In 2015, Ladarius Armstrong robbed a Cefco on Highway 39. He was wearing a dark hoodie, gray jogging pants, and dark glasses, and entered holding a gun. Brenisha Jackson was the store employee who complied with his orders to give him money. She noted that the gun was black with a green slide and was later able to identify him. A store patron followed him and noted that he drove a dark blue Chevy Malibu with a Triple B dealer issued license tag.
The day after the robbery, Officer Dustin Allen of Meridian P.D. was notified that the Chevy Malibu was at an apartment complex. He made contact with a woman who said the car belonged to her son. She consented to a search of her apartment that she shared with her sons and a black gun with green slide was found.
Armstrong was arrested and gave a signed statement to Detective Scott Hopewell saying that he had nothing to do with the robbery. Armstrong also executed a petition for appointment of an attorney indicating that he lacked sufficient funds to hire an attorney but desired legal representation in connection with his armed robbery charge.
One day later, Sergeant Dareall Thompson informed Armstrong of his Miranda rights and Armstrong agreed to waive his rights and talk with him. Thompson further testified that Armstrong confessed that he went inside Cefco, robbed the clerk at gunpoint, and took cash and cigarettes before fleeing the scene. Armstrong reviewed a written statement of his confession, initialed next to each statement, and signed at the bottom.
He was convicted of armed robbery and felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 28 years. On appeal, he argued that the petition was a formal request for counsel during the first interview and thus the second interview should have been suppressed. MCOA affirmed.
The right to have an attorney present must be specifically invoked. This may be accomplished in any manner and at any stage of the process. A defendant is not required to use specific language such as “I want a lawyer” to invoke the right to counsel.
Instead, the right is asserted by some kind of positive statement or other action that informs a reasonable person of the defendant’s desire to deal with the police only through counsel. Once a defendant expresses his unequivocal election of the right, his subsequent agreement to waive his rights is invalid unless he initiated further discussion.
The form Armstrong completed—the petition for appointed counsel—was a financial affidavit used by the court to determine whether a defendant taken into custody is indigent and eligible for appointed counsel. The petition contained questions in the form of a sworn affidavit regarding an offender’s income, liabilities, dependent children, bond, and support payments. We agree with the trial court that Armstrong’s petition alone was not an explicit request to have an attorney present.