State v. Williams, No. 102,950.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kansas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation279 P.3d 739
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellee, v. Felton WILLIAMS, Jr., Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 102,950.
Decision Date06 July 2012

279 P.3d 739

STATE of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Felton WILLIAMS, Jr., Appellant.

No. 102,950.

Court of Appeals of Kansas.

July 6, 2012.


Appeal from Reno District Court; Richard J. Rome, Judge.
Richard Ney, of Ney & Adams, of Wichita, for appellant.

Keith E. Schroeder, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.


Before BRUNS, P.J., McANANY and BUSER, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PER CURIAM.

Felton Williams, Jr., was convicted of second-degree intentional murder for killing Kenneth White. Williams and others fled Hutchinson after the killing and headed south. Later that morning, they were stopped in Oklahoma by Oklahoma state troopers who conducted a search of Williams' car, found a stolen weapon in the glove box, and arrested Williams and his companions.

When White's body was found in Hutchinson later that afternoon, one of the investigating officers overheard a comment that a Hi–Point 9 mm pistol was missing from White's residence. The officer recalled hearing earlier in the day that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol had arrested three men from Wichita who had a Hi–Point 9 mm pistol in their possession. The gun had been reported stolen in Hutchinson.

As a result, two Hutchinson police officers went to Oklahoma where they interviewed Williams and his companions. During the course of those interviews, Williams confessed to killing White. Williams was returned to Kansas where he repeated his confession and was charged with White's murder.

Williams moved to suppress the evidence found in the Oklahoma car search, claiming the search was unlawful. In a later motion he sought to suppress his confession, claiming it was involuntarily made. The district court denied Williams' motions. Now, on appeal, Williams claims the district court erred in denying his suppression motions and in other rulings which we will discuss in detail. First we need to provide a more detailed history of the events leading to Williams' conviction. In doing so, we refer to the testimony at the suppression hearings because that was the testimony the district court relied upon in ruling on Williams' suppression motions.

Sunday Night and Monday Morning

White spent Sunday night, August 31, 2008, celebrating the Labor Day weekend with his family and friends. His brother, Denzel White, drove him home sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Monday morning. When Denzel left his brother's residence, White was lying on a couch watching television with a Hi–Point 9 millimeter pistol on the coffee table next to him.

First Police Encounter

At about 10:30 that morning, Oklahoma State Trooper Brandon Harmon stopped Williams for speeding on I–35 in Oklahoma. Williams was driving, and Ronald Beard was also in the front seat. Aubrey Oliver was asleep in the back seat of the vehicle.

Williams did not know the name of his back-seat passenger and knew only the first name of his front seat passenger. Although neither Beard nor Oliver had identification, Harmon ran checks on their names and dates of birth, and the record checks “came back clean.” Williams initially told Harmon that he was travelling to Guthrie, Oklahoma, but later told him that he was travelling to Oklahoma City (a short distance south of Guthrie on I–35) and was thinking about going to Dallas, which is further south on I–35.

Harmon noticed an odor of alcohol on Williams, but Harmon thought Williams was capable of safely driving a vehicle. Harmon did not smell any alcohol coming from the vehicle itself and did not observe alcoholic containers or illegal drugs in plain view. Harmon did detect an odor that he associated with Black and Mild cigars coming from the vehicle. In his experience, the cigars are sometimes used in association with marijuana. Harmon stated that Williams acted nervous in conversation. Harmon intended to conduct field sobriety tests on Williams, but his investigation was cut short when Harmon left to provide support for a fellow trooper who was pursuing another vehicle in the area. Harmon gave Williams a traffic citation and told him he was free to go.

Second Police Encounter

A short time later, Williams, who continued south on I–35, turned around and located Oklahoma State Trooper Gabe Leach whose patrol car was parked in the median facing south on I–35. Williams stopped on the northbound shoulder of the highway, went over to speak to Leach, and inquired about his driver's license, which Williams apparently thought Harmon had failed to return to him in the initial traffic stop. When Williams learned that Harmon did not have his license, he drove some distance north on I–35, then made a U-turn and continued south.

