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Morris v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

November 16, 2016




          Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik, PLLC, by: Mason L. Boling, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         Randy Harold Morris, Jr., appeals his conviction by a jury on one count of rape by a Washington County jury. His sole point on appeal is that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police. Specifically, Morris contends that the circuit court erred in finding that he was not "in custody" when he was interrogated by the police immediately prior to his arrest and that Morris's statement was made pursuant to an interrogation without his having been informed of his Miranda rights. We agree, and we reverse and remand for a new trial.

         I. Facts

         On August 24 and 26, 2015, there was a suppression hearing concerning certain statements made by Morris to police immediately prior to his arrest. At the hearing, Springdale police officer Christopher James Eagle testified that on April 30, 2014, he responded to a report of rape at the Sleep Inn in Springdale. Eagle testified that he and other officers met with C.K. in a conference room at the motel, where she told them the details of her attack. Officer Eagle stated that C.K. told officers that she and some friends had formed a plan to rob Morris. Instead, she met Morris at his hotel room and bought methamphetamine from him, and then she asked if she could use his shower. Eagle testified that C.K. had told them that, while she was in the shower, Morris pulled her from the shower, put her on the bed, tied her wrists with a zip tie, and injected her in the crook of her arm with an unknown substance. C.K. told officers that Morris had raped her orally, anally, and vaginally. Eagle stated that C.K. had told officers that, after the rape had occurred and while Morris was cleaning, she left to go get change at a nearby store so that Morris could do laundry. C.K. warned the officers that Morris had a knife and that he had used it to cut the zip ties.

         Officer Eagle testified that he and Officer Landrum were in the hallway outside Morris's hotel room when Morris exited the room carrying a plastic bag that had a zip tie protruding from the top. Morris was also carrying a basket of clothes. Officer Eagle testified that he had his gun drawn and was holding it in a low position and that when Officer Landrum patted Morris down, he put his gun away.

         Officer Jerry Corken testified that after Morris had been patted down, Morris asked if he could go check on his laundry but that "we asked him to wait." Officer Corken stated that after speaking to Morris in the hallway for a while, "the conversation was moved into the room because the hallway was starting to get really crowded with people coming out of their rooms." Officer Corken testified that, for safety reasons, they moved police and Morris into the hotel room.

         Officer Kyle Naish testified that he stood opposite the hotel-room door with his back to the bedroom area so he could watch Detective Matt Ray and Morris. He testified that Detective Nelson was also in the room and that Morris was sitting on the couch. Officer Naish testified that Detective Robert Nelson took pictures of the room, while Officer Eagle came in to the room to remove drug paraphernalia from the couch cushions and that other officers "made a circle around the room to see if there was anything around." Officer Naish testified that the officers searched the bedroom, the bathroom, the closet, the television stand, and the dresser. After the search, they escorted Morris to his truck, obtained Morris's consent to search the truck, and then arrested Morris.

         Officer Ray testified that Morris had not been informed by any of the officers that he could refuse to allow them into his room and that Morris had not been provided any Miranda warnings before or during the questioning that took place in his room. Officer Ray testified that he had asked Morris's permission to wrap the zip tie on Morris's wrist and that Morris had agreed. Officer Ray testified that the interview with Morris in his room lasted somewhere between thirty and forty-five minutes. Officer Ray agreed that the questions he asked Morris were designed to elicit a confession or a self-incriminating statement and that the questions "were the type where his responses were either going to put him in prison or not."

         The circuit court ruled that Morris had not been in custody that evening in his hotel room; therefore, Morris's statements would not be suppressed at the trial. The court reasoned that the facts recited at the hearing were analogous to those in Collins v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 574, 446 S.W.3d 199. It also stated that because Morris never objected, because he voluntarily answered the police questions, and because he had prior felonies and was familiar with the police and police procedure, Morris "did not feel that he was under arrest."

         A jury trial was held on September 28-29, 2015. At the trial Morris's recorded statement was played for the jury. In the statement, Morris admitted that he and C.K. had consensual sex. Morris explained to police that he had a legal prescription for methamphetamine but that C.K. did not receive any drugs from him, or do any drugs in front of him. In his recorded statement, Morris questioned why someone claiming to have been raped would have gone to the store and come back with change to do laundry. At that point, the following exchange occurred:

Officer Ray: I know why. Because you raped her. You tied her up and you raped her. That's the conclusion I just got.
Morris: Why did she leave and come back and leave and come back? In her own car? Maybe she's full of it! You are not going to call me a liar. If you want to take me to jail, take me to jail. Do not call me a liar.
Officer Ray: Then don't lie to me. Tell me the truth.
Morris: I told you. She's a freak. We had sex. We watched half a movie. No, I did not film it. I've been married eighteen years, and she comes up wanting to do this. This guy that introduced us can tell you that she wanted to have sex with me the night before, but I was too tired. ...

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