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State v. Campbell

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

April 4, 2017


          Heard: March 16, 2017

          Submitted: March 29, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress. Granted.

          Kenneth M. Haltom, Esquire and Nicole S. Hartman, Esquire of the Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorneys for the State.

          Ronald D. Phillips, Esquire and Julianne E. Murray, Esquire of MurrayPhillips, P.A., Georgetown, Delaware; attorneys for the Defendant.


          William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge

          Before the Court are a Motion to Suppress filed by Defendant Rondree Campbell and the State's Response to that motion.[1] Both parties have submitted supplemental briefs to the Court. The motion raises a single question:

         During the course of a custodial interrogation, Mr. Campbell said "bye" to the police detective. The detective then asked Mr. Campbell if he was "done talking." Mr. Campbell replied "Yeah, " prompting the detective to leave the room. The detective re-entered the room some fifteen minutes later and began questioning Mr. Campbell about the same incident. Did Mr. Campbell invoke his right to remain silent, and if so, should his subsequent statements be suppressed?

         Mr. Campbell's words constituted an unambiguous invocation of his right to remain silent. Because the detective and other police officers did not scrupulously honor Mr. Campbell's request, his motion to suppress is GRANTED.


         "The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that no person 'shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.'"[2]Likewise, article I, section 7 of Delaware's Constitution provides that the accused "shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself or herself." "When the admission of a custodial interrogation statement is challenged, the burden is on the State to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the suspect's Miranda rights have been waived."[3]


         Mr. Campbell is accused of a single count of Murder in the First Degree, two counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, nine counts of Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, one count of Carrying a Concealed Weapon, and a now-severed count of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited.

         Dover Police Department detectives took Mr. Campbell into custody on November 4, 2015, while he was checking in with his probation officer. Police video shows that Mr. Campbell sat alone in an interview room at the police department from at least 1:31 that afternoon until 2:13 p.m., when Detective Nathaniel Warren came in and began the interrogation.[4]

         About two minutes later, after asking Mr. Campbell some preliminary questions, Detective Warren read him his Miranda rights from a card:

NW [Nathaniel Warren]: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one can be appointed to you, uh, before any questioning if you wish. You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not make any statements at all. Do you understand those rights?
RC [Rondree Campbell]: Yeah.
NW: Do you wish to talk to me at all?
RC: Sure.[5]

         The interrogation continued. About twenty-nine minutes later, Detective Warren stood up and left the room.[6] After about five minutes, he returned and continued the interrogation.[7] Over the next fifteen minutes, the tone of the interview became decidedly more heated, culminating in the following exchange:

NW: You've got to give me something better than that because I'm telling you right now, you're going to be sitting here until that warrant's done. Once that warrant's done, you're going to prison. There's no -
RC: I don't (UI). Whatever.
NW: - other way around it.
RC: Bye.
NW: You done talking?
RC: Yeah, what is you - what is there to say?
NW: Think about it.[8]

         Detective Warren left the room. Mr. Campbell knocked on the door on two occasions. When Detective Warren answered the door, Mr. Campbell asked to speak with his mother. When Mr. Campbell returned to the room, he attempted to redirect the interview:

NW: They're going to bring your, uh, stuff in here so you can make a phone call. Look, man, I just want to say something. I want to clear something up with you a little bit. Um. I understand the situation and how I came at you was a - it was strong. Um. But at the same time I just want to be able to let you know, look, um, my supervisor now he's the one who investigated, um, the death of your friend Amir out in [Whatcoat], um, so I mean they know you've been in here before. They know you're decent and they know you have a heart. They know you're a good dude working, doing whatever you want to do. I just for myself want to clear some things up. That's why I brought that map in here. Just to clear up some things. 'Cause, look, I know when I'm talking north, south, and ...

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