Warnken, LLC Attorneys at Law, Attorneys & Lawyers, Pikesville, MD

Moore v. State

Moore v. State, 422 Md. 516 (2011).

            Confessions – Voluntariness – Prompt Presentment

Baltimore criminal lawyer Paul DeWolfe, of the public defender’s office, handled the case for Rodney Moore.

            The jury convicted Petitioner of first degree murder and related offenses.  Petitioner conceded that the State’s evidence was sufficient to establish that he committed those offenses, but argues that the admission of an involuntary statement that he made during a custodial interrogation was reversible error and he was entitled to a new trial.  The Circuit Court denied Petitioner’s motion to suppress and the CSA affirmed its ruling.

The COA held that Petitioner was entitled to a new trial at which the State is prohibited from introducing any direct or derivative evidence of Petitioner’s inculpatory statement.  In its analysis, the COA looked to the factual summary provided in the CSA opinion.  The Petitioner was arrested and taken into an interview room pursuant to the instructions of the homicide division.  The arresting officer did not engage in any questioning of Petitioner at that time.  The Petitioner and the arresting officer arrived at the interrogation room between 1:40am and 2:00am.  Shortly after 2:00am, Detective Morrissette entered the interview room and read Petitioner his Miranda rights.  Petitioner initialed beside each advisement and agreed to waive his rights.  Then, at 3:20am, after being questioned regarding background information, Petitioner was questioned by Detective Cordero regarding the shooting.  Petitioner initially denied his involvement.  At 5:18 am, Petitioner still denied that he was the shooter, but he did state he was present during the robbery.  At 8:05am, Petitioner admitted to Detective Turner that he shot the victim by accident.  Detective Turner testified that Petitioner was taken to the jail at 1:30pm.  Detective Turner testified that he did not take Petitioner immediately to the commissioner because he “wanted the opportunity to speak to him and explain the charges, get his side of the story.”

In the trial court’s analysis it considered the following factors:  Petitioner able to speak English; think in a rational manner; although a juvenile and not experienced with the adult criminal justice system, he had contact with the juvenile justice system and had been read his Miranda rights prior to this instance.  The trial court, thus concluded that the total length of interrogation was 4 hours and 21 minutes and the “Court finds that the statements made were voluntarily made and the motion to suppress the statement is denied.”  Similarly, the CSA concluded, “According heavy weight to the five hours of unnecessary delay in this case, we nonetheless hold that [Petitioner]’s confession was voluntary under the totality of the circumstances. Our review of the suppression hearing testimony and the transcript of the interviews confirms that, although sixteen years old, [Petitioner] had previously been charged with a juvenile offense and had been read his Miranda rights. [Petitioner] was advised of those rights, indicated that he understood them and does not challenge the voluntariness of his Miranda waiver.”

In its analysis, the COA applied the “totality of the circumstances” test to determine the voluntariness of a juvenile’s confession.”  Jones v. State, 311 Md. 398 (1988).  The Court stated, “In making out constitutionally independent evaluation of the ‘totality of the circumstances,’ we must combine (1) the ‘heavy weight’ assigned to the deliberate and unreasonable delay to which Petitioner was subjected after he denied that he had participated in the crime, (2) the ‘crucial factor’ of Petitioner’s age [16], and (3) the ‘very important’ factor that Petitioner requested to speak with his mother.”  The Court turned to the analysis in McIntyre, 309 Md. at 618, in which a 15 year old rape defendant was not entitled to suppression of his confession that he made 55 minutes after he was advised of his Miranda rights.  The Court also heavily weighed the fact that juvenile was denied an opportunity to speak to his parent as an involuntary element of the statement.  Therefore, the COA concluded that the Circuit Court erred in determining that Petitioner’s inculpatory statement was voluntary.