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Hall v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

June 4, 2018

Curtis Hall, Appellant,
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. Terry Lewis, Judge.

          Candice Kaye Brower, Regional Conflict Counsel, Gainesville, and Michael J. Titus, Assistant Regional Conflict Counsel, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Trisha Meggs Pate, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Per Curiam.

         Curtis Hall appeals from his convictions and sentences for two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery with a firearm, raising three issues for our consideration. Hall argues in his first issue that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress statements made during a police interrogation. He argues in his third issue that the Criminal Punishment Code is unconstitutional as applied to juvenile defendants. We affirm for the reasons discussed below.[1]


         Hall was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery with a firearm. It was alleged that Hall, who was seventeen years old at the time, robbed and killed two brothers who lived together in Hall's apartment complex. Hall was interviewed by the police on November 2 and November 15, 2012, regarding the crimes after witnesses placed him near the scene. Prior to trial, Hall moved to suppress statements he made to the police during the November 15, 2012, interrogation, including a confession to committing the murders, arguing that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his Fifth Amendment[2]rights.

         The trial court found that Hall understood his rights and validly waived them. Hall was found guilty of two counts of the lesser-included offense of second-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery. The jury made a specific finding that Hall did not have actual possession of a firearm during the crimes. Hall's scoresheet indicated a lowest permissible sentence of 369.15 months in prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced to fifty-five years in prison, to be followed by life on probation, with a chance for judicial review after fifteen years pursuant to section 921.1402, Florida Statutes (2014).


         In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, "[t]he standard of review for the trial judge's factual findings is whether competent substantial evidence supports the judge's ruling" and the "standard of review for the trial judge's application of the law to the factual findings is de novo." Butler v. State, 706 So.2d 100, 101 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998). This Court gives deference to the trial court's factual findings and credibility determinations based on live testimony but gives less deference when, based on the nature of the evidence under review, "the trial court does not have a special vantage point."[3] Beckham/Tillman v. Bennett, 118 So.3d 896, 898 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (quoting State v. Sepanik, 110 So.3d 977, 978 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013)).

         All persons have a constitutional right against self-incrimination in any criminal matter. U.S. Const. amend. V; Art. I, § 9, Fla. Const. The Supreme Court determined in Miranda v. Arizona that the State "may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). A defendant may waive so-called Miranda rights, but only if the defendant is informed of those rights and "the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently." Id.

         To determine whether a defendant's waiver of Miranda rights is voluntary, knowing, and intelligent, courts employ a "totality of the circumstances" test, which involves evaluation of factors including "(1) the manner in which the Miranda rights were administered, including any cajoling or trickery; (2) the suspect's age, experience, background and intelligence;" (3) whether the suspect's parents were contacted and the juvenile given an opportunity to consult with parents or an attorney before questioning; (4) whether the questioning took place in the police station; and (5) whether the interrogators secured a written Miranda waiver. Ramirez v. State, 739 So.2d 568, 576 (Fla. 1999) (citations omitted). Where a confession is obtained after the administration of the Miranda warnings, the State bears a "heavy burden" to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his or her privilege against self-incrimination and the right to counsel. Id. at 575.

         By applying the Ramirez factors to Hall's November 15 interview, we conclude the trial court properly denied Hall's motion to suppress his post-Miranda statements. As to the manner in which his rights were read to him, Hall was interviewed at the police station while he was there based on an arrest for unrelated charges. Before any questioning occurred, an officer read Hall his Miranda rights and Hall executed a written waiver of those rights. While the record indicates the officer read the rights extremely quickly, this was the second time in two weeks that Hall had waived his Miranda rights and indicated a desire to talk to police regarding the murders. During the November 2 interview, an officer read Hall his Miranda rights and Hall signed a written waiver of those rights after informing the officers he had no questions about the waiver. During that interrogation, another officer reiterated that Hall had the right to refuse to answer questions. While we do not condone the officer's cursory review of Hall's Mir ...

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