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Barrientos v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

August 16, 2019



          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Collier County; Ramiro Mañalich, Judge.

          Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Maureen E. Surber, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Christina Z. Pacheco, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.


         Juan Jose Barrientos, Jr., appeals his convictions and sentences for first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon, arguing that the trial court erred in declining to suppress his statements to police in their entirety. We affirm.

         The record shows that on December 30, 2008, Barrientos-a juvenile at the time-showed up at a Collier County police substation with his mother and sister to report that there had been a death at Six L's Farm two days earlier. In the lobby of the police station and then again after being invited into the sergeant's office, Barrientos stated that he and his friend had been involved in a man's death. He remembered that they had disposed of the body, but he could not recall exactly what had happened because he suffered from blackouts. The detective "let him talk" and did not interrupt or question him. The police did not have a record of any incidents at Six L's Farm, so they called major crimes to respond to the scene. Because at this point the police did not know whether a crime had in fact occurred, the detective did not give Barrientos Miranda[1] warnings. Although Barrientos was free to leave, he was not advised to that effect.

         Within approximately half an hour, a detective from major crimes arrived to talk to Barrientos. Barrientos' mother and sister were asked to leave the room, to which no one objected. When asked for permission to speak to Barrientos, his mother stated, "[T]his is why I am here." Barrientos was not Mirandized. This second statement took place from 4:08 p.m. to 4:27 p.m. and was recorded. During this interview, the detectives still had not determined whether a crime had in fact been committed. However, Barrientos confessed that his friend Jesus Garza planned to kill a man named Don Berto-later identified as Roberto Avalos-Jasso-and that Barrientos had helped him do it. Garza had supplied Barrientos with a knife and socks to cover his hands. They agreed on a code word to signal when to kill Don Berto. The three men got into Garza's car, with Don Berto in the front passenger seat and Barrientos in the back. Garza said the code word, and Barrientos blacked out. The next thing he remembered was that Don Berto was on the ground outside the car bleeding from his neck. Barrientos and Garza waited for Don Berto to die, then they grabbed his body and disposed of it in the woods. After that, they cleaned Garza's car. They disposed of the socks and clothes they had worn as well as the towels they had used to clean the car. Garza cleaned the knife and put it back in his house. He also attempted to sell Don Berto's power saw and burn his wallet. Barrientos gave the detective directions to where they could find the body and the various pieces of evidence.

         Immediately after this interview, the major crimes detective went to Six L's Farm to investigate whether Barrientos' story was true. The detective testified that when he exited the police station, no one was left to guard Barrientos. The detective found the crime scene and dead body as Barrientos had described. It was at this point the detective "knew for sure" a crime had been committed and they were looking at more than just a "suspicious incident."

         The third interview took place later the same day from 7:25 p.m. to 7:59 p.m. Barrientos was given Miranda warnings and signed a waiver. During this interview, Barrientos stated that he did not want to change his previous statement. He repeated essentially the same story that he had already given. Barrientos did make additional incriminating statements as the interview continued, but these statements were suppressed based on inappropriate comments made by the detective. Although his motion to suppress was granted in part, Barrientos contends that both his second and third statements should have been suppressed in their entirety.

         The Second Statement

         Barrientos argues that his second statement to police should have been suppressed because it was made under custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings. Considering the unique circumstances surrounding this statement, however, we conclude that Barrientos was not in custody at the time and that therefore Miranda warnings were not yet required.

         "Miranda warnings are not required for every potential suspect." State v. Thompson, 193 So.3d 916, 920 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) (citing Wright v. State, 161 So.3d 442, 448 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014)). Rather, "[t]he warnings apply only to custodial interrogations," where an individual is both in custody and under interrogation. Id. "Absent one or the other, Miranda warnings are not required." Id. (quoting Davis v. State, 698 So.2d 1182, 1188 (Fla. 1997)).

         For purposes of Miranda, custody includes not only formal arrest but also "any restraint on freedom of movement [to] the degree associated with formal arrest." Id. (quoting Ramirez v. State, 739 So.2d 568, 573 (Fla. 1999)). In determining whether a suspect is in custody, courts apply a reasonable person test, focusing on how a reasonable person in the suspect's position would perceive the situation-not on the unarticulated plan of law enforcement. Id. "Miranda warnings are not required simply because the questioning takes place in the station ...

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