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Tape of confession lacked any concerns that subject was too intoxicated to give statement

Facts

In 2003, S.R.’s mother received a report from her stepsister that her daughter, had been sexually abused by Jerry Morris the previous night. Upon hearing this the mother contacted the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the record, S.R. spent the evening of June 12, 2003, with her mother’s stepsister, Ms. Morris. While Ms. Morris was away at work, her boyfriend, Jerry Morris, remained at their apartment with S.R. and two other minor children. At the time of the incident, Jerry Morris was 36 years old and S.R. was ten years old. Jerry Morris was charged with sexual battery of S. R., who is the niece of his girlfriend.

At approximately 1:30 a.m., the child disclosed the molestation to her aunt, who confronted Jerry Morris. Jerry Morris admitted to Ms. Morris that he had engaged in inappropriate touching of the child. About 3:30 a.m., Ms. Morris took S.R. to her mother, who filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office. Morris was arrested and gave a recorded confession. Morris’ confession was given in the presence of Lt. Josh Zacaharias and Detective Jim Dunavant while in custody at the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department.

Morris was convicted of sexual battery and sentenced to 20 years. On appeal, he argued he was under the influence of Xanax when he gave the confession. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

He contends that the statement was not knowingly or voluntarily made because he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, specifically Xanax. According to Jerry Morris’ testimony, he drank “from about 9:30 that night until about 11:30 that morning” and finished the last beer when he was arrested.

In O’Halloran, the MSC said that intoxication does not automatically render a confession involuntary. However, the degree of intoxication is a matter which may be considered by the court in making its determination as to whether a statement should be suppressed.

Jerry Morris testified that he was intoxicated, and did not remember the confession or anything about the events subsequent to his arrest. However, Lt. Zacharias and Detective Dunavant indicated that Jerry Morris did not exhibit the symptoms of a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He lacked the smell of alcohol, redness of the eyes, the dilation of his pupils, the slurring of his speech and the appearance of confusion. In fact when given his Miranda warnings by the officers, Morris asked questions and stated he had been through this before.

In reaching its determination, the trial court also listened to the recording of the confession. The trial court determined that (1) a full explanation of the Miranda rights had been given to Morris, (2) Morris had asked questions and indicated that he had been through this process previously, (3) Morris had indicated that he understood his Miranda rights, and had indicated his understanding by having initialed each right on the waiver form, (4) Morris had indicated a willingness to talk with the officers, and (5) the statements made to the officers had been coherent and had not sounded as if they were made by someone who was impaired.

These findings by the trial court were consistent with the audio tape of the confession, which Morris agreed was the best evidence of the voluntariness of his confession. That tape does not suggest that Morris was unwilling to talk, promised any leniency, threatened, that coercive measures were exerted against him by the officers, or that he was mentally impaired.

The trial court’s decision applies the proper law, and is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, this court finds no merit to this assignment of error.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/OPINIONS/CO26140.PDF