PEOPLE v. JORDAN — (Leagle)

SSRI Ed note: Man in withdrawal from Prozac stabs a man to death in the course of robbing him.

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The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Johnathan Holden JORDAN, Defendant-Appellee.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

March 20, 1995.

The People bring this interlocutory appeal to challenge the district court’s order suppressing a statement made to police by the defendant, Johnathan Holden Jordan (the defendant). The district court found that, although the defendant voluntarily waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), he did not do so knowingly and intelligently. We find that the record does not support the district court’s suppression of the defendant’s statement. We therefore reverse the suppression order and remand the case for further proceedings.

On the evening of March 29, 1994, John Leonardelli was stabbed to death in an Aurora, Colorado, parking garage, during the course of a robbery. Based on information received from several witnesses, the Aurora police department arrested the defendant on March 30, 1994, for his involvement in the murder. The defendant was charged by information with first-degree murder, felony murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated motor vehicle theft, theft, and mandatory sentencing for a crime of violence.

On August 15, 1994, the defendant filed a motion to suppress an inculpatory statement made to police shortly after his arrest, on the ground that the statement was made involuntarily and that it was taken in violation of the defendant’s rights under Miranda. The district court held a hearing on the motion to suppress, at which the following facts were established.

On March 30, 1994, sometime around midnight the day after the murder, the defendant was taken to the Aurora police department, and was fingerprinted and booked. The defendant was placed in a holding room in the Aurora police department at approximately 2:00 in the morning on March 31, 1994. He was later escorted to an interview room in the detective bureau by an Aurora police officer and an Aurora police department homicide detective, Detective Dan Dailey. Detective Dailey provided the defendant with coffee and cigarettes, and began to interview him approximately two hours later.

At the beginning of the interview, Detective Dailey advised the defendant that he was a police officer and that he wanted to question the defendant “about first degree murder.” Detective Dailey proceeded to advise the defendant of his rights under Miranda. Detective Dailey produced a standard advisement of rights form, and asked the defendant to follow along as the rights were read to him. After each of the rights was read to the defendant, Detective Dailey asked the defendant if he understood, and the defendant said “Yes.” Additionally, the defendant signed his initials on the advisement form, indicating that he understood each of his rights. Detective Dailey then asked the defendant: “Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us now?” The defendant answered affirmatively, wrote the word “yes” as the answer to the same question on the advisement form, and signed his signature on the advisement form.

Before Detective Dailey began to question the defendant about the murder, the detective ascertained that the defendant had a tenth-grade education, and that he could both read and write in the English language. The detective also questioned the defendant about his recent drug or alcohol use. The defendant said that the last time he had marijuana and alcohol was a couple of days prior to the interview. Finally, the defendant said that no one had made any threats or promises to him to cause him to talk to the police.

Detective Dailey interviewed the defendant for approximately one and one-half hours. The defendant initially told Detective Dailey that, although he was on both the second and third floors of the parking garage the evening the murder took place, he and a companion named Tom were just “passing through” the garage. The defendant said that he heard about the murder later the next day on the news.

When Detective Dailey confronted the defendant with the fact that the police knew of the defendant’s involvement in the murder from an interview with the defendant’s roommate, the defendant said: “I’ll tell you the whole story, the truth now. All right.” The defendant eventually confided to Detective Dailey that he and a person named Jeff had gone to the parking garage to steal a car.3 He said that they saw a white Jaguar, and waited in a stairwell near the Jaguar for the owner of the car to appear.4

As the victim came into the parking lot and walked towards the Jaguar, the defendant said that he hit him on the head. The victim struggled, and then the defendant saw Jeff stab the victim with a knife a number of times. According to the defendant, after the stabbing, the two men took the victim’s watch, bracelet, ring, and keys, and then they got into the Jaguar with Jeff driving, and drove out of the garage.

Jeff and the defendant drove to an interstate highway, and proceeded to an apartment complex, where they parked and left the Jaguar. The defendant told Detective Dailey that he ran with Jeff to a bus stop, and took the bus to the Aurora mall. From the mall, the two men got on another bus. The defendant said that he rode the bus to a stop near his apartment, and went home.

After the prosecution presented evidence at the suppression hearing concerning the defendant’s arrest and subsequent statement to the police, the defendant presented evidence attempting to show that the waiver of his rights was not voluntary, knowing, or intelligent. The defendant testified on his own behalf, and called one other witness, a psychiatrist named Dr. Robert Fairbairn. In his testimony, the defendant said that he slept for a total of about four and one-half hours the day before he was arrested. Normally, the defendant said, he slept between ten and twelve hours per day. The defendant also testified that earlier on the day of his arrest, he consumed malt liquor, and smoked some marijuana either the day before or the day of the arrest.

