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Cummings v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

November 1, 2017



          Kezhaya Law, by: Matthew A. Kezhaya, for appellant.

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

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

         Christopher Cummings was convicted of multiple felonies and now appeals, arguing that the circuit court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress his statement to police, and (2) denying his request to reduce his $1 million bond. We affirm.

         In a felony information filed 5 May 2015, Cummings was charged with two counts of attempted capital murder; simultaneous possession of drugs and a firearm; possession of a firearm by certain persons; possession of a controlled substance Schedule I/II, methamphetamine or cocaine; possession of drug paraphernalia; fleeing; resisting arrest; and littering.[1] The information was later amended to include a firearm enhancement on the attempted capital-murder charges. A jury found Cummings guilty on all charges, and he was sentenced to an aggregate term of 160 years' imprisonment. Specific facts pertinent to the points on appeal will be discussed below.

         I. Motion to Suppress

         On 3 May 2015, Cummings was the passenger in a Ford Mustang that was involved in a high-speed chase with police. During the chase, Cummings fired a gun toward the police cars in pursuit and struck two of the police cars. When the Mustang was finally stopped, Cummings fled on foot but "fell on his face" while running and was thereafter apprehended by police. Cummings resisted arrest but was eventually handcuffed and taken into custody. He was examined at the hospital, cleared of injuries, and taken to the police station, where, after having waived his Miranda rights, he gave a statement to police. In that statement, Cummings admitted shooting at the police officers and also told officers where to find a bag of narcotics that he had thrown from the car during the pursuit.

         On 1 December 2015, Cummings filed a motion to suppress the statement he gave to police, asserting that he

gave an incustodial statement at the police station, after having been examined for a head injury suffered while taken into custody and while not fully aware of circumstances of the interrogation, including signing forms or consents; any statement made by Defendant while in custody was not willful and in violation of Miranda.

         The circuit court held a motion hearing on 4 January 2016. Officer Billy Kenny testified that he was present when Cummings was placed under arrest and during his later interrogation. Kenny said that he reviewed the Miranda-rights form with Cummings and that he appeared to understand his rights and was answering questions appropriately. Kenny denied threatening or coercing Cummings and stated that Cummings signed the Miranda form voluntarily. Kenny explained that he had read Cummings his rights on camera but that a portion of the thirty-minute interview video, approximately the first sixteen minutes, was lost. On cross-examination, Kenny denied any knowledge of Cummings being struck in the head at the time of his arrest. On redirect, Kenny confirmed that Cummings had been treated at the hospital and released with no injuries for interview purposes.

         Officer Joe Flack testified that he participated in Cummings's interview and that Cummings was not threatened or coerced into giving a statement. Flack said that Cummings understood the questions asked of him and responded appropriately "for the most part" but that "[h]e seemed to get a little confused a few times, kind of mumble a few things." Flack explained that Cummings talked about firing a gun to "get law enforcement off him" and told police about throwing drugs, which were in a computer case, out of the vehicle. Flack said that he later located the computer case and found three grams of a crystalline substance (later identified as methamphetamine) inside it.

         Cummings testified that when he was arrested, he was "stomped on a pretty little bit, " meaning that there were two officers sitting on his back, one officer standing on his arm, and three officers kicking him in the face, "bouncing [his] head back and forth." The last thing he remembered was an officer in a tactical vest kicking him in the face, then he woke up in the hospital. He claimed that the officers "scuffled [him] up a bit more" in the hospital. He said that he was later at the police station, which he "vaguely" remembered. Cummings first testified that he signed whatever they put in front of him without reading it; he later said that he did not "really" remember signing the Miranda form, although he admitted that it was his "scribble" on the signature line.

         On cross-examination, Cummings confirmed that he had been arrested nineteen times and that he had Miranda rights read to him "a lot of times." He denied, however, ever signing a Miranda-rights form before because he had never been arrested for a "serious charge." Cummings also denied remembering much of the high-speed chase because he had "been up for a couple of days" and "was on a lot of drugs, " specifically methamphetamine. He said that he did not remember telling the police about shooting the gun or where he threw the ...

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