Statement properly admitted from subject who killed someone in a drug induced psychosis


On September 5, 2020, shortly after midnight, 911 dispatch received a call regarding vehicle headlights that were shining in the caller’s home window. Upon arriving at the scene, officers found Jennifer Marie Irby-Melgoza inside a truck that had crashed into a tree. She was covered in blood when the officers arrived and appeared to have a stab wound to her chest.

The officers on the scene developed Erby Dean Jackson as a suspect after examining the truck’s contents. Inside the truck, they found a wallet that contained Jackson’s driver’s license, his social security card, and other cards with his name on them. They also found two medicine bottles with Jackson’s name on them in a backpack inside the truck. While continuing to process the scene, they located a Bible in a black purse near the residence where the truck struck the tree.

After spending a few hours examining the scene, Major Kelly McMillen left and passed by Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church, which was near the scene of the crash. He noticed lights on in the church and thought this was suspicious. McMillen along with Detective Perry Pipkin entered the church and found no one there. They did not investigate the church at this time and, instead, simply “cleared it for security purposes” to make sure no one was inside.

Around the same time, Lieutenant Eric Knox, another officer who had been at the initial crash scene, passed Temperance Hill Baptist Church, which is about “three or 400 yards” from Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church. Knox observed a white male sitting on the front porch of the church. Because McMillen and Pipkin were still in the area near Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church, they advised they were going to Temperance Hill Baptist Church once Knox located a man he believed may have been Jackson.

Knox approached Jackson and advised him to lie on his stomach. Knox put Jackson in handcuffs and testified that Jackson did not resist in any way and seemed normal and coherent. Pipkin testified that upon arriving to Temperance Hill Baptist Church, Jackson was cooperative, responded appropriately to the commands given, seemed to comprehend what was being said, and acted accordingly.

A few hours after Jackson was transported to the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, McMillen and Sheriff Kenny Dickerson interviewed Jackson. Once the interview concluded, McMillen and Sheriff Dickerson went to Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church and located the knife in the pulpit, which was exactly where Jackson stated it was in the interview. Irby-Melgoza’s blood was found on the knife by DNA analysis. McMillen also stated that the clothing that Jackson was wearing was sent to the crime lab along with the knife, and the report confirmed Irby-Melgoza’s blood was on some of these items of clothing as well. Dr. LeVaughn concluded in his testimony that the manner of Irby-Melgoza’s death was a homicide by a stab wound.

At a suppression hearing, Jackson argued that his admissions and statements made to law enforcement should be suppressed because they failed to obtain a valid waiver. He claims he was not properly given his Miranda warnings, he did not sign a written consent prior to being interviewed by law enforcement, and his interviews were not recorded.

McMillen testified that after Knox handcuffed Jackson, McMillen verbally advised Jackson of his Miranda rights. Jackson responded that he understood his rights. He did not say he waived his rights, but he said he understood them and answered McMillen’s questions that followed. The other two officers on the scene, Knox and Pipkin, both testified they heard with their own ears McMillen reading Jackson his Miranda rights. McMillen and Knox both radioed dispatch to confirm Jackson had been read his Miranda rights. This radio traffic by both officers was recorded (per usual policy) and documented through their CAD system, which is the system dispatchers use to record this information in document form. Both the audio recording and the CAD report were admitted into evidence at trial.

After informing Jackson of his Miranda rights, McMillen asked Jackson if he had broken into the Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church. Jackson admitted that he did and said that he took a Bible from there “because he wanted to do some reading.” When he was asked if he knew what had happened to the woman found dead in the truck across the road, he said no.

Later in the morning, once Jackson was in custody at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, McMillen and Dickerson interviewed Jackson in an investigative office. Before the questioning began, Dickerson asked Jackson if he still understood his Miranda rights that had been previously given to him on the scene earlier by McMillen, and Jackson responded that he did. Dickerson then asked Jackson if he knew what had happened to the woman found dead in the truck, and after hesitating for a few minutes, Jackson replied, “I stabbed her.” During this same interview, Jackson told McMillen and Dickerson that the murder weapon was located inside the pulpit of the Chewalla Primitive Baptist Church. Jackson further stated that he and Irby-Melgoza had used methamphetamine and were in the area to buy drugs.

When transferring Jackson from the investigative office to the interview room with audio-video recording equipment, Jackson “completely shut down” and told the officers he was not answering any further questions or signing a waiver. At this point, Jackson was escorted back to his jail cell. McMillen testified that getting suspects to sign a waiver is something they do, but when working on a homicide case, there is more of a sense of urgency. McMillen said that in this particular situation, they were trying to get the information as quickly as possible. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.