The defendant said that he remembered Detective Dailey telling him that he had certain rights under Miranda. He also said that he remembered Detective Dailey telling him that he had a right to remain silent, but said that he thought he would have to talk to the detective sooner or later. The defendant testified that he understood that he could have a lawyer with him in court, but not during the questioning, and that he thought he would have to pay for the lawyer. He said that if he had known he could have had a lawyer during the time the detective was talking to him, he would have asked for one. On direct examination, defense counsel asked the defendant if he understood the word “appointed.” He responded: “Same thing as given something, right?”

Regarding his educational background, the defendant said that he completed ninth grade, but that he received failing grades. The defendant testified that he was allowed to proceed to the tenth grade, but that he did not go to school all the time.

Additionally, the defendant said that he had experienced other problems with the law before his arrest for the homicide. The defendant remembered being charged as a juvenile for felony theft, and pleading guilty to the charge. The defendant admitted that he had been arrested before his arrest in this case, more than once. He also testified that he had spent time in jail on three separate occasions, and that he had been in front of a judge on a criminal case five or more times, either as an adult or a juvenile.

On cross-examination, the defendant remembered Detective Dailey telling him that anything he said could be used against him in a court of law, and he said that he understood it to mean that “whatever I told him he was going to bring it up in court.” The defendant also testified on cross-examination that he never told Detective Dailey that he was tired or sleepy, that he did not want to talk to him, or that he did not understand his questions.

Dr. Fairbairn testified on direct examination that he met with the defendant two times for a total of approximately three and a quarter hours. He said that the defendant came from a troubled background, that he had below-average intelligence, and that he had a poor self-image. The psychiatrist further testified that the defendant had experienced a period of depression, and had been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac, but that the defendant had stopped taking the Prozac a few months before the homicide took place because he felt that it did not have any effect.

Dr. Fairbairn also said that the defendant had “serious difficulty” with abstract concepts, and that, in his opinion, the defendant did not understand his Miranda rights. Specifically, the psychiatrist said that the defendant had an inadequate understanding of the future impact of his answers. Dr. Fairbairn testified that he believed that, although the defendant did not understand his rights, the defendant told police that he understood his rights as a way of placating the police as an authority figure, in order to “get the whole thing over with.” Dr. Fairbairn additionally noted that the defendant’s behavior after the homicide—pawning the victim’s bracelet, and telling his roommate of the homicide—showed that the defendant’s judgment was impaired. Dr. Fairbairn testified that he asked the defendant why he talked to the police, and that the defendant responded: “I don’t know, I just felt they’d find out anyways, I was busted anyway, I didn’t want to take all the blame for it, I told them what my part was, what I did.”

On cross-examination, Dr. Fairbairn conceded that it was possible that the defendant spoke to the police, and initially denied his involvement in the murder, because he did not want to admit what he had done, and because he was hoping to escape punishment. Specifically, the doctor testified that the defendant most likely said what he did to Detective Dailey

[b]ecause he was tired, he wanted to get it over with. Also that he figured the police would be hearing very critical comments about him from the codefendant, from his roommate, from his mother, and he wanted to get his less incriminating version in before they heard the more incriminating version.

Dr. Fairbairn admitted that such behavior was an example of someone who is able to consider the consequences of his actions, and that “[t]o a degree” it was an example of someone engaging in abstract thought. Dr. Fairbairn also testified that he believed that the defendant did understand that Detective Dailey was going to ask him questions about his involvement in the murder case.

In an oral ruling on November 8, 1994, the district court suppressed the defendant’s statement, holding that the defendant did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive his Miranda rights. In its findings, the district court found that the defendant had been sleep-deprived and on Prozac when he was interviewed by the police. The court also found that the Miranda advisement was a “very, very perfunctory type advisement.” The district court concluded that, under the circumstances, the defendant’s waiver was not a “voluntary waiver.”

The next day, on November 9, 1994, the district court was asked to clarify its ruling. The court found that the defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights was voluntary, and not a result of coercive police conduct. Nevertheless, the court went on to find that the defendant’s waiver was not knowing and intelligent because the defendant had “demonstrated an inability … to appreciate and … assimilate the consequences of making a statement and … the ramifications of [that] statement.”

The People then filed this interlocutory appeal to challenge the district court’s order suppressing the defendant’s statement…

The majority… concludes that “the defendant had a sufficient understanding of his rights, and a sufficient understanding of the consequences of relinquishing those rights, so that his waiver was a knowing and intelligent one.” Maj. op. at 1015. In reaching that conclusion, the majority has catalogued numerous evidentiary matters disclosed by the record and, in addition, the majority apparently has made inferences of credibility and has made its own factual findings in light of both conflicting and uncontradicted evidence. Such de novo review of the record is inconsistent with the standard of review we have heretofore embraced. Furthermore, whatever method is deemed appropriate for appellate review of trial court orders granting motions to suppress evidence in criminal proceedings, this court may not speculate on witness credibility or resolve evidentiary conflicts.