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In re Watson

Supreme Court of Ohio
Dec 20, 1989
47 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1989)

Summary

holding a 14-year-old aggravated-murder suspect's statements to be voluntary

Summary of this case from State v. Tibbs

Opinion

Nos. 88-1470 and 88-1476

Submitted October 17, 1989 —

Decided December 20, 1989.

Criminal law — Factors to be considered in deciding whether a juvenile's confession is involuntarily induced — Confrontation Clauses of Ohio Constitution and United States Constitution not violated by admission of nontestifying co-defendant's confession, when.

O.Jur 3d Family Law §§ 440, 518.

1. In deciding whether a juvenile's confession is involuntarily induced, the court should consider the totality of the circumstances, including the age, mentality and prior criminal experience of the accused; the length, intensity, and frequency of interrogation; and the existence of physical deprivation or inducement. ( State v. Edwards, 49 Ohio St.2d 31, 3 O.O. 3d 18, 358 N.E.2d 1051, approved and followed.)

O.