State v. Joseph, No. ED 103554

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtColleen Dolan, Judge
Citation515 S.W.3d 735
Docket NumberNo. ED 103554
Decision Date06 December 2016
Parties STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. George Edwin JOSEPH, Appellant.

515 S.W.3d 735

STATE of Missouri, Respondent,
v.
George Edwin JOSEPH, Appellant.

No. ED 103554

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION TWO .

Filed: December 6, 2016
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to Supreme Court Denied January 19, 2017
Application for Transfer Denied May 2, 2017


Rachel S. Flaster, Jefferson City, MO, for Plaintiff/Respondent.

Amy M. Bartholow, Columbia, MO, for Defendant/Appellant.

Colleen Dolan, Judge

I. Introduction

George Edwin Joseph ("Defendant") appeals his conviction for two counts of first-degree murder in violation of § 565.020 RSMo 2000 and one count of armed criminal action in violation of § 571.015 RSMo 2000.1 Defendant argues in his first two points that the trial court erred in admitting his incriminating statements because they were the product of custodial interrogation, involuntary, and in violation of Defendant's right against self-incrimination and right to counsel. Defendant argues in his third point that the trial court abused its discretion in overruling his objection to the State's question to a witness about the validity of Ferrotrace testing and he was prejudiced by the State's unsworn testimony. In his fourth point on appeal, Defendant claims he was prejudiced by the

515 S.W.3d 740

State's comments regarding deliberation during closing arguments. In his fifth point, Defendant alleges that he was prejudiced and the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on how to evaluate the evidence of Defendant's investment practices. Finally, in points six and seven, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

On the morning of May 30, 2013, at Defendant's home in Cape Girardeau, the bodies of Defendant's wife (Mary Joseph) and son (Matthew Joseph) were found in their beds, wrapped in sheets and covered by pillows, with rosaries placed on top of them. They were both shot in the back of their heads three times with bullets fired from a .22 caliber gun. There was no sign of forced entry into the home and the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies on the victims opined they died while sleeping. Defendant was found sitting by the pool, covered in blood. He later made statements to medical personnel and police officers that he had shot himself in the pool. He sustained serious injuries to his head and was taken immediately to a local hospital. He was then flown to Barnes Jewish hospital ("the hospital"), where he underwent two surgeries and was placed on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit. Police recovered a .22 caliber gun from the pool alongside a spent casing.2

On June 4, 2013, the hospital called Sergeant Don Perry ("Officer Perry")3 to inform him that Defendant had been removed from the ventilator and was able to speak. Officer Perry and Sergeant Jeff Bonham ("Officer Bonham") drove to St. Louis to interview Defendant about what occurred at his home on May 30 and collect DNA evidence. In order to visit Defendant, all persons, including the police, had to go through the hospital's security. Pursuant to the hospital's policy for crime victims, Defendant was located on a secure floor with limited outside access. The officers donned protective suits and recorded their interview with a video camera. Before the officers began questioning Defendant, he asked to speak with his attorney. Defendant repeatedly told the officers he did not want to answer any questions without his attorney, and at one point asked them to stop questioning him without his attorney present. However, the officers continued to question Defendant, and after about twenty minutes he stated: "There's nobody else involved. I'm not going to shoot anybody." The officers asked for more details about what happened but Defendant did not answer any more of their questions. He told them at one point he would get out of the hospital soon and he would talk to them with his attorney. Officer Perry stated "I don't know if you didn't want your family to go through the shame of the financial issues" to which Defendant replied, "That's what it was." The officers left Defendant after questioning him for two hours.

As the officers left, they encountered Defendant's family members and helped them gain access to Defendant's hospital room. The police informed the hospital's

515 S.W.3d 741

security who the family members were and that they needed to obtain Defendant's signature in order to proceed with burying Defendant's wife and son. Defendant's brother, Gerard Joseph, and brother-in-law, David Snell, visited him along with other family members. Mr. Snell testified he was close to Defendant, and he was one of the first people to arrive at Defendant's home on the morning of May 30 and discover the bodies of his nephew and sister-in-law. Mr. Snell testified he visited Defendant in the hospital shortly after the police left, and Defendant told him, "He had to put them in a better place" and he "was so sorry."

On June 7, 2013, Defendant was arrested when he was discharged from the hospital. He was charged with two counts of murder in the first-degree in violation of § 565.020. Defendant was also charged with one count of armed criminal action under § 571.015 for using a gun to kill Mary Joseph. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements made to the police and recorded at the hospital. Defense counsel argued that Defendant was subjected to a custodial interrogation without being read his Miranda rights in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and that the statements were involuntary under the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court found Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated and denied the motion.

On May 14, 2015, in a second pre-trial motion, Defendant again argued the statements he made to the police at the hospital should be suppressed. His counsel presented evidence that Defendant was on amnesiac medication and his brother testified Defendant was very groggy, delirious, and delusional on the day the officers questioned him. The State opposed the motion, claiming the medical records and officers' testimony indicated Defendant was conscious, coherent, and not in any pain while the officers questioned him. The court again denied Defendant's motion.

Trial was held on July 20–23, 2015, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the two counts of first-degree murder (Counts I and II) and the count of armed criminal action (Count III). Defendant filed motions for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's evidence and at the close of all the evidence, which the trial judge denied. Defendant filed a motion for new trial on August 12, 2015. On September 18, 2015, the trial court denied this motion and sentenced Defendant to life without parole on Counts I and II and to 50 years on Count III, with all three sentences to run consecutively. Defendant filed his notice of appeal on September 24, 2015.

III. Discussion

In Defendant's first and second points on appeal, he argues the trial court clearly erred in admitting his statements made at the hospital because (a) they were the product of an un-Mirandized custodial interrogation and violated Defendant's Fifth Amendment rights; (b) they were involuntary under the Fourteenth Amendment; and (c) admitting them violated Defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

a. The trial court did not clearly err in admitting Defendant's statements because they were not the product of custodial interrogation.

In his first point on appeal, Defendant argues the trial court clearly erred in admitting his statements made at the hospital because the police did not Mirandize him prior to subjecting him to a custodial interrogation, thus admitting the statements violated Defendant's Fifth Amendment rights under

515 S.W.3d 742

Miranda v. Arizona . 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

An appellate court will not reverse a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress unless the court's decision was clearly erroneous. State v. Ivy , 455 S.W.3d 13, 17 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). On appeal, this Court is limited to determining whether there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's ruling. State v. Brown , 18 S.W.3d 482, 484 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000). We consider the facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and disregard any contrary evidence and adverse inferences. Ivy, 455 S.W.3d at 18. When the issue concerns an individual's constitutional rights, this Court defers to the trial court's findings of fact, but we review the conclusions of law de novo . State v. Williams , 163 S.W.3d 522, 525 (Mo. App. E.D. 2005). Whether a suspect was in custody at the time of questioning is an issue of law we review de novo . State v. Little , 473 S.W.3d 662, 667 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).

A criminal suspect is entitled to Miranda warnings to protect his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but only when the suspect is subjected to a "custodial interrogation." Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) ;...

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2 practice notes
  • State v. Stafford, No. ED 107031
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 19 November 2019
    ...that the jury followed the trial court’s instruction to disregard evidence to which an objection was sustained. See id.; State v. Joseph, 515 S.W.3d 735, 749 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) (internal citation omitted). Viewed in the full context of the State’s case against Stafford, we do not find tha......
  • State v. Jackson, No. SD 34542
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 29 June 2017
    ...show there is a reasonable probability the verdict would have been different absent the trial court's abuse. Id. at 418. State v. Joseph, 515 S.W.3d 735, 750 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). And, "[i]n determining the propriety of the closing argument, we interpret the challenged comment in light......
2 cases
  • State v. Stafford, No. ED 107031
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 19 November 2019
    ...that the jury followed the trial court’s instruction to disregard evidence to which an objection was sustained. See id.; State v. Joseph, 515 S.W.3d 735, 749 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) (internal citation omitted). Viewed in the full context of the State’s case against Stafford, we do not find tha......
  • State v. Jackson, No. SD 34542
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 29 June 2017
    ...show there is a reasonable probability the verdict would have been different absent the trial court's abuse. Id. at 418. State v. Joseph, 515 S.W.3d 735, 750 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). And, "[i]n determining the propriety of the closing argument, we interpret the challenged comment in light......

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