FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Citrus County, Richard A. Howard,
León Chalela, of Jorge León Chalela, P.A.,
Tampa, for Appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kristen L.
Davenport, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for
Marco Wilson appeals his conviction and sentence for
first-degree murder. The sole issue on appeal is whether the
trial court erred in admitting into evidence statements he
made to police after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to
counsel. We affirm.
was arrested and taken to the St. Petersburg Police
Department where Citrus County detectives, investigating a
murder, questioned him. Before questioning him, the
detectives read Wilson his Miranda rights. Wilson
did not request an attorney or invoke his right to remain
silent. Wilson steadfastly denied that he had ever been to
Crystal River where the murder occurred or that he knew the
other suspects or anything about the murder. When one of the
detectives showed Wilson a warrant for his arrest for
first-degree murder, Wilson said: "I don't know what
to tell you. I need a lawyer, man." The detectives
ceased further questioning and Wilson was transported to
Citrus County Jail.
days later, the same Citrus County detectives went to the
Citrus County jail and questioned Wilson again. After he was
again read his Miranda rights, Wilson agreed to
speak to the detectives, but said that he could not tell them
much because he had to speak to his lawyer first. The
detectives urged Wilson to tell them what he knew about the
murder, informing him of the evidence they had against him
and telling him that the other suspects were claiming that
Wilson alone had committed the murder. Wilson adamantly
denied having any part in the murder and repeatedly told the
detectives that his lawyer would figure out why the other
suspects were trying to blame him for it. He did, however,
admit to being in Crystal River around the time of the
trial, Wilson moved to suppress the statements he made during
both interrogations, arguing that both interviews were
inadmissible because he had invoked his right to counsel
during the first interrogation, requiring the detectives to
cease questioning him. The trial court denied Wilson's
motion, finding that he had never unequivocally requested the
assistance of a lawyer at any time during questioning. At the
subsequent trial, Wilson was convicted of first-degree murder
and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of
review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress as
a mixed question of law and fact. O'Hare v.
State, 263 So.3d 255, 258 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019). We defer
to the trial court's findings of fact as long as they are
supported by competent, substantial evidence, but we review
de novo a trial court's application of law to the facts.
Delhall v. State, 95 So.3d 134, 150 (Fla. 2012).
Though when reviewing such a motion we defer to a trial
court's findings of fact, this deference does not fully
apply when, as here, the findings are based mainly on review
of videotapes and transcripts as opposed to live testimony.
State v. Carter, 172 So.3d 538, 539-40 (Fla. 5th DCA
2015); see, e.g., Almeida v. State, 737
So.2d 520, 524 n.9 (Fla. 1999) ("The trial court had no
special vantage point in reviewing this tape. Based on our
review of the transcript and tape, we conclude that the
record evidence is legally insufficient to support the trial
resolve this appeal, we must answer two questions. First, did
Wilson clearly invoke his right to counsel? And second, if he
did, was the admission of his statements following his
invocation harmful error? We address each question in turn.
suspect subject to custodial interrogation has the right to
consult with an attorney and to have counsel present during
questioning, and . . . the police must explain this right to
him before questioning begins." Davis v. United
States, 512 U.S. 452, 457 (1994) (citing
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 469-73). If the suspect
requests an attorney, the police must immediately cease all
questioning. Rhodes v. State, 219 So.3d 251, 252
(Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
suspect's request for counsel must be clear and
unambiguous. Davis, 512 U.S. at 459. Whether such a
request is unambiguous is an objective inquiry designed to
determine if "a reasonable police officer in the
circumstances would understand the statement to be a request
for an attorney." Id.; see, e.g.,
Daniel v. State, 238 So.3d 1283, 1285-87 (Fla. 5th
DCA 2018) (finding that suspect's statement, "Look,
can I have a lawyer, man," was unequivocal request for
counsel); Rhodes, 219 So.3d at 252 (finding that
suspect's statement, "I need to see a lawyer,"
was unequivocal request for counsel); Bean v. State,
752 So.2d 644, 646 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000) (concluding that
statement, "I should be able to talk to a lawyer,"
was unequivocal request for counsel). "But if a suspect
makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or
equivocal in that a reasonable officer in light of the
circumstances would have understood only that the suspect
might be invoking the right to counsel, our
precedents do not require the cessation of questioning."
Davis, 512 U.S. at 459; see, e.g.,
Walker v. State, 957 So.2d 560, 571, 574 (Fla. 2007)
(concluding that suspect's statement, "I think I may
need a lawyer," followed by suspect asking police
officer if he needed legal counsel was not unambiguous
request for counsel); Spivey v. State, 45 So.3d 51,
54 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010) (finding suspect's statement,
"I mean if I am being held and I'm being charged
with something I need to be on the phone calling my
lawyer," was not unequivocal request for counsel that
would require termination of questioning).
that standard here, we conclude that Wilson's statement,
"I need a lawyer, man," was an unambiguous request
for counsel. Florida courts have repeatedly found similar
statements to be an unequivocal invocation of the right to
counsel. And, the detectives' own actions also
demonstrate that they understood Wilson's statement to be
an invocation of his right to counsel because they cut off
further questioning and left the interrogation room shortly
thereafter. The trial court correctly denied ...