In 2004, Walter Davis and his son entered the Crossroads Grocery, where they discovered the body of the owner, Reuben Britt. They immediately called 911, and Grenada County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Greg Conley responded.
During his initial investigation at the scene, Investigator Conley observed that some of Britt’s wounds appeared to have been made by a projectile, and others by pellets, suggesting to Conley that two different weapons were involved. Missing from the store were a cash register, some cash, and a .38 caliber revolver loaded with “rat shot.” Also during his initial investigation, Conley received information suggesting that a vehicle owned by Terry Pitchford matched the description of the car used by Britt’s assailants, and that Pitchford had been part of a previous attempt to rob the Crossroads Grocery.
At Pitchford’s home, Conley found a car matching the description of the one involved in the homicide at the Crossroad’s grocery. After a search of the vehicle produced the missing .38 caliber revolver, Pitchford was taken into custody.
On November 7 and 8, 2004, Investigator Conley and Investigator Robert Jennings of the local district attorney’s office interviewed Pitchford. During those interviews, Pitchford confessed that he and Eric Bullins had gone to the store with the intention of robbing it. Pitchford stated that Bullins had shot Britt three times with a .22 caliber pistol, and that he (Pitchford) had fired shots into the floor. Pitchford also confessed that he had attempted to rob the same store a week and a half prior to the murder on November 7. Pitchford also confessed his role in the murders to fellow inmates Dantron Mitchell and James Hathcock.
Pitchford was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. On appeal, he argued the car was illegally searched and his confession should have been suppressed. MSC affirmed.
After receiving information that Pitchford had been involved in a previous attempt to rob the store, Conley went to Pitchford’s home, where, in the driveway, he spotted a vehicle matching the description of a vehicle seen by witnesses at the store prior to the robbery. A tag search revealed that the car was titled to Pitchford and his mother, Shirley Jackson.
Conley asked for permission to search the vehicle. Pitchford consented orally, but refused to sign a consent form, while Jackson signed the consent form. Conley (the only witness to testify at the suppression hearing) testified that, after Jackson had signed the consent form, Pitchford stated “momma, it’s something in the car. It’s something in the car.” Conley testified that Pitchford never withdrew his oral consent.
Conley searched the vehicle and discovered the revolver. Pitchford moved the trial court to suppress the evidence, claiming he did not consent, and that the search was illegal. The trial court denied Pitchford’s motion to suppress, finding that Conley had consent to search the vehicle and, alternatively, that Investigator Conley properly could have executed a warrantless search because of exigent circumstances.
Pitchford argues that, because the search was conducted over his objection, the evidence should be suppressed. He cites SCOTUS Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006), in which in the United States Supreme Court held that a warrantless search of a shared dwelling, over the express refusal of consent by a physically present resident, cannot be justified as reasonable as to him, based on consent given to police by another resident. However, because we find Pitchford consented to the search and never withdrew his consent, we need not explore the issue addressed in Randolph.
A criminal defendant may waive effectuation of the right to remain silent and the right to the presence of an attorney, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently.
The officers who interrogated Pitchford testified he was offered no reward, and he was not threatened or coerced, and that his statement was voluntarily given. Pitchford admits that the State obtained a written Miranda waiver prior to his first statement. However, he insists he gave no waiver prior to his next three statements.
At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Investigator Conley provided the following testimony concerning the three statements he took from Pitchford on November 7, 2004:
Q: I want to hand you back Exhibit 5 for identification and ask if you can tell the Court what this is.
A: This is a Miranda Rights form.
Q: Is that the same rights form that you used to advise this defendant, Terry Pitchford, of his rights?
A. Yes, sir.
Q: Did you advise him of all the rights on that form?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did it appear to you that he understood those rights?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Why did it appear to you that he understood those rights?
A: Because he told me he did.
Q: And once you advised him of those rights, did he, in fact, sign that form and the waiver stating that he did not wish to have an attorney and he wanted to discuss the case with you?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: I believe he made three statements to you that day; is that correct?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And on each of those taped statements before you started interviewing him did you go back into the fact of asking him if he understood the rights that you had previously advised him?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And on each occasion did he tell you that he did?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did it appear to you that he did?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: On any of those statements did you use any pressure or coercion to get him to talk to you?
A: No, sir.
Q: Did you hold out any hope of reward or make him any promises?
A: No, sir.
Pitchford argues that, because the officers did not obtain a written waiver before Statements 2 and 3, there was no voluntary waiver. However, he cites no authority supporting this proposition.
Pitchford argues that, when he gave the first three statements on November 7, Investigator Conley made several false representations regarding the evidence against him. He admits that misrepresentations, in and of themselves, do not render his statements involuntary. However, he contends that such misrepresentations were components of improper psychological coercion leading up to the two statements he gave on November 8, 2004.
On November 8, Robert Jennings was scheduled to give Pitchford a polygraph exam. Jennings testified that, after a short period of time, Pitchford agreed to take a polygraph test. So after Investigator Conley left out of the room, I, again, went back through the same rights. I put a checkmark by each one making sure that he understood it. Pitchford argues that, because he did not sign the waiver portion of the Miranda form, the waiver of his rights was not voluntary and intelligent. Jennings testified that, after advising Pitchford of his Miranda rights and reading the waiver and consent form to him, Pitchford started crying and he stated that he had been up all night praying. Jennings reminded him that he was there to take a polygraph test, and said if you lie to us, we are going to know whether or not you are lying about any of this. At that point, Pitchford began to tell Jennings the chain of events that occurred the morning Britt was murdered.
Investigator Conley stepped into the room, at which point Pitchford quit talking. Conley asked Pitchford, “do you understand what your rights are,” and Pitchford said “yes.” Conley then asked, “is it your own free will to make a statement?” Pitchford again responded “yes.”
Jennings testified that, when Investigator Conley walked into the room, Pitchford reverted to his previous story. He said, “It was kind of obvious that maybe he was not going to talk freely in front of Conley.” After Conley stepped back out of the room, Pitchford “told the entire chain of events, which we started from a week and a half prior to right on up to the actual morning of the actual murder and robbery.”
Jennings testified that neither he nor Investigator Conley made threats to Pitchford or held out any hope of reward in order to entice him to give the statements. He also testified that Pitchford clearly understood his Miranda rights, and there was no indication that he did not freely and voluntarily waive those rights.
Pitchford asserts that Jennings and Conley created the perfect storm of unconstitutional psychological coercion by threatening to give Pitchford a polygraph exam, misrepresenting the reliability of the polygraph test, and telling Pitchford that anything said was just between the two of them (i.e., Pitchford and Jennings).
However, the record reveals that Pitchford volunteered to take the polygraph exam, and Jennings testified that he did not threaten Pitchford through misrepresentations of the polygraph’s accuracy, but simply indicated to him that the purpose of a polygraph exam-which he agreed to take-was to determine truthfulness. Finally, Jennings admitted telling Pitchford that his confession was “between you and I,” but only “after he had given the entire statement.”
Based on this record, we cannot say that the trial court’s ruling regarding these two November 8 statements was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The trial court said:
It’s the understanding of the court that the fifth statement was a continuation of the fourth statement. It was just a situation where Conley was no longer in the room. I think it could have very easily been called statement four. For whatever reason they were transcribed at different times and considered five different statements. But nevertheless, he was properly Mirandized before the statement was given.
The trial judge applied the correct legal standards, his decision was not manifestly in error, and this issue has no merit.