In 2013, 13 year old Tanya was walking to school when Jafron Roberts choked her and forced her into his Camaro. He punched her and demanded that she have oral sex with him in the car. He then took her to an abandoned house and forced her to have intercourse.
Tanya purposefully left her underwear at the house and was dropped off by Roberts near her school. She called 911 and was provided medical attention. Officer Rita Jack, Meridian P.D., was driving Tanya and her mother around to look for the abandoned house when Tanya recognized Roberts’ car.
Police stopped the car and arrested Roberts, who matched the description Tanya had given them. Roberts later claimed he asked for an attorney at this point but all officers testified otherwise. Jack testified that she did not attempt to interview Roberts at the police department on the day of his arrest because he was combative and agitated, and he banged his head against the wall.
The next day, police found the abandoned house and again her description was accurate. Also, her underwear was recovered. Three days after the incident, Jack Mirandized Roberts, who refused to sign a rights waiver form, but continued talking to Jack.
Roberts first gave an alibi before admitting that he had taken Tanya to a house where they had consensual sex in a chair. Roberts was convicted of kidnaping and sexual battery and sentenced to 37 years. On appeal, he argued 1) he invoked by refusing to sign waiver form and 2) his confession was involuntary because it was induced by promises. MSC affirmed.
A. Refusal to sign waiver form and then giving statement
Jack’s testimony seemed to conflict somewhat with her report from the day of arrest, in which she had written that Roberts had “declined an interview.” However, Jack testified that Roberts never had said that he did not want to talk and actually had indicated that he wanted to talk. She explained that she had written “declined an interview” because his behavior was not conducive to talking.*
There days later, she read and explained his Miranda rights and presented to him the rights waiver form. She told him he did not have to sign the form, and that “I need your signature here for me to get your statement.” Jack testified that Roberts refused to sign the form and expressed concern about the rights he would give up by signing.
After Roberts had refused to sign the rights waiver form, he proceeded to tell Jack about his alibi and asked her to verify it. The conversation continued until he acknowledged having had sex with Tanya at the abandoned house. The recording of the interview indicates that Jack informed Roberts several times throughout that he was free to stop talking and terminate the interview.
If the totality of the circumstances establishes, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a waiver of rights was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily given, the trial court may admit the statement. In Brown, we said the totality of the circumstances includes consideration of the defendant’s experience with the police and familiarity with warnings; intelligence, including I.Q.; age; education; vocabulary and ability to read and write in the language in which the warnings were given; intoxication; emotional state; mental disease, disorder or retardation.
Roberts argues that his refusal to sign the rights waiver form was an invocation of his right to remain silent. Contrary to Roberts’s argument, this court has held in Jordan that the accused’s refusal to sign a rights waiver form is not a per se invocation of the right to silence. Although Roberts did decline to sign the rights waiver form, he acknowledged that his very next acts included voluntarily informing Jack of his alibi and responding to further questioning despite being advised several times that he could stop the interview at any point.
He never in any way indicated an intent to limit the interview to questions about his alibi; rather, he continued to talk to Jack despite being advised by her that he could stop the interview. He had eleven years of schooling, he had obtained a GED, and recently he had worked as a truck driver. He had been arrested previously, and earlier in life he had passed examinations to be trained as a police officer in Mississippi and in Louisiana.
B. Statement was not induced by promises
Roberts argues that his rights waiver was involuntary because it was induced by Jack’s statements that “a decision will be made today whether you are charged, or not, with anything. So if you don’t give me anything to fight for you with, then what can I do?” Officer Jack also said that “I just want you to let me fight for you if I can.”
There was no testimony, evidence, or argument that he had been induced to confess by Jack’s comments. Under the due process inquiry into whether a confession was voluntary, the trial court must determine from the totality of the circumstances whether the defendant’s will was overborne by the circumstances surrounding the confession.
Considering the totality of the circumstances, including Roberts’s age, education level, experience with the criminal justice system, suppression hearing testimony, and demeanor and responses in the recorded interview, nothing tends to show that Roberts’s will was overborne by Officer Jack’s comments. This issue is without merit.
* This is a perfect example of you knowing what you mean when you write “declined an interview” on your report but others may interpret these words much differently. Take the extra time to write in the report what you mean in these situations. That extra five minutes of writing your explanation will save you from being on the stand for an hour to discuss it two years later.