Outstanding warrant in another jurisdiction permitted officers to detain him for questioning in suspicion of felony child abuse


In 2012, Larry Watts was living with Sara Lowery and her four year old minor child, BAW, along with Watt’s biological son. Watts would babysit BAW when Lowery worked. One day, Lowery brought BAW to the emergency room for stomach pains and learned from the doctors that he had been physically abused (abdominal trauma and pancreas bleeding into abdomen).

Walthall County S.O. learned that Watts had an unrelated misdemeanor warrant from another jurisdiction so they used that to detain him for questioning. The initial officer on the scene did not tell Watts why he was being detained. Investigator Gerald Magee soon arrived on the scene, Mirandized him, and asked him if he wanted to talk and Watts said his biological son was playing with BAW and hit him with a flashlight.

They arrived at the station and Watts was presented with a copy of the misdemeanor warrant. Watts then made a written recitation of the oral statement he had just given to Magee on the scene. About 40 minutes later, Watts was Mirandized, waived, and admitted to accidentally punching BAW in the stomach.

He was then arrested for felony child abuse. Watts made three more inculpatory statements to police. Two of the statements were 12 hours later. All of them had been proceeded by Miranda forms where Watts had waived and agreed to talk. Watts was convicted of child abuse and sentenced to 40 years. On appeal, Watts argued he was arrested for felony child abuse without probable cause.  He also argued all confessions should have been suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. MCOA affirmed.


In Upshaw v. State, 350 So. 2d 1358 (Miss. 1977), the MSC held that the failure of an officer to advise the person of the circumstances for the arrest does not invalidate the arrest. Under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-3-7(2), when practicable, he was presented with the warrant at the sheriff’s department.

In Powe v. State, 235 So. 2d 920 (1970), the MSC said that an arrest without a warrant is lawful if the person making the arrest does so on a charge that the person to be arrested committed a felony, and the charge was made upon reasonable cause. But regardless of whether Magee had probable cause to arrest Watts for felony child abuse, the outstanding warrant in another jurisdiction permitted the officers to detain him for the purpose of questioning him regarding the suspicion of felony child abuse.

In all of Watson’s statements, he was first Mirandized before he provided information to police. It was only on the third statement that he confessed and he was then arrested for felony child abuse. Watts’s confessions were made on voluntary information sheets, which contained a reiteration of his Miranda rights. As such, Watts received at least six notifications of his Miranda rights.

It should also be noted that Watts admitted to kicking BAW in the stomach out of frustration twelve hours after he gave his first inculpatory statement. He had time to consider whether to refrain from making any further statements to the police, yet he continued to make inculpatory statements. Therefore, we find that he was sufficiently apprised of his rights at the time that he confessed to abusing BAW.