State v. Lindsey, 81-KA-0028

CourtSupreme Court of Louisiana
Citation404 So.2d 466
Docket NumberNo. 81-KA-0028,81-KA-0028
PartiesSTATE of Louisiana v. Tyronne LINDSEY.
Decision Date08 September 1981

Page 466

404 So.2d 466
STATE of Louisiana
Tyronne LINDSEY.
No. 81-KA-0028.
Supreme Court of Louisiana.
Sept. 8, 1981.

Page 469

William J. Guste, Jr., Atty. Gen., Barbara Rutledge, Asst. Atty. Gen., John M. Mamoulides, Dist. Atty., Abbott Reeves, Philip J. Boudousque, Asst. Dist. Attys., for plaintiff-appellee.

William Noland, Lawrence J. Boasso, New Orleans, for defendant-appellant.

BLANCHE, Justice.

Defendant Tyronne Lindsey was indicted by the Jefferson Parish Grand Jury on February 15, 1980 for the first degree murder of Earline B. Kidner, a violation of R.S. 14:30. On April 1, 1980, the defendant, attended by counsel, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Defendant then filed a motion to suppress his confession and to suppress any identifications made of him. The motion to suppress the confession was denied on June 20, 1980; the motion to suppress identifications was denied on the morning of trial, July 14, 1980. Trial concluded on the evening of July 15, 1980, at which time the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding the defendant guilty as charged; the same jury unanimously recommended the death penalty in the sentencing phase of the proceeding. The defendant filed a motion for a new trial on July 21, 1980, which motion was denied the same day. The defendant was then sentenced to death by electrocution. The matter is now before this Court on appeal by the defendant in which he assigns 27 errors as grounds for reversal of his conviction and sentence.


On the evening of December 19, 1979 at approximately 7:30, John Knoph and Steven Birks were preparing to exit the Oakwood Shopping Center located in Jefferson Parish. The two men had just exited the mall and were walking in the parking lot toward their car when they heard low muffled screams behind them. Sensing that something was wrong, the men began walking back toward the mall. They isolated the direction of the scream to a narrow space between two parked cars. The passenger door on one of the cars was opened and facing them. As they watched, the head of a man, later identified as that of the defendant, popped up and was visible through the passenger door window. Suddenly, the man ducked down and ran toward the back

Page 470

of the car and then began running down the parking aisle. Then a woman, later identified as the victim, stood and ran from the same spot. Knoph, assuming the woman was not seriously injured, began running down the next aisle parallel to the man and Birks ran between parked cars to get into the same aisle as the man. The man then turned and pointed a pistol at Knoph. Knoph and Birks retired from the chase and the man escaped. When they returned to examine the woman, they discovered that she had been shot in the back.

The woman, Earline Kidner, died of a gunshot wound to the back on December 20, 1979.

Based on photographic lineup identification by Knoph, the defendant was arrested for murder. On January 3, 1980, Edward Beckendorf of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office obtained a statement from Tyronne Lindsey in which he admitted his complicity in a scheme to rob Oakwood Shopping Center patrons but claimed that someone named "Sidney" shot Earline Kidner. Defendant was subsequently charged, tried and convicted as set out more fully above.

At trial, defendant presented an alibi defense, attempting to show that he was at his girlfriend's apartment on the evening of the murder.


Argument Number 1 (Assignment of Error Number 4)

By this assignment the defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress inculpatory statements. He contends that the statements were not free and voluntary and, alternatively, that they were the product of an unlawful arrest.


The defendant argues that he suffers from diminished mental capacity and that, because of this, he was overcome by psychological coercion which thereby rendered his statements involuntary.

The record shows that the defendant was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, R.S. 14:95.1, at 5:21 a. m. on January 3, 1980 by an officer of the New Orleans Harbor Police. He was transported to Harbor Police headquarters. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office was then informed of the detention. 1

About 9:50 a. m. on the morning of the arrest, Detective O'Neil DeNoux of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office (JPSO) arrived at the Harbor Police station to question the defendant concerning the homicide. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Detective DeNoux testified as follows: He filled out a "Rights of Arrestee or Suspect" form with biographical information about the defendant and information about the charge being investigated. He then read the form to the defendant, including each Miranda right. The defendant then printed his initials next to each listed right and signed a statement on the form which indicated that he read the statement of his rights. In addition, the defendant signed a waiver of rights contained on the same form which states that the defendant is aware of his rights and is willing to make a statement and answer questions. DeNoux then began to talk with the defendant but an unspecified interruption prevented the completion of the conversation. Thus, no statement was obtained as a result of this questioning.

