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State v. Ward

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

August 7, 2018


          Submitted: June 27, 2018

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress GRANTED, IN PART & DENIED, IN PART

          Jason C. Cohee & Stephen E. Smith, Deputy Attorneys General, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Dover, Delaware, Attorneys for the State.

          Thomas D. Donovan, Esquire, OFFICE OF CONFLICTS COUNSEL, Dover, Delaware, & Zachary A. George, Esquire, HUDSON, JONES, JAYWORK & FISHER, Dover, Delaware, Attorneys for the Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER


         The State charges Defendant Raymond Ward (hereinafter "Mr. Ward") with Murder in the First Degree for his alleged participation in the 2017 murder of Dequan Dukes. Mr. Ward moves to suppress statements made to the Dover Police pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona[1] (hereinafter referred to as "Miranda"). Based on the evidence presented at a suppression hearing, Mr. Ward argues that he did not waive his rights, and if he did, he later sought to invoke them twice but the interrogating officer did not scrupulously honor his invocation of those rights.

         The State argues that the evidence at the suppression hearing established that Mr. Ward expressly waived his rights. The State concedes, however, that at two points later in the interview, Mr. Ward ambiguously invoked his right to stop the interrogation. Nevertheless, the State argues that at both points, the detective clarified that Mr. Ward wanted to continue.

         After considering the evidence presented, the Court finds that the State met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Ward waived his Miranda rights. Furthermore, the Court finds that after Mr. Ward first ambiguously asserted his rights, he signaled his desire to continue the session. After the second ambiguous assertion, however, the detective did not ask clarifying questions to establish Mr. Ward's intent. As a consequence, any statements made after Mr. Ward's second invocation of his right to remain silent, must be suppressed from use at trial. For these reasons and those that follow, Mr. Ward's motion to suppress pursuant to Miranda is GRANTED, IN PART, and DENIED, IN PART.

         Findings of Fact after the Suppression Hearing

         On June 13, 2018, the Court held a suppression hearing and finds the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence. The State charges Mr. Ward with the felony murder of Dequan Dukes, who was shot and killed on June 27, 2017. The State also charges Mr. Ward with Attempted Robbery First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and Conspiracy Second Degree. At the time the police took him into custody, he allegedly illegally possessed a firearm that was unassociated with the Dequan Dukes shooting.

         A detective conducted a custodial interrogation of Mr. Ward at the Dover Police station (hereinafter the "station"). Although the interrogating detective did not participate in Mr. Ward's arrest, he volunteered to question Mr. Ward because they went to the same high school and played on the same high school basketball team. The record of the custodial interrogation is divided into two segments. The first segment is a video recording that takes place in an interview room at the station. The second segment is an audio recording of the second portion of the interrogation taking place in another room at the station.

         The detective began the questioning by telling Mr. Ward that he had to read him his Miranda rights before continuing. Upon entering the room, the detective's demeanor and body language were familiar and non-threatening. After reading Mr. Ward his Miranda rights, the detective asked him "do you understand these rights that I have explained to you?" Based upon the detective's testimony at trial and the Court's review of the video, the Court finds that Mr. Ward nodded affirmatively.

         Next, the detective asked Mr. Ward: "having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to me know? Just about what, what, like I said downstairs, about today." The detective testified that Mr. Ward responded "oh yeah," although the detective admitted he did not have an independent recollection as to what Mr. Ward said until he reviewed the video. After reviewing the video several times, the Court cannot discern what Mr. Ward said. Nevertheless, he responded to the waiver request by leaning back casually, stating something that under the circumstances sounded and appeared in the video to be an affirmative response, and then calmly began answering the detective's questions.

         The detective then began the interrogation by discussing Mr. Ward's recent marriage and other routine matters. He then asked Mr. Ward questions regarding the circumstances surrounding his arrest, [2] such as where and when he was arrested. The detective then told Mr. Ward that a gun was found in the home and asked about it. Mr. Ward readily answered the detective's questions about the firearm, confirmed that it was his, where it was found, and its caliber. He further stated that he just obtained the firearm, that is was for his protection, and that it had not been used for any murders.[3]

         The detective then steered the questioning toward the homicide:

Detective: You just got it?
Mr. Ward: Protection for me and my cousin.
Detective: I'm with you. Well, you wonder why? Because your names are coming up in all this other stuff.
Mr. Ward: Everything, my name come up in everything.
Detective: Well, do you want to talk about those situations?
Mr. Ward: No, there's probably cameras all in here. I know that.

         At that point, the State concedes that Mr. Ward ambiguously asserted his Miranda rights. The detective then sought to clarify Mr. Ward's intent. Namely, he specifically asked Mr. Ward if he wanted to continue the questioning, and if he did not, the detective told him he could speak to him in jail at another time. The detective then began to leave the room; Mr. Ward, however, stopped him and signaled for him to come back. At that point, the following exchange took place:

Mr. Ward: Let me talk to you.
Detective: Alright - what's that?
Mr. Ward: Let me talk to you.
Detective: What's up?
Mr. Ward: I'll wait until you get back.
Detective: No, I'm good. What's up?
Mr. Ward: You get my bail down, I'll talk to you.

         Following this exchange, the detective explained the bail process and indicated that he could not promise to reduce his bail. The detective told Mr. Ward that when he had an attorney he could request to speak with him later, or Mr. Ward could speak to him now to help himself. At that point, the State conceded in its written submission that there was a second ambiguous assertion of Mr. Ward's right to remain silent. Namely, the next exchange included the following:

Detective: What I can tell you is that if you get an attorney, when you get an attorney, you want to come talk and you want to come talk to me, you can request that. I will go up ...

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