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Lovett v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 8, 2019

John Paul LOVETT, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 547

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 548

          APPEAL FROM THE FRANKLIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT [NO. 24OCR-17-151], HONORABLE WILLIAM PEARSON, JUDGE

         Omar F. Greene, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

          Appellant John Paul Lovett was convicted by a jury in the Franklin County Circuit Court of aggravated residential burglary with a firearm enhancement, second-degree battery, and theft of property. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to a total of fifty-five years’ imprisonment. Before trial, the circuit court denied appellant’s motion to suppress his statement made to law enforcement officers. Appellant now argues on appeal that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress due to his vulnerability to police promises of leniency. We affirm.

          In his motion to suppress, appellant alleged that his statement was not made freely, voluntarily, and knowingly because the officers told him that they would get him mental-health treatment, drug-rehabilitation treatment, and a brief prison sentence if he provided a truthful statement. He claimed that he would not have given a statement without these representations. Chief Deputy Jeff Wood of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was the only witness to testify at the suppression hearing. Wood testified that he, along with Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen, interviewed appellant on July 3, 2017, about an incident that had occurred on May 27. Appellant had previously declined to give a statement to officers, but Wood had subsequently spoken with appellant’s girlfriend, Kimberly Munholland, who indicated that appellant now wanted to talk. Munholland told Wood that appellant needed mental-health treatment and drug rehabilitation, and she wanted Wood to recommend it; Wood said that he agreed with her.

          Appellant was detained on other charges in a different county at the time of the interview. The transcript of the recorded interview was admitted into evidence. At the beginning of the interview, Wood told appellant about his conversation with Munholland. Appellant said that Munholland had told him that "she made a statement and that she wanted me to go ahead and do the same." Wood then said that

[w]e talked about getting you or recommending getting you into a mental facility. She said that’s what you would want or need. That’s really more than what you need than prison, and I told her that I wouldn’t have a problem recommending that. I can’t make you promises, but I can recommend that to the prosecutor, okay?

Page 549

          Sheriff Boen then stated, "You know I’ll go to bat for you." Appellant did not respond to these statements. After explaining what they wanted to talk about, Wood advised appellant of his Miranda rights, and appellant signed a waiver of those rights. Appellant then described how he and an accomplice had broken into a man’s house to rob him of his pills and how he had hit the man and stolen his gun. At the end of the interview, appellant asked whether the prosecutor would be interested in helping him and what the options may be. The officers told him that the prosecutor and the defense attorney could negotiate a plea deal and take the officers’ recommendation into consideration.

          Wood testified that he made a written recommendation to the State for appellant to receive "rehabilitation and mental help" as reflected by a signed document admitted into evidence. Wood said that at the time of the interview, appellant did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or impaired in any way, that he was thirty-two years old, that he has a GED, and that he has an extensive ...


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