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A confession must be given voluntarily and not because of promises, threats, or inducements

Facts

In 1998, Michael Manix, Elia Check and Michael Janes set out with the intent to engage in criminal activity. Manix, who was 28 years old at the time, needed money to pay his car note and to make rent for the trailer he lived in with his girlfriend. Along with Check and Janes, both 18, Manix set out across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in search of a person to rob.

Around one o’clock on the morning, the three stopped at the new Super 8 Motel in Ocean Springs. Deciding to enter the motel, they approached the office and encountered Heather Hampton, the 27 year old night clerk, who had walked outside for a quick cigarette break. They asked her if any rooms were open, but she told them the hotel was full.

Then she graciously offered to find them rooms elsewhere. Manix then grabbed Heather and dragged her behind the counter of the Super 8, demanding that she give them money. Despite the fact that Heather did not struggle and begged him not to hurt her, Manix stabbed her 13 times with a knife causing her death. The men cleaned out the cash drawer of the hotel, leaving behind only $1 bills and coin change.

Manix, Check and Janes returned to their vehicle and made their escape with $456. Manix was captured, Mirandized, and gave a statement regarding his involvement in the murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued his statement was taken by coercion. MSC affirmed.

Analysis

Manix contends that he was threatened with physical harm from former Ocean Springs police officer, Don Bourgeois, if he failed to state his involvement in the murder of Heather Hampton.

We said in Dancer that to be admissible, a confession must have been given voluntarily and not given because of promises, threats or inducements. This is met and a prima facie case is made by testimony of an officer, or other persons having knowledge of the facts, that the confession was voluntarily made without threats, coercion, or offer of reward.

The converse of the general rule is true as well. We said in Dunn v. State, 547 So.2d 42 (Miss. 1989), that if a confession is the result of threat, inducements or promises – however slight – it is not voluntary. Further, if it is not voluntary, then the confession is inadmissible.

Manix testified on direct examination that Bourgeois informed him that he was an expert in martial arts and that he could do severe damage to those who fell into his disfavor. According to Manix, Bourgeois told him that he could do a lot of damage, break bones.

On cross examination it was established that Manix signed a Miranda warning form, which included the statement that no threats had been made against him. He further asserted that Bourgeois’s graphic depiction of how he could harm another human being was the impetus of his waiver of his rights to silence and counsel.

During the suppression hearing, the trial court heard testimony of several witnesses including Bourgeois. The court received four signed waiver of rights forms, audio, transcribed, and videotaped statements. Having heard and received this evidence, the trial court concluded that the defendant’s motion to suppress was without merit.

The record reveals no basis to conclude that the decision was manifestly wrong. We hold that the State met its burden and made a prima facie case by offering the testimony of Bourgeois that the confession was voluntarily made without threats, coercion, or offer of reward. It follows that the trial court did not err in admitting Manix’s pre-trial confession.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO23810.pdf