his car, where one officer saw a pipe outside of the driver's side door that he recognized as being a type used to smoke methamphetamine. After obtaining Gill's written consent, the officers searched his car. In the course of the search, the officers found a bag containing several pills and a crystal rock, which the officers believed to be methamphetamine. When presented with the bag, Gill identified it as his work bag and confirmed

642 S.W.3d 358

that the contents of the bag belonged to him. The Missouri Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory tested the crystal and confirmed it to be methamphetamine.

On June 16, 2021, Gill filed a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing that prosecution was barred by the Good Samaritan Law. Gill did not submit an affidavit in support of his motion or request an evidentiary hearing. Rather, Gill asserted that no evidentiary hearing was necessary because his motion relied on the State's version of the facts. Gill argued that the facts show he called for medical assistance in good faith and was immune from prosecution.

The circuit court held a hearing on the motion on June 24, 2021. The parties presented argument at the hearing, but presented no evidence. After the hearing, the circuit court directed the State to file a response to the motion to dismiss setting out the facts the State would present at an evidentiary hearing. The court also allowed Gill to file a reply.

The State filed its response in accordance with the court's order, arguing that Gill's call for help was not made in good faith. The State primarily argued that the evidence demonstrated that there was a significant delay between when Gill first discovered that the victim was in distress and when Gill finally called for medical assistance. The State argued that, during the delay, Gill attempted to hide evidence, cleaned the room, and cleaned the victim's body. In support, the State attached several excerpts from the police report made during the investigation into the victim's death. According to the State's response, on the day that the victim died, surveillance video in the hotel showed both Gill and the victim leaving and returning to the hotel room between 10:00 and 11:30am. This was the last time the victim was seen alive. The video then showed that, at 2:00pm, Gill and an unidentified man left the room and exited the hotel carrying bags. Gill returned later, alone and empty handed. Over the next several hours, Gill left and returned to the room several more times. Gill carried another bag out of the hotel room and returned without it. At 5:17 pm, Gill carried yet another bag out of the room. A few minutes later, an unidentified woman entered the room using a key card.

Gill did not call 911 until 5:28 p.m. It is unclear from the record what Gill told the 911 operator, but the police report states that officers responded for a call of a non-responsive person, a person who was not breathing, and a suspicious death. When police arrived, they found the victim naked and lying flat on his back. Officers observed a brown liquid on a pillow and the floor that appeared to have come from the victim. Multiple officers noted that livor mortis was visible on the victim's right arm and back, which indicated to the officers that the victim had been dead for hours before Gill called for help. One officer noted that the lividity was inconsistent with the position of the victim, indicating that the body had been moved after lividity had set in.

Police also noted that it appeared that the hotel room had been cleaned, that the victim's body had been cleaned, and that Gill was aware that the victim was in distress long before calling for help. One officer noted that the hotel room appeared generally clean with wet towels located under the bathroom sink. He also found wet clothes belonging to the victim inside of a sink in the room. All of the luggage had also been removed from the room and placed in Gill's car, including a bag that contained the victim's cellphone and wallet. Underneath the front seat of Gill's car, officers found wet clothing belonging to the victim. This included a pair of the victim's underwear covered with a brown and red color that was consistent with the

642 S.W.3d 359

liquid that came from the victim's mouth and nose.

The police report showed that Gill attempted to conceal the victim's drug use from the police. Gill told multiple officers that the victim had not used drugs while they were together, at times stating that he did not believe the victim had used drugs for months or even years. Gill repeatedly told officers that Gill had only been drinking that day. Eventually, Gill admitted that he and the victim had used methamphetamine in the hotel room, and he blamed his poor memory of events on the drug use.

The police report also contained inconsistent accounts from Gill regarding the events leading up to his 911 call and his relationship to the victim. Most problematically, Gill gave inconsistent accounts regarding when he knew that the victim was in distress and how long the victim had been dead. This included giving multiple versions of events during the course of one officer's interview. Gill told some officers that he did not realize that the victim was in distress until shortly before he called 911. He told other officers that he knew the victim was dead as soon as Gill woke up, and he had observed rigor mortis setting in on the body. In one account, Gill, who had training as a paramedic, said that he saw that the victim was breathing bloody bubbles from his mouth and nose, but he did not call 911 then because he believed the victim to be alive. In another account, Gill said that he may have wiped blood from the victim's mouth, and that he called 911 when the victim was still breathing bloody bubbles.

Gill also gave conflicting statements about what he and the victim had done that day. He also told officers that the victim had gone to sleep in a location that was different from where officers found him, but Gill denied moving the body. Gill did not tell officers that anyone else had been in the hotel room with him and the victim, though their presence was clearly shown on surveillance video. Gill initially told officers that he and the victim were merely co-workers, then later stated that they were in a relationship.

Following additional briefing from Gill, the circuit court dismissed the charge. In doing so, it ruled that the Good Samaritan Law's requirement of good faith was limited to the...

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