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State v. Payton

Supreme Court of Arkansas

May 14, 2015



Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

Phillip A. Moon, for appellee.

PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice. GOODSON and WOOD, JJ., dissent. RHONDA K. WOOD, Justice, dissenting.


Page 631

PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice

Appellant State of Arkansas appeals from the order of the Searcy County Circuit Court granting a motion to suppress by appellee Mark E. Payton. The State's sole contention on appeal is that the circuit court erred in granting the motion on the basis that Payton's rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), were violated. We dismiss the appeal.

Payton was charged with sexual assault in the fourth degree and moved to suppress a statement that he had given, asserting that he had not been advised of his Miranda rights prior to being interviewed.[1] At the hearing on Payton's suppression motion, Todd Shaw, a sergeant of the Arkansas State Police, testified for the State.

Sergeant Shaw testified that, on September 21, 2013, he responded to a request for assistance from the Searcy County Sheriff's Office regarding a possible overdose by a minor female fourteen years of age. After arriving at the hospital in Harrison, Arkansas, where the minor was receiving treatment, Sergeant Shaw made contact with the mother of the minor, who was at the hospital, as was Payton, who was twenty-one years old. Shaw testified that in the course of his investigation, he decided to interview Payton about what had happened; he later explained that the minor's mother had identified Payton to him and that he had also been informed that Payton had been in the minor's company the evening before. He further testified that prior to interviewing Payton, the investigation had turned into a " sexual investigation."

Shaw testified that he approached Payton, identified himself and said something to the effect of, " I need to speak to you for a little bit" ; they then went to his unmarked police car, which was parked in

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the hospital lot.[2] According to Shaw, he had informed Payton that Payton was under no obligation to speak with him; yet, Payton spoke with him nonetheless. Shaw testified that they spoke inside his vehicle, which was unlocked and had the windows partially rolled down, and that their conversation lasted just slightly longer than one hour.

Shaw stated that Payton neither attempted to leave nor indicated that he needed to, but had he tried, Shaw would have permitted him to do so. Shaw denied ever telling Payton that he was in custody or that he had an obligation to speak with him, nor did Shaw arrest him at the conclusion of the interview. He did, however, admit that Payton was possibly a suspect or a person of interest at the time of the interview. Shaw further testified that, while he did not Mirandize Payton because " he was not under arrest," he did, at some point later in the interview, ask Payton to sign a consent form to obtain a DNA sample from him, to which Payton agreed. He further acknowledged that some forty-five minutes into the interview, Payton asked him if he was recording the interview, which Shaw was, and that Payton commented that he had thought the conversation was between just the two of them. At the conclusion of Shaw's testimony, the circuit court took the motion under advisement.

On June 11, 2014, the circuit court filed a letter opinion granting Payton's motion to suppress. In it, the circuit court concluded that " the State Police Investigator had sufficient information to believe that the defendant may have been involved or had knowledge of the drug overdose or the sexual activity [so as] . . . to say that the line between investigation and accusation had been crossed."

In a motion for reconsideration of the circuit court's decision, the State asserted that whether Payton could be considered a suspect had no bearing on whether Miranda applied. It contended that the appropriate inquiry was whether Payton was in custody at the time of the interview, and the State asked that the court reconsider its ruling in light of that inquiry and requested a ruling from the court " stating: (1) whether custody is a requirement of Miranda and (2) if the Defendant was in custody at the time of his interview with Special Agent Shaw." Payton responded that any further specificity concerning the circuit court's decision was unnecessary.

The circuit court subsequently entered an order on August 5, 2014, finding as follows:

1. There is a separation between the investigatory examination and the accusatory examination, and once the examination has developed into an accusatory examination a Defendant must be apprised of his or her rights before any statement can be elicited.
2. Based upon the testimony, it is reasonably clear that when Investigator Todd Shaw of the Arkansas State Police arrived at the ...

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