In 1996, Aaron Greenlee was at his home in Lamar County with his mother, Shelia Greenlee. He asked his mother about using the family van to go to the fair with some of his friends. This discussion quickly turned into an argument which resulted in his mother denying his request to go to the fair. She told him to go to his room, which he did.
Greenlee alleges that it was at this time that he took three hits of LSD. However, it is important to note that he never explained to the officers investigating the crime that he had taken LSD. This fact was brought up for the first time at the trial.
Afterwards, Greenlee went to his mother’s bedroom to retrieve his 30-30 rifle. He took the gun to his room and loaded it with two bullets. He walked into the den where his mother was sleeping and aimed the rifle at the top of his mother’s head. He fired the rifle into her head, killing his mother.
Shortly thereafter, Greenlee took the family van and began driving to Florida. At some point he fell asleep at the wheel of the car and was involved in an accident in Orange Beach, Alabama, where he ran off the road.
Officer Aaron Wyatt testified that he was the first officer to arrive. Wyatt asked Greenlee a few routine investigatory questions such as his age, what had happened, and whether he was alone. At this particular point in time, the dispatcher radioed back in 10-0, use caution, suspect possibly involved in a homicide.
Wyatt asked Greenlee to put his hands on the van and he began to pat Greenlee down for a weapons search. However, Greenlee was neither arrested nor handcuffed. Wyatt further testified that Greenlee did not appear drunk or on drugs of any kind.
Corporal Hamilton patted Greenlee down to see if there were any weapons on him and asked him for his name and date of birth. Hamilton radioed the information in and the dispatcher responded that Greenlee was a suspect in a homicide. Hamilton handcuffed Greenlee and walked him back to seat him in the rear seat of his patrol car, placing him in custody.
Hamilton further testified that it was at this point that he asked Greenlee where he was staying or where his parents might be. He stated that this was standard question when taking a juvenile into custody. Greenlee responded to Hamilton’s question by stating, “My mom pissed me off and I shot her.”
Hamilton then asked Greenlee if he had any guns in the van, to which Greenlee responded, “I put the gun back in my bedroom.” It was at this point that Hamilton told Greenlee not to make any more statements concerning the incident, that all he wanted to know was if he had any guns in the van. Greenlee responded that he did not.
Hamilton then left the scene and took Greenlee to the police station. Corporal Hamilton also testified that Greenlee did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Investigator Rouse testified that he advised Greenlee of his Miranda rights by way of reading a form document that is used particularly when there is a juvenile in custody. He further stated that Sergeant Dodd was present during this time. Greenlee appeared alert, attentive and did not seem to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Rouse stated that he fully went over the waiver of rights contained at the bottom of the form and asked if Greenlee understood everything. Greenlee responded that he did. Greenlee further stated that he was willing to talk to Rouse and signed the waiver.
The reading and explaining of rights and Greenlee’s waiver of these rights was recorded on tape. There was a second recorded oral interview as well. Before this second oral statement was given, Rouse asked Greenlee if he still understood his rights and was willing to answer questions. Greenlee replied, “Yes.”
Investigator Bullock and Officer Steve Reid, who were both with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Department, went to Orange Beach, Alabama to get Greenlee. Bullock gave Greenlee his Miranda warnings and told him he wanted to talk to him about what had happened at his residence. Bullock went over a standard form with Greenlee and Greenlee signed the waiver.
Greenlee explained his story of what happened the day before at his home. Bullock repeated the statement to Greenlee and asked him if that was the way it happened. Greenlee agreed and Bullock put the statement in writing and read it back to Greenlee. Greenlee read the statement and then signed it.
Greenlee was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued his statements were not voluntarily provided. MSC affirmed.
A. Oral Statement to Corporal Hamilton
Greenlee asserts that his oral statement to Corporal Hamilton which was made at the traffic accident scene was not voluntary given. He believes that being placed in the back of a police car in handcuffs was “custody” and entitled him to have his constitutional rights read to him before questioning.
After being placed in the police car, Corporal Hamilton asked Greenlee, “. . . where he was staying at and where his parents were.” Thus, he argues that his response, “My mom pissed me off and I shot her,” is a fruit of a wrongful interrogation and a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article III, Section 26 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890.
We said in Hunt that a person’s Miranda rights are not triggered by general on the scene questioning and/or any voluntary statement. The record does not indicate that Hamilton’s question was asked for the purpose of eliciting an incriminating statement from Greenlee. It was merely a routine investigatory question asked in Alabama when a juvenile is taken into custody.
Although Greenlee made the inculpatory statement while in custody, he did not make it in response to custodial interrogation or any police action designed to elicit an incriminating response.
B. Written Statement to Investigator Rouse
He asserts that because he was only 15 and very tired, he could not give a voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights. The applicable standard for determining whether a confession is voluntary is whether, taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances, the statement is the product of the accused’s free and rational choice.
Greenlee was read his Miranda warnings by Investigator Rouse, he signed the waiver of rights form and voluntarily confessed to killing his mother. Additionally, Greenlee was willing to talk to Rouse about the crime. Rouse also testified that during this time, Greenlee appeared alert, attentive and did not seem to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In addition, these facts were supported by Sergeant Dodd’s testimony during the suppression hearing that he was a witness to Greenlee being read his Miranda warnings and his waiver of rights. Dodd further states that Greenlee stated he understood his rights and he witnessed Greenlee sign the waiver of rights. Both officers testified that no promises of leniency, threats, or coercive measures were exerted against Greenlee.
Greenlee’s testimony at the suppression hearings contradicts most of the arguments his counsel presents on appeal. Greenlee testified that he remembered all of his statements to the police. He stated that he was not under the influence of drugs. He stated that he gave the taped and written statements willingly. He admitted he was given his rights. He stated that he did not ask for an attorney although he understood that he had a right to meet with one. He also stated that the police did not misunderstand or misinterpret what he said in the interview.
C. Written Statement to Investigator Bullock
Greenlee argues that the written statement taken by Investigator Bullock was materially altered and should have been taken out of evidence. The trial judge noted that the only change made to the written statement was that the words “Lamar County Sheriff’s Department” were lined through. In its place, Investigator Bullock wrote the words “Orange Beach Police Department.”
Investigator Bullock testified that he made this change because he interviewed Greenlee at the Orange Beach Police Department rather than in Lamar County. Bullock also testified that there was nothing else about the statement that he changed, added to or altered.
Greenlee’s statement to Bullock was voluntary and freely given. Greenlee was given his Miranda warnings and waiver of rights and then signed the waiver form. Greenlee explained his story of what happened the day before. Bullock repeated the story to Greenlee and asked if that was the way it happened. Greenlee agreed and Bullock put the statement in writing and read it back to Greenlee. Greenlee also read the statement himself and then signed it, acknowledging that it was correct.
Based on the foregoing analysis, the trial judge’s admission of Greenlee’s statement must be affirmed.