Walton v. State, S96A1639

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Citation482 S.E.2d 330,267 Ga. 713
Docket NumberNo. S96A1639,S96A1639
Parties, 97 FCDR 890 WALTON v. The STATE.
Decision Date17 March 1997

Page 330

482 S.E.2d 330
267 Ga. 713, 97 FCDR 890

No. S96A1639.
Supreme Court of Georgia.
March 17, 1997.
Reconsideration Denied April 3, 1997.

Page 331

[267 Ga. 723] William J. Mason, Columbus, for Terry Walton.

Douglas C. Pullen, Dist. Atty., Lori L. Canfield, Asst. Dist. Atty., Columbus, Paula

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K. Smith, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., Michael J. Bowers, Atty. Gen., Department of Law, Atlanta, Margaret Elizabeth Bagley, Asst. Dist. Atty., Columbus, for State.

[267 Ga. 713] BENHAM, Chief Justice.

Appellant Terry Walton and three others were indicted for the murder of Stanley Jones, who was shot just before 11 p.m. while seated in his automobile in the parking lot of the Columbus, Georgia nursing home which employed his wife. 1 One co-indictee testified for the State in exchange for a reduction in the charge against him from murder to voluntary manslaughter. Appellant Walton and the two remaining co-indictees, Marvin and Terrence Williams, were tried together. Walton and Terrence Williams were found guilty of murder, and Marvin Williams was acquitted. Appellant Walton contends the evidence was insufficient to convict him of malice murder, the trial court erred in admitting into evidence a custodial statement, and the trial court erroneously let stand racially based peremptory challenges exercised by the State.

1. The State presented several witnesses who testified that co-defendant Terrence Williams was very angry with the victim the day Jones was killed because the victim had not paid Williams for the crack cocaine Williams had supplied him. Complaining that the victim had robbed him, Williams enlisted the aid of several friends, including his three co-indictees, to find Jones and punish him. Williams told appellant Walton and Ernest Bonner, the co-indictee who agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for his testimony, that he wanted Jones killed. Appellant told Bonner that Williams did not have enough money to have Jones killed and that he, Walton, did not wish to be paid in drugs. The group was unsuccessful in its initial efforts to find Jones and returned to Williams' residence where Bonner, Williams, and Walton cleaned 9 mm Black Talon bullets supplied by Williams. A pawnshop owner testified that he had sold a 9 mm Ruger semi-automatic pistol and 9 mm Black Talon shells to Williams. After learning that Jones would be at the nursing home that night to provide transportation for his wife, Williams drove Bonner and Walton to the nursing home parking lot. The trio parked to the left of the victim's car and appellant, the back seat passenger[267 Ga. 714] in Williams' car, fired three shots through the driver's side window of Jones' car, fatally wounding him. The trio fled the scene immediately. Three 9mm Black Talon bullets were recovered from the victim. Two or three days later, Williams gave Bonner $800 and Bonner and appellant went to Detroit, Michigan.

Williams turned himself in to police on March 30, the day arrest warrants for the trio were issued. In August 1993, Bonner was arrested in Chicago, Illinois, when police investigating a traffic accident in which he was involved discovered the outstanding murder warrant against him. Walton was arrested in Detroit shortly after Bonner's arrest. When informed of Bonner's statement chronicling the homicide, what led to it, and naming appellant as the triggerman, appellant pronounced the statement "basically ... correct." The evidence presented was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

2. Two months after his arrest in Detroit, appellant was transported from Michigan to Georgia via car by two Columbus detectives, one of whom advised appellant of his rights

