FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Highlands County; J. Dale
L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Carol J.Y. Wilson,
Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Brandon R.
Christian, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.
Lamont Wilson, Jr., appeals his judgments for burglary of an
occupied structure while armed with a firearm, robbery with a
firearm, aggravated battery with a firearm, and two counts of
armed kidnapping with a firearm. Mr. Wilson was sentenced to
fifteen years in prison on the aggravated battery count and
consecutive life sentences with a ten-year minimum mandatory
term for the remaining counts. Each conviction factually
stemmed from a robbery of a Pizza Hut on December 12, 2012.
issue presented by Mr. Wilson is whether the conduct of law
enforcement officers during his interrogation violated
protections afforded him by the Constitution of the United
States and the Constitution of the State of Florida and, more
specifically, those protections provided by Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Based on our review of the
record, including the audio and video recording of the
interrogation, we conclude that the confession given by Mr.
Wilson, elicited prior to the administration of
Miranda warnings, was obtained improperly. The trial
court erred in denying Mr. Wilson's motion to suppress,
and this error was not harmless.
required to reverse and remand for further proceedings and
note that "[t]he disadvantage of the Miranda
rule is that statements which may be by no means involuntary,
made by a defendant who is aware of his 'rights, '
may nonetheless be excluded and a guilty defendant go free as
a result." Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S.
428, 444 (2000).
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
December 18, 2012, Mr. Wilson agreed to meet with officers of
the Sebring Police Department at a park near his home. He had
contacted the officers at the request of a friend. When the
officers arrived at the park, they asked if Mr. Wilson would
be willing to talk with them at the station. He agreed, and
the officers gave him a ride in their vehicle.
beginning of the interview, Mr. Wilson did not know what the
officers wanted to discuss with him. Mr. Wilson stated that
he needed to leave by 3:30 p.m. to meet someone. The officer
responded, "[Y]ou won't be here that long. And like
I said, we'll ride you home whenever you're
ready." They also told him where the exits were and told
him he was free to leave at any time.
interview was held in a small room with a closed door at the
station. It began around 2 p.m. and ended just after 5:30
p.m. Minutes into the questioning, Mr. Wilson was told,
"Well, the reason we're here to talk to you today is
we've had a series of robberies in which you have become
Wilson denied any involvement, but the officers were not
deterred. The officers stated that they had collected
evidence from the scene and that they knew he was involved.
The officers stated they were willing to work with him, but
he needed to "stop playing games" and "start
either coming clean or you're going to end up taking the
ride." The officers pressed him with increasing details
of evidence implicating him in the crime, including DNA and
fingerprints found on items linked to the robbery. These
items were found at the house of his friend, Terrell. They
stated they had GPS data and phone call recordings and could
place Mr. Wilson at that house just after the robbery. After
some time, Mr. Wilson acknowledged he may have touched a gun
that was at the friend's house, but he denied using the
gun, denied owning a cell phone, and denied any involvement
in the robbery.
officers responded that it was obvious he was not telling the
truth "because the gun that you've tied yourself to
was used in an armed robbery. . . . So all this stuff that
you're giving is just tying you more and more and more to
the armed robbery." They went on to tell him, "I
can look you in the eye and without a shadow of a doubt, all
right, through forensics and DNA and other evidence and other
statements put you in Pizza Hut" at the time of the
robbery. "I know the last thing you want is another
armed robbery with a firearm charge. . . . Without us talking
to the State Attorney, that will send you up for a number of
Christmases and a number of your birthdays."
told him that a shot was fired from a gun during the robbery,
making it "a 10/20/Life case." They also stated that
they had his DNA on a gun that was fired and that they
recovered a projectile and casing from the scene. After
further denials, one officer stated: "We know pretty
much what's happened. All right. We wanted to give you
the opportunity to be forthcoming, so we can tell the State
Attorney that you need a second chance." After
explaining that they had "a stack of evidence"
against Mr. Wilson, one officer stated: "When it comes
down, it's going to come down so hard until there's
nothing that we can do for you. . . . We're giving you
the opportunity to continue your life."
Wilson was told that they could have arrested him already
and, if he continued to deny his involvement, "when we
present it to the State Attorney, all right, they are going
to issue a warrant for your arrest. And you're going to
go to jail." However, they offered him a way out and
stated they were willing to recommend probation if he would
tell them the truth, but this was a one-time offer.
officers explained that they believed he was the driver for
the robbery and they could track him to Terrell's house
where the stolen money and employees' cell phones were
found, along with face masks and guns. After giving him a
bottle of water, they explained that they believed he was
worth saving, and so they wanted to give him a second chance
at life if he would tell the truth. The officers then
explained that they would be willing to recommend that his
prior robbery charge and the instant case be lumped together
and that he receive a total of eight years of probation. When
Mr. Wilson questioned the impact of a recommendation, one
officer reassured him: "I've been a cop 16 years. .
. . I have never seen the State not go with the
recommendations that we make." The officers agreed to
"stand up" for Mr. Wilson and recommend no prison
time. When Mr. Wilson stated, "I don't want to go to
prison, " one officer offered to put on the record,
"I promise you I will go to the State Attorney and
recommend that you catch probation. No prison time." The
other two officers agreed, and they told him that they needed
to get the truth from him that day: "In other words, you
can't leave here today and think about it and call us
tomorrow. . . . [I]t's all or nothing right here right
Wilson expressed interest in the plan, asked for a pen and
paper to get the officers' names, and then asked to use
the phone. Mr. Wilson stated, "I just want to get my
lawyer's opinion on this. . . . I just want to get my
lawyer's opinion of it." The officer said that was
fine, it was his right, but it would end the discussion. Mr.