Third Police Encounter

Shortly after 11 a.m., Oklahoma State Trooper Todd Hatchett observed Williams' car exit the interstate about 2 1/2 miles south of where Williams had stopped to talk to Trooper Leach. Hatchett saw Williams' car run through the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp. Hatchett also noticed that the driver and the front passenger were not wearing seat belts. Hatchett realized the vehicle was the same one he had seen stopped near Trooper Leach a few minutes earlier. Hatchett initiated a traffic stop and approached Williams' car. He noticed the odor of alcohol coming from Williams.

Hatchett contacted Trooper Harmon and asked if he had tested Williams during the first stop, and Harmon responded that he had not. Williams denied drinking anything that day and told Hatchett that the odor of alcohol was from alcohol he had consumed the night before. Hatchett did not see any signs that Williams was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

During the course of the stop, Williams kept insisting that he was running out of gas and needed to go and offered to have Hatchett look at the vehicle's fuel gauge to confirm this. Hatchett did not consider this an invitation to search the vehicle.

Troopers Harmon and Leach arrived on the scene. Harmon told Hatchett that he smelled Black and Mild cigars in the car and “guaranteed” that there were drugs in the vehicle. Hatchett then told Harmon that he was getting ready to search the vehicle or, in the alternative, Harmon could search the vehicle.

As the traffic stop was coming to an end, Hatchett asked Williams, “Do you guys have anything illegal in your vehicle?” When Williams said no, Hatchett asked if he could search the car. According to Hatchett, Williams replied:

“I am running on fumes. I'm going to the gas station. I'm going to go home. So I said okay. He said, I have been stopped three times, man.... I said, do you mind if we take a look? Uh. Yeah, I just want to go, man, and he—makes a gesture with both shoulders and right hand, pointing to his car like yes, go ahead.”

Williams did not provide Hatchett with an unequivocal verbal yes, but Hatchett understood from Williams' physical response, “[b]y his body language when I asked the question and he kind of shrugged his shoulder like this, pointed his hand skyward, right hand pointed to his car,” that he was giving Hatchett permission to search the car.


Hatchett immediately patted Williams down and ordered him to stand in the ditch. The other troopers assisted by patting down Beard and Oliver and instructing them to stand with Williams. During the search, Hatchett confiscated two firearms from the glove box of the vehicle, an H & K .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol and a High–Point 9 mm. A computer check of the serial numbers of the firearms revealed that the High–Point had been stolen. Williams, Beard, and Oliver were arrested for transporting a loaded firearm and taken into custody.

Discovery of the Homicide

Back in Hutchinson, at about 1 p.m. that same afternoon, Evan Graham called White's residence to remind him of an upcoming social event. When she was unable to reach him, she drove to White's house at about 3 p.m., where she found the back door open. She entered and found White's body. White had been shot twice. The first shot was to White's left thigh and went through his femur. The fatal shot was fired with the gun placed directly against the back of White's head. Some of the pockets in White's pants were turned inside out. The mattress on White's bed “had been kind of off the box springs.” An open gun case and another box were on the bed. Graham called White's brother, Denzel, who arrived shortly thereafter. Denzel noticed that the back door had been forced open. A flat screen television, the Hi–Point 9 mm pistol, a rifle, a set of keys, and a silver chain with a cross were missing.

Hutchinson police officers arrived and noted that the back door had been forced open. A shoeprint was visible on the outside of the door, and the molding around the doorframe was damaged. In the undisturbed pockets of White's pants the police found what appeared to be bags of marijuana, 1.77 grams of cocaine, and $670 in cash. Scales and packaging material consistent with selling drugs were found in White's kitchen.

Officer Tyson Myers was assisting with the processing of the crime scene when he overheard Sergeant Dean Harcrow mention that a Hi–Point 9 mm pistol was missing. Myers recalled that he had been working in the command center earlier that morning when he received a call from dispatch advising him that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol had arrested three men from Wichita who were found to be in possession of a Hi–Point 9 mm pistol that had been reported stolen from a Hutchinson residence 2 months earlier. The Hutchinson detectives followed up on this information and discovered that White had been living near the residence from which the 9 mm had been stolen.

Hutchinson Detective Bobby Holmquist contacted the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and spoke to Trooper Hatchett. Hatchett told Holmquist that the troopers also recovered a .40 caliber handgun in Williams' vehicle. Holmquist knew that .40 caliber shell casings had been found next to White's body. Hatchett indicated blood and brain matter had been found on the clothing of one of the men and on a handgun.

The Interrogations

The...

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