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Confession not suppressed when subject stated they drank 12 beers that evening

Facts

In 2008, William and Gail Kelly were walking for exercise along a road in Harrison County, Mississippi. When they saw headlights approaching, they moved onto a private road to put a lane of traffic between themselves and the oncoming vehicle. Nevertheless, the vehicle, driven by Shirley Taylor, sped up and struck William Kelly, who died.

When Gail asked Taylor whether she had a phone, she said, “I do, it’s in my purse, and I don’t know where it’s at. And, if I knew where it was at, I wouldn’t let you use it.” Gail ran home and called 911. Deputy Ashley Megan Burge, Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, stated that Taylor had alcohol on her breath; her eyes were red and glassy; she swayed when she was standing still; and her speech was slurred.

Burge Mirandized Taylor, who waived and said that she had consumed 12 beers that evening. Taylor also said that she had been “driving down the road, when somebody flashed a light in her eyes and oops, there they were.” She was convicted of DUI causing death and sentenced to 18 years. On appeal, she argued that she was too intoxicated to provide a statement to police. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

In O’Halloran, MSC said that intoxication does not automatically render a confession involuntary. However, the degree of intoxication is a matter which may be considered by the court in making its determination as to whether a statement should be suppressed.

Furthermore, the MSC in Stevens v. State, 458 So. 2d 726 (Miss. 1984) said that with respect to the effect of intoxication on the voluntariness of a confession, this court has held that where the defendant was in an acute, rampant state of intoxication equivalent to mania, any waiver of constitutional rights could not be voluntary and intentional and the defendant’s statement should be excluded.

In Kemp v. State, 352 So. 2d 446, 448 (Miss. 1977), the MSC held that a confession was admissible despite the fact that a defendant had been drinking heavily. The MSC noted that law enforcement officers had testified that the defendant in Kemp was in control of his faculties.

Burge testified that she had been in her uniform at the time she spoke to Taylor. Burge also testified that Taylor recognized the fact that she was speaking with a law enforcement officer. Taylor was responsive, and although Taylor appeared to be intoxicated, she was also oriented to place and time, and she did not have any difficulty understanding Burge.

Taylor responded appropriately to Burge’s preliminary questions regarding Taylor’s name and date of birth. Burge further testified that she did not force Taylor to respond to her questions and that neither she nor anyone in her presence promised to reward Taylor if Taylor waived her right to remain silent. Burge went on to testify that, in her opinion, Taylor had freely and voluntarily waived her right to remain silent.

As to her impairment, Burge said, “She was impaired, but I have seen people who, upon being impaired, were not capable of functioning. There are times when I attempted to read someone their Miranda rights and they could not answer if they understood their rights, and I could not ask them questions because of that. Taylor was not that impaired to that point, to the point where she did not understand what was going on.”

There was no error with the trial court’s decision to overrule Taylor’s request that the statements be suppressed.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/CO69650.pdf