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as the threesome prepared to leave Detroit. After being on the road for approximately two hours, one of the detectives asked appellant if he wished to make a statement. According to the detectives' testimony at the Jackson-Denno hearing, appellant declined the opportunity, but inquired whether anyone else had given a statement. When told by the detective that Bonner had, appellant asked what Bonner had said. The detective summarized Bonner's statement, telling appellant that Bonner had said that Walton, Bonner, and Williams had discussed killing Jones and that Walton had shot the victim as he sat in his car in the nursing home parking lot. When the detective finished, appellant commented that Bonner's statement was "basically correct." The detective testified that appellant had not asserted his right to counsel after being informed by the detective of his rights prior to their departure from Michigan, but admitted he "had no idea" whether appellant had asked for an attorney from Michigan law enforcement authorities. Appellant also testified at the hearing and stated that, while in custody in Michigan, he had requested an attorney of a Michigan officer (Sgt. John Moore), an FBI agent (George Nacopolous), and of one of the Georgia detectives. It was also appellant's recollection that the Georgia detective had advised him of his rights in the presence of the Michigan officer and the other Georgia detective, and that appellant had invoked his right to counsel. He said he reiterated his position when, during the car ride, the detective asked him if he had anything to say, and that the detective had asked him if he [267 Ga. 715] wanted to hear what Bonner had said. Appellant denied making any comment upon hearing the summary of Bonner's statement.

The trial court ruled that appellant's comment on the substance of Bonner's statement was admissible because appellant had been informed of his Miranda rights, had voluntarily waived them, and had freely and voluntarily given the statement. The trial court also made alternative rulings: appellant had waived any rights that he might have earlier exercised by initiating further conversation with the detectives, and appellant had "responded ... or volunteered without being questioned...." On appeal, appellant contends it was error to admit testimony concerning his car-trip statement because it was the result of a conversation initiated by the Columbus detectives after appellant had invoked his constitutional right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation.

Appellant's assertion requires us to examine the Jackson-Denno testimony and the trial court's ruling thereon through the lenses provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981), and its progeny. In Edwards, 451 U.S. at 484-85, 101 S.Ct. at 1884-85, the Court imposed a "relatively rigid requirement" (Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, 681, 108 S.Ct. 2093, 2098, 100 L.Ed.2d 704 (1988)) when it held that a suspect who has "expressed his desire to deal with police only through counsel is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversation with the police" and knowingly and intelligently waives the right previously invoked. See also Wilson v. State, 264 Ga. 287(2), 444 S.E.2d 306 (1994). Furthermore, an accused who has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation does not make a valid waiver of that right by responding to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if that conversation is preceded by an officer again advising him of his rights. Edwards, supra. See also Brady v. State, 259 Ga. 573(1), 385 S.E.2d 653 (1989). In order for Edwards ' " 'clear and unequivocal' guidelines to the law enforcement profession" (Arizona v. Roberson, supra at 682) to come into play, however, a suspect must have invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation. Allen v. State, 259 Ga. 63(1a), 377 S.E.2d 150 (1989). See also Bright v. State, 251 Ga. 440, 306 S.E.2d 293 (1983) (where this court declined to apply Edwards when the defendant had invoked only his right to remain silent).

In the case at bar, the trial court determined that appellant had waived his "Miranda " rights, including the right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation. The trial court sits as the fact-finder in a Jackson-Denno hearing, and its

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resolution of factual issues will be upheld by the appellate court unless it is clearly erroneous. [267 Ga. 716] White v. State, 255 Ga. 210(2), 336 S.E.2d 777 (1985). The testimony of the Georgia detectives supports the trial court's conclusion that appellant did not invoke his right to counsel when the Georgia authorities arrived in Michigan to escort appellant back to Georgia. However, there is no evidence contradicting appellant's testimony that he had asserted his right to counsel to a Michigan deputy sheriff and an FBI agent while he was incarcerated in Michigan on the Georgia murder warrant. Since the Supreme Court imposed in Edwards a duty on law enforcement authorities "to maintain a procedure to determine whether a suspect has previously invoked the right to counsel" (Roper v. State, 258 Ga. 847(1a), 375 S.E.2d 600 (1989)), the Georgia detectives' lack of knowledge of appellant's assertion is not dispositive because knowledge of the invocation of the right to counsel to a law enforcement officer is imputed to all others. Cansler v. State, 261 Ga. 693(3), 409 S.E.2d 504 (1991). In light of the lack of any evidence rebutting appellant's testimony that he had told law enforcement authorities in Michigan that he wished to deal with the police only through counsel, we will assume that he did invoke his right to counsel, and examine whether the trial court's alternative holdings, i.e., that appellant waived his right by initiating conversation with the...

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