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Harris v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 31, 2017

RON ANTWON HARRIS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT [NO. 01CR-2015-007] HONORABLE DAVID G. HENRY, JUDGE

          Laura Avery, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         Appellant Ron Antwon Harris was convicted by an Arkansas County jury of one count of second-degree sexual abuse. He was sentenced to serve eight years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. On appeal, he does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. Instead, he contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Evidence adduced at trial indicated that on December 29, 2014, the victim, B.A., was staying at the home of Angela Alexander when he was awakened by Harris. B.A.'s shorts were pulled down, and he felt a "boy private part moving [in] his behind." The next morning, he told his grandfather what Harris had done to him. B.A.'s mother took him to the hospital in Stuttgart and then to Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) in Little Rock. At ACH, the nursing staff obtained swabs and collected the clothes B.A. had been wearing. The Arkansas State Crime Lab would later compare the DNA from sperm cells found inside B.A.'s underwear to a swab taken from Harris. The sperm cells obtained were determined to be a match to Harris within all scientific certainty.

         On December 30, 2014, Haley Kizer, a forensic interviewer for Crimes Against Children, a division of the Arkansas State Police, met and interviewed BA. BA. told Kizer that Harris had put his penis in B.A.'s buttocks. Kizer contacted Detective Sergeant Eric Brown of the Stuttgart Police Department to inform him of B.A.'s claim.

         On January 2, 2015, Officer Mario Lewis received a message from police dispatch that Harris was at a park in Stuttgart and wanted to turn himself in on a warrant. Officer Lewis, along with Officer Cody Eason, went to the park to locate Harris, but when they checked, there were no warrants out for Harris's arrest. Detective Brown, who had been working on the case and looking for Harris, overheard the call from Officer Lewis checking for warrants and asked Officer Lewis to tell Harris that he wanted to speak with him. Officer Lewis relayed Detective Brown's message to Harris, who agreed to go to the police station and give a statement. Officer Lewis testified that he offered to give Harris a ride, and Harris accepted.

         At the police station, Detective Brown advised Harris of his Miranda rights. Harris then signed an acknowledgement. Detective Brown testified that Harris was not initially forthcoming with his statement, but he eventually agreed to talk to him about the allegations. Harris asked Detective Brown to write the statement for him since Harris could not write well. In the statement, Harris admitted to pulling down B.A.'s pants, fondling his buttocks, rubbing his penis on B.A., and then ejaculating on him. Once the statement was complete, Detective Brown read the statement back to Harris, who agreed with what was written and signed the statement.

         On February 19, 2016, Harris filed a motion to suppress evidence, contending that the statement he had given at the police station should be suppressed because he had been taken to the police station against his will in violation of Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.3.

         The circuit court held a suppression hearing on Harris's motion on February 22, 2016. At the hearing, the State argued that transporting Harris to the police station was proper and that Harris went with the police voluntarily. The State also argued that it had probable cause to arrest Harris, which would cure any deficiencies in a Rule 2.3 warning; thus allowing the introduction of Harris's statement. The circuit court held that the officers did not comply with the requirements of Rule 2.3 when Harris was asked to go to the police station for questioning but that there was probable cause for an arrest based on information Detective Brown received from the Department of Human Services and from the victim's family. Accordingly, the circuit court denied Harris's motion to suppress and permitted his statement to be admitted at trial.

         On appeal, Harris argues that the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence; specifically, he maintains that the court erred because law-enforcement officers failed to properly advise him that he did not need to come to the police station for questioning under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.3 and that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest him.

         Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.3 provides the following:

If a law enforcement officer acting pursuant to this rule requests any person to come to or remain at a police station, prosecuting attorney's office or other similar place, he shall take such steps as are reasonable to make clear that ...

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