No rule that mental retardation renders a confession inadmissible


In 1995, 84 year old Eliza Harris was raped by John Pierre Richardson. Following the assault, Mrs. Harris ran from her house, calling for help. Three people, riding by in a car, heard her cries for help. They stopped and found the elderly lady on the ground. She was crying and screaming “he raped me.”

As they helped the lady, one of the passers-by, Donald Haney, saw a black male running from inside the house to the back of the house. Haney and his friend, William Smith, chased the black man. They were able to catch the man. He told them he was going for help for Mrs. Harris. Haney told the man to go back to Mrs. Harris’ house with them.

As they walked back towards Mrs. Harris’ house, Haney left the group to call the police. Soon thereafter, police officers arrived and arrested the man. He was identified as John Pierre Richardson. While in custody, Richardson gave a statement in which he admitted that he raped the elderly lady.

Richardson was convicted of sexual battery and burglary of an inhabited dwelling and sentenced to 45 years. On appeal, he argued his I.Q. was low and he was friends with the officer whom interviewed him. MSC affirmed.


In Morgan, we said that for a confession to be admissible, it must have been given voluntarily and not given as a result of promises, threats or inducements.

We also said in Blue v. State, 674 So. 2d 1184 (Miss. 1996), that there is no per se rule that mental retardation renders a confession involuntary and inadmissible.

In Gator v. State, 402 So. 2d 316 (Miss. 1981), we held a confession was admissible where defendant’s IQ was placed at a range between 43 and 70. In Hancock v. State, 299 So. 2d 188 (Miss. 1974), we held a confession was admissible after Miranda warnings were given where defendant had an IQ of 87 and was considered “dull normal”.

On the other hand, in Dover v. State, 227 So. 2d 296 (Miss. 1969), we suppressed a  confession of a 45 year old defendant with IQ of 60. In Harvey v. State, 207 So. 2d 108 (Miss. 1968), we suppressed a confession of an 18 year old defendant with an IQ of 60 and suffering from brain damage.

We said in McGowan that instead of relying exclusively upon a defendant’s mental abilities, those abilities are but one factor to be considered in determining whether the confession was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made. Whether there has been an intelligent, knowing, and voluntary waiver is essentially a factual inquiry to be determined by the trial judge from the totality of the circumstances.

The trial judge was informed by the officer who took the confession that he did not know Richardson beyond them attending the same school. They had never attended the same classes, and the officer was not familiar with Richardson in any way. Thus, Richardson’s assertion that he was coerced by the officer whom he identified as a friend is not supported by the record.

Further, the trial judge found that the officer did not offer Richardson any type of help in exchange for his confession. Instead, Richardson asked the officer for help.

On this same note, Richardson’s contention that his low I.Q. rendered his waiver of Miranda rights and confession involuntary likewise fails. The only evidence the trial court had before it regarding Richardson’s mental abilities was the mental evaluation performed by Dr. McMichael. In this report, the doctor opined that Richardson was mentally firm and competent.

Even Richardson’s own doctor conceded that Richardson was competent, albeit somewhat slow. While Dr. Hearne’s letter stated that Richardson scored low on a test, Dr. Hearne admitted still that Richardson knew right from wrong, was aware of the charges against him and could assist in his own defense.

There was simply no evidence presented to the trial court beyond the uncorroborated numbers in Dr. Hearne’s report about Richardson’s I.Q. which suggested that he could not give a valid waiver of his Miranda rights and subsequently give an intelligent, knowing and voluntary confession. Thus, this assignment of error lacks merit and does not entitle Richardson to any relief.