Wilson said, "I just want to just like see if
that's-that's even possible what you guys are telling
me." Then the officer presented an alternative to Mr.
Wilson calling his lawyer, stating: "I'll do you one
better. . . . I'll bring you our boss in. All right. And
you can ask him."
other officers exited, and the boss came in and spent some
time answering Mr. Wilson's questions one-on-one. He
explained that the officers would make a recommendation based
on his cooperation and, while they could not give a
guarantee, he could very possibly get house arrest. He
explained that he was getting this offer before any of the
other suspects and told Mr. Wilson that it could not hurt him
in any way to work with the officers.
end of this consultation, Mr. Wilson seemed reassured and
stated, "I just wanted to get it from another
opinion." The sergeant reiterated, "You ain't
got nothing to lose." The steps of the plea negotiations
were explained, the three officers further assured Mr.
Wilson, "[W]e're going to go to bat for you, "
and Mr. Wilson then gave his confession that was later
placed, as evidence, before the jury.
giving his recorded statement confessing to his involvement
in the armed robbery, Mr. Wilson was in fact permitted to go
home, and it was not until a follow-up interview the next day
that Mr. Wilson was advised of his constitutional rights,
commonly known as the Miranda warnings.
April 2, 2014, Mr. Wilson filed a motion to suppress his
statement, asserting that it was obtained during an improper
custodial interrogation, that it was obtained by coercion,
and that he had invoked his right to counsel which was
ignored. Counsel for Mr. Wilson and for the State stipulated
that the trial court would review the recording of the
interview off the record and thereafter rule on the motion to
suppress. Later, when asked by the parties if the trial court
had an opportunity to review that evidence, the trial court
indicated that it had, and the motion to suppress was denied
with no oral or written findings of fact.
case went to trial in March 2015, and the State presented
testimony that three masked men with guns robbed the Sebring
Pizza Hut. Police located cash, a key from the restaurant,
guns, and the employees' cell phones at Terrell's
house. They found a projectile and casing at the Pizza Hut
matching one of the guns, but no prints of value were found
on the firearms or plastic bags containing the stolen items.
Over defense objection, the State played for the jury Mr.
Wilson's statement in which he admitted that he drove to
the Pizza Hut in a mask, held a revolver, got a worker to
open the back door, and stayed at the back of the restaurant
while two others went inside to get the money. None of the
evidence referenced during the interrogation was used to link
Mr. Wilson to the robbery, and none of the witnesses
identified him as being a participant in the robbery or at
Terrell's house that night; the State's case was
based primarily on Mr. Wilson's confession.
Standard of Review
reviewing a trial court's decision on a motion to
suppress, we afford a presumption of correctness to the trial
court's findings of facts, but the application of those
facts to the law is reviewed de novo. Wyche v.
State, 987 So.2d 23, 25 (Fla. 2008). This court must
interpret the evidence and the reasonable inferences to be
drawn from the evidence in a manner most favorable to
sustaining the trial court's ruling. Martin v.
State, 107 So.3d 281, 298 (Fla. 2012) (citing Pagan
v. State, 830 So.2d 792, 806 (Fla. 2002)).
the motion to suppress sought to exclude the statements made
by Mr. Wilson while being questioned at the station. We pause
to note that neither the United States Constitution nor the
Florida Constitution requires the exclusion of all statements
of confession made by an accused. "Indeed, far from
being prohibited by the Constitution, admissions of guilt by
wrongdoers, if not coerced, are inherently desirable."
United States v. Washington, 431 U.S. 181, 187
(1977). What is prohibited is the admission of governmentally
to the language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of
the United States to determine the parameters of its field of
protection. It provides, in pertinent part, that "[n]o
person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself." U.S. Const. Amend. V. These
protections apply to the States by virtue of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98, 103
(2010) (citing Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 6
(1964)). The protection against self-incrimination is also
set forth in article I, section 9, of the Florida
Constitution, and this fundamental right must be broadly
construed. Myers v. State, 211 So.3d 962, 966 (Fla.
2017) (citing State v. Horwitz, 191 So.3d 429, 439
obtained from a defendant in violation of the right against
self-incrimination (also known as a 'privilege')
cannot be used against the defendant at trial."
Cuervo v. State, 967 So.2d 155, 160 (Fla. 2007). A
suspect who is subjected to a custodial interrogation must be
made aware of his or her constitutional right against
self-incrimination, and this is accomplished through
Miranda warnings. Myers, 211 So.3d at 971;
see Ramirez v. State, 739 So.2d 568, 573 (Fla. 1999)
(noting Miranda enunciates a "bright-line rule
to guard against compulsion and the coercive nature and
atmosphere of custodial interrogation"). "Under
Miranda . . ., statements made to the police in the
course of a 'custodial interrogation' must be
suppressed if the police have not informed the suspect of his
constitutional rights prior to the interrogation."
State v. Pitts, 936 So.2d 1111, 1123 (Fla. 2d DCA
2006); see also State v. McAdams, 193 So.3d 824, 833
(Fla. 2016) (citing Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S.
600, 608 (2004), and Deviney v. State, 112 So.3d 57,
79 (Fla. 2013)).
Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 306-07 (1985), the
Supreme Court set forth the ...