At about 1:00 p. m. on the same day, Edward Beckendorf of the JPSO Robbery Division went to the Harbor Police station to further question the defendant. His testimony at the suppression hearing was essentially as follows: He personally informed defendant Lindsey of his Miranda rights. The defendant indicated to Beckendorf that he understood his rights and had no objections to Beckendorf's conversing with him further. Beckendorf then told Lindsey that the police were investigating a murder in the Oakwood Shopping Center and asked him if he knew anything about it; the defendant said "no." Shortly thereafter,

Page 471

a detective brought one Joe Smith, an acquaintance of Lindsey, into the room where he and Beckendorf were seated. After this confrontation, Lindsey became extremely distressed and he started crying and told Beckendorf that he was being unjustly accused of murder. Beckendorf told Lindsey to relax, left the room for about fifteen to twenty minutes, then returned to find defendant still upset. At this point, Beckendorf told Lindsey that if he was being unjustly accused, he should give a statement about what he knew "so we could straighten out what actually happened concerning the murder." Lindsey indicated that he would like to tell his story whereupon Beckendorf again informed the defendant of his Miranda rights. On this occasion, Beckendorf read defendant his rights off a printed form which he asked the defendant to sign. Lindsey indicated that he could not sign it due to his inability to read or write. He then made a twenty-minute taped statement. A second statement was made a short time later. 2 Beckendorf stated that at no time was the defendant abused, threatened, or offered inducements; nor did defendant indicate that he was so distraught as to not comprehend his situation. Based on this testimony, the trial judge denied the motion to suppress the confession.

Subsequent to defendant's conviction and sentencing, Drs. Genevieve A. Arneson and Albert B. DeVillier were ordered by the trial court to examine the defendant pursuant to the preparation of a Uniform Capital Sentencing Report. Dr. Arneson found the 22 year old defendant to be illiterate except for the ability to write "a little." She noted a history of drug abuse, that the defendant's thinking was extremely simple and concrete, and hypothesized that his IQ was approximately 50. She concluded by noting that while defendant was retarded, he was able to distinguish right from wrong and could cooperate intelligently in his own defense. Dr. DeVillier found the defendant able to read and write his name and simple words. He also noted a history of drug abuse, found the defendant's thinking simple and concrete, and hypothesized that defendant's IQ was between 50 and 60. He concluded by classifying the defendant as mildly to moderately retarded, yet capable of distinguishing right from wrong and able to cooperate intelligently in his own defense.

The content of the defendant's statement introduced at trial was neither totally inculpatory nor totally exculpatory. By the use of a question and answer method, Detective Beckendorf was able to elicit from Lindsey that he had gone to Oakwood Shopping Center with three friends in order to steal a purse. Lindsey insisted that he refrained from taking any action in furtherance of the plot against the decedent. Rather, he claimed that two of his companions, one armed with a pistol, departed from the group to perpetrate a crime upon the decedent. After observing the incident and one of that pair beginning to run, the defendant claimed that he ran, too, out of fear that he would be suspected. He named as the murderer a man called Sidney.

The statement given by the defendant did not become inculpatory until it was contrasted with photographic and testimonial evidence that it would have been physically impossible for the defendant to have witnessed the events he described from the vantage point he claimed to have had while witnessing the events described. With his credibility concerning the exculpatory elements of his statement severely damaged, the only believable portion of the statement was that he was at or near the crime scene. When that was coupled with eyewitness identification of the defendant, the defendant's admission of presence near the crime scene gave added weight to the prosecution's case.

In order to use inculpatory or exculpatory statements of a defendant, stemming from custodial interrogation, the state must demonstrate the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. Miranda v. Arizona,

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384 U.S. 436, 86...

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