totality of the circumstances is used to determine if a defendant intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights


In 2002, while working at the Cash Depot in Jackson, Paula Kay Dinkins was shot in the head during an armed robbery; she was found dead, kneeling in front of an empty safe that previously had contained $2,200. After an investigation which revealed William Scott to be a possible suspect, an ex-girlfriend of Scott’s told the Jackson Police Department (JPD) Scott was in Marietta, Georgia.

He was arrested in Georgia and when JPD arrived, Scott was given his Miranda warnings, and allegedly signed a waiver, which he later denied at trial. Scott confessed to the armed robbery and murder in the presence of two officers, then signed and initialed the typed confession.

At trial, Scott admitted he had signed a confession. Scott admitted he had signed some portions of the confession presented in court, but he alleged that he did not sign some of the confession. Both officers who took his confession testified at trial and were subject to cross-examination.

Scott was convicted of the capital murder of Dinkins and sentenced to life. On appeal, MCOA reversed, in part due to the confession. MSC reversed MCOA and affirmed the conviction.


We said in Armstead that the trial judge must determine beyond a reasonable doubt that a confession was voluntary and knowing and that the defendant was given his Miranda rights prior to any custodial interrogation. Here, a signed Miranda waiver and a signed and initialed confession were admitted into evidence. In addition, the officers who Mirandized Scott and took his confession were available to (and ultimately did) testify.

The trial judge allowed the written confession into evidence, which we hold to be within her discretion and substantiated by sufficient evidence in the record. The signed Miranda waiver is evidence of a knowing and voluntary confession.

The judge must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine if a defendant intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights.

Here, the trial judge inquired as to whether Scott had been aware of his Miranda rights when he was taken into custody. Scott acknowledged that he was aware of them. The judge further inquired as to Scott’s intelligence, his ability to read and write, his education, his mental state at the time of the waiver and confession, whether he had slept prior to the confession, and whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Scott’s answers to the judge’s questions support the trial judge’s finding that the confession was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.

The record indicates that Scott had attended at least one year of college, which reflects at least an average level of intellect, and that Scott had been convicted of conspiracy to embezzle, which resulted in some familiarity with the criminal justice system. Scott said he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol; he was not physically threatened or coerced; he knew his Miranda rights; and he was aware he had the right to remain silent or have counsel appointed prior to his confession. All of these factors indicate a person who was aware of his rights and the nature of the charges against him. See MSC case Martin.

Scott has alleged that the officers showed him a photograph of a lethal injection gurney in an effort to get him to cooperate. The police officers deny this allegation. However, even if this allegation is true, the totality of the circumstances weighs heavily against Scott and toward admission of the confession for the jury to weigh.

This court in Bell said that it will not reverse the trial court on conflicting testimony as to whether coercion was used to obtain a confession.