FROM THE FRANKLIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT
[NO. 24OCR-17-151] HONORABLE WILLIAM PEARSON, JUDGE
F. Greene, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
Mark Klappenbach, Judge.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
criminal history. The circuit court denied the motion to
suppress, and appellant was subsequently convicted at trial.
well settled that a statement induced by a false promise of
reward or leniency is not a voluntary statement. Fuson v.
State, 2011 Ark. 374, 383 S.W.3d 848. When a police
officer makes a false promise that misleads a prisoner and
the prisoner gives a confession because of that false
promise, then the confession has not been made voluntarily,
knowingly, and intelligently. Id. Because the object
of the rule is not to exclude a confession of truth but to
avoid the possibility of a confession of guilt from one who
is, in fact, innocent, a person seeking to have a statement
excluded on the basis that a false promise was made must show
that the confession induced by the false promise was untrue.
determining whether there has been a misleading promise of
reward, we consider the totality of the circumstances.
Id. The totality determination is subdivided into
two main components: the statement of the officer and the
vulnerability of the defendant. Id. If during the
first step, the court decides that the officer's
statement is an unambiguous false promise of leniency, there
is no need to proceed to the second step because the
defendant's statement is clearly involuntary.
Id. We also do not move forward to the second step
if we conclude that no false promise of reward or leniency
was made. If, however, the officer's statement is
ambiguous, making it difficult for us to determine if it was
truly a false promise of leniency, we must proceed to the
second step of examining the vulnerability of the defendant.
Id. Factors to be considered in determining
vulnerability include (1) the age, education, and
intelligence of the accused; (2) how long it took to obtain
the statement; (3) the defendant's experience, if any,
with the criminal-justice system; and (4) the delay between
the Miranda warnings and the confession.
Id. We will not reverse the circuit court's
denial of a motion to suppress a statement unless it is
clearly erroneous or clearly against the preponderance of the
evidence. Roberts v. State, 352 Ark. 489, 102 S.W.3d
argues that Wood's agreement to recommend treatment for
him followed by Boen's promise to "go to bat"
for him was equivalent to the officer's promise of help
in Pyles v. State, 329 Ark. 73, 947 S.W.2d 754
(1997). In Pyles, the appellant argued that his
confession to murder was induced by an officer's promise
that he would "do everything in the world [he]
could" for him. The State conceded that a questionable
promise may have been made, and the supreme court examined
the vulnerability of the appellant. The court considered the
fact that Pyles had been interrogated for several hours by
other officers before being questioned by the officer who
made the promise; this officer knew Pyles before his arrest
through baseball and had visited with Pyles about that; and
Pyles had become emotional during the interrogation and held
the officer's hands and wept. The court concluded that
the officer made a false promise that resulted in an
contends that Boen's promise to "go to bat" for
him conveyed that he would do his best to see that appellant
got the help he needed. We agree with the State, however,
that Boen's statement did not amount to a blanket
statement to help appellant as in Pyles; rather, it
was an affirmation of the statement Wood had just made
regarding making a recommendation to the prosecutor. Wood
did, in fact, make such a recommendation; thus, we do not
find his statement to be a false promise. See Wallace v.
State, 2009 Ark. 90, 302 ...