Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statement DENIED.
Sarita R. Wright, Esquire Deputy Attorney General Carvel State Office Building 820 North French Street Wilmington, DE 19801
Joseph M. Leager, Jr., Esquire Assistant Public Defender Carvel State Office Building 820 No. French Street, 3rd Floor Wilmington, DE 19801
As you know, the original trial judge recused herself. So, I have reviewed Defendant's motion to suppress, the State's response, the transcript of the arresting officer's cross-examination, and the video-statement. I also recall the September 23, 2013 final case review, over which I presided. First, I will address the motion's timing. Then, I will discuss the merits.
In summary, the motion is untimely, with both sides to blame for that. And, although Defendant's interrogation was artful and in some ways manipulative, it cannot be called overbearing, coercive, or intimidating. The interrogator never tried to discourage Defendant from invoking his rights to remain silent and to counsel. It is apparent that, knowing his rights, Defendant chose to speak with the police in order to advance what he thought was his best interest.
As to the motion's timing, the State is to blame for not producing Defendant's statement until after the final case review and only a week before trial. Defendant made his statement on February 20, 2013. He was indicted on May 28, 2013. The defense filed the standard discovery request. The State has no excuse for taking more than seven months to produce a DVD for the defense.
The above notwithstanding, the defense chose not to make an issue out of this in a timely way. Perhaps, the defense was trying not to antagonize the prosecution during plea negotiations. Even so, at the final case review when the defense finally made a record about the statement's non-production, it down-played the statement's significance. Even if it might be said that due to the unusual circumstances defense counsel did not appreciate the statement's significance until it was finally received, the defense had the statement for a week before trial. During that time, counsel and the court exchanged correspondence concerning a possible office conference and other things. The defense, however, did not broach a suppression motion.
Finally, when the case was called for trial on October 1, 2013, the defense announced that it was "ready for trial." Yet again, the defense passed-up an opportunity to tell the court that, after finally reviewing Defendant's statement, the defense realized that the police were overreaching and Defendant had cause for a motion to suppress. As it happened, the case went to trial on October 1, 2013, and the court declared a mistrial the next day. Then, on October 14, 2013, Defendant filed the motion to suppress his February 20, 2013 statement.
The court rejects any implication that the defense first became aware of the suppression issue during the interrogator's cross-examination. The motion to suppress primarily relies on the interaction between the interrogator and Defendant, evidenced by the statement. The cross-examination merely stressed the inter rogat ion's potential infirmities. For example, the interrogator's testimony that he would not have let Defendant leave the police station during the interrogation merely adds details to what was apparent, or at least implied, in the statement itself.
In summary as to the motion's timeliness, taking everything into account, neither side has acted in good faith. The State did not respect its important obligation to produce Defendant's statement, and the defense did not timely press the issue. But now, when opportune, the defense asks for consideration. As far as the court is concerned, Defendant waived this motion by not filing it before his first trial.
Although Defendant is not entitled to consideration on the merits, the court offers the following. It is undisputed that Defendant was stopped for a motor vehicle offense and taken to Wilmington Police headquarters on February 20, 2013. He was restrained in an interrogation room and a detective, not involved in the motor vehicle case, questioned him about a pending homicide investigation.
It is also agreed, as the video recording of the statement confirms, Defendant was given proper Miranda warnings. Before giving the warnings, the interrogator explained that they were unnecessary or "overkill, " because although Defendant was in custody in connection with the motor vehicle ...