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Garcia v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

September 20, 2017

ERIK OMAR GARCIA APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE HEMPSTEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NOS. 29CR-15-56 and 29CR-15-148] HONORABLE RANDY WRIGHT, JUDGE

          Camille Edmison, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Judge

         Erik Omar Garcia was convicted in the Hempstead County Circuit Court on four counts of rape and six counts of second-degree sexual assault. On appeal, Garcia challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress his statement to police. We affirm.

         Garcia was charged by felony information after his two younger cousins alleged that he had raped them.[1] On the day of his arrest, Garcia was Mirandized and questioned by Officer Jesus Coronado of the Hope Police Department. Garcia admitted to Coronado that he had used his penis to anally penetrate his eight-year-old cousin, MT. Prior to his trial on all the charges, Garcia filed a motion to suppress his statements to Coronado.

         At the suppression hearing, Garcia testified that he had been twenty-one years old when he was arrested. He described that, on the day of his arrest, he had been asleep and his mother woke him and told him there were several police cars outside their house. He dressed, answered the door, was asked by police to step outside, and was told that the police had a warrant for his arrest. He was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car, but he had to lie down because he did not fit into the small back seat. He was taken to the Hempstead County jail and booked. He said he was given a jumpsuit and that he felt uncomfortable when he had to change his clothes in front of a police officer. He was then handcuffed and taken to a bench to wait for Coronado. In two to three minutes, Coronado appeared, took the handcuffs off, and escorted Garcia to the interrogation room, which he described as having been cold and small. Coronado left and came back two or three minutes later. Garcia said he had been scared because it had been his first time in the interrogation room. Coronado returned, introduced himself, and said he had questions for Garcia. Garcia testified further as follows:

[Coronado] said he had to read me my rights before he asked me any questions, but then he started asking me questions anyways. He asked me how to spell my name, what my birthday was, what my social security number was, and if I had ever been in any trouble. I said no, sir. He also asked if anybody had explained my rights and my charges. He asked who my parents were and where they worked, and how long we had been living in Hope. I was confused at this point, because I thought he was going to read me my rights and he started asking questions anyways. At that point, I thought I had to answer his questions anyways, because I didn't know if I had rights or not. He asked all these questions without providing me with any rights.
I had never heard of the Miranda decision by February 26 of this year. The highest education degree I have is a high school diploma. I do recall Sergeant Coronado reading a document to me. I did not understand what he read to me. Like I said, I never heard them before because I hadn't been in trouble before. When he asked if I understood my rights, I nodded my head, but I didn't really understand my rights. I felt like since he was an officer with a lot of power that I had to answer his questions, because I didn't know if I had rights. He slid the paper across the table and told me to initial next to my rights and sign. I did that very quickly without reading anything. I didn't read anything because I was scared and confused. He said he had to read me my rights before asking me questions, but he asked questions anyways. I thought I had to answer his questions.

         The trial court filed an order on November 20, 2015, denying Garcia's motion to suppress and allowing the videotape and statement to be introduced at trial. At the jury trial, Coronado testified that he had investigated the case and had interviewed Garcia. The videotaped interview was admitted as evidence. As Garcia had described at the suppression hearing, a transcript of the interview reflects that Coronado first introduced himself and told Garcia that he wanted to get his side of the story. The interview continued as follows:

Coronado: There's one side and there's the other. Before I have to, or asked you any questions or anything I do have to read your rights but let me ask you something. Do you work anywhere or anything?
Garcia: Not right now.
Coronado: Not right now. Have you been employed?
Garcia: Yeah.
Coronado: Okay, where did you work at?
Garcia: I used to work at Ledwell.
Coronado: Ledwell.
Garcia: Texarkana.
Coronado: Okay, how long have you lived in Hope?
Garcia: Ah for, I was born here in Hope.
Coronado: Oh, was you? Okay. Cool. Whose your parents?
Garcia: Yolanda and Deotoro Garcia.
Coronado: Where does your dad work?
Garcia: Tyson.
Coronado: Okay. You just look real familiar and I don't know if you look like your dad but you kind of favor somebody I know.
Garcia: I used to go to school here in Hope.
Coronado: Out here in Hope? Okay, what year did you graduate?
Garcia: 2012.
Coronado: 2012.
Garcia: I know your ...

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