At trial, Dr. Lott’s report of his evaluation of Jackson reflects that Jackson told him “he had not used any drugs . . . on the day of the offenses.” However, Jackson did admit that “he had been using drugs heavily prior to the index offenses” and “had used a half of gram of methamphetamine a couple of days before the offenses.” Dr. Lott also testified that he reviewed the police report indicating Jackson was responding appropriately and acting rationally when he was arrested and while in jail. Dr. Lott opined these actions supported his ultimate findings in the evaluation because his psychotic behavior quickly resolved and significantly improved; therefore, his behavior was likely drug-induced.

Dr. Lott reported that in his opinion, Mr. Jackson was suffering from a severe mental disorder at the time of the index offenses. It appears he was suffering from a drug-induced psychotic disorder . . . .” He also reported that Jackson “had been using drugs heavily prior to the index offenses” and had “been exhibiting delusional behavior for several weeks before the index offenses” for which “he had not received any treatment for his substance abuse and psychotic symptoms.” Dr. Lott stated that in his opinion, “Jackson believed he was killing a demon and did not believe that his actions were wrong.”

Jackson did not testify as to how the stabbing occurred exactly, but it is clear from his testimony that Irby-Melgoza was sitting inside the truck outside the church trying to get him to get inside the vehicle, and because he did not want to get in, he approached the driver’s side of the truck and stabbed Irby-Melgoza. Jackson testified he could not say whether he properly received his Miranda warnings because he did not remember. He stated there was no interaction between him and the officers; they just detained him and threw him in the vehicle. However, Jackson testified that he did remember being interviewed at the sheriff’s department and believed he (Jackson) did what he was supposed to do.

He was convicted of first-degree murder and burglary, and the trial court sentenced him to life. On appeal, he argued his confession should have been suppressed. MCOA affirmed.


Jackson argues that considering the question of his sanity at the time of the alleged offense, he could not have given a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ prohibition against compelled self-incrimination requires that the accused be advised of his right to remain silent and his right to counsel before any custodial interrogation. Once advised of his Miranda rights, an accused may waive these rights and respond to interrogation. See MSC Moore. For a waiver of one’s Miranda rights to be considered valid, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the waiver was made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. A waiver is considered voluntary if it is the result of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion or deception. A waiver is knowing and intelligent if it is made with a full awareness both of the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it. See MSC Chim.

In MCOA Cruz, a defendant argued that the waiver of her Miranda rights was involuntary because she was intoxicated at the time. There three law enforcement officers testified that nothing about Cruz’s demeanor or appearance indicated that she was intoxicated or impaired, let alone to the point that she could not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive her rights. Further, there was evidence produced to show that at least two hours had passed from the time Cruz had taken her last drink to the time she waived her Miranda rights.

The evidence presented at the present trial does not signify that Jackson did not voluntarily waive his Miranda rights and consent to speak with McMillen and Dickerson. McMillen testified that Jackson was acting normal at the time of his arrest when he waived his rights and willingly spoke to the law enforcement. McMillen also testified that Jackson twice acknowledged that he understood his rights he was waiving prior to giving any statements. The first time was when he was handcuffed on the scene and the second time was right before the interview was conducted at the sheriff’s department. McMillen further testified that Jackson followed Knox’s instructions and acknowledged that he knew what was going on when he was arrested moments before McMillen advised Jackson of his rights.

Later in the trial, Dr. Lott testified that he reviewed Jackson’s statements to law enforcement during his interview. Dr. Lott testified that there’s nothing that appears the least bit psychotic in any of his comments or statements, nor in his behavior. He noted that if law enforcement observes a suspect exhibiting strange or bizarre behaviors during an interview then they will cease the interrogation, but that did not happen here.

Even though the State has asserted that Jackson’s mental state at the time of the murder was one of a drug-induced psychosis, when he was arrested and then later interviewed, many hours had passed since the murder occurred. This is similar to Cruz where at least two hours had passed before Cruz waived her Miranda rights, except in the present case, even more hours than that had passed from the time of the murder to the time Jackson was read his Miranda rights and began voluntarily answering law enforcement’s questions. Further, Dr. Lott testified that it was clear Jackson’s psychosis state improved quickly and significantly from the time before and during the murder compared to the time he was arrested and interviewed because by that time it had been about 24 to 48 hours or more since Jackson had ingested any drugs.

Thus, we find no reversible error in the court’s ruling denying Jackson’s motion to suppress the statements he made to law enforcement. He made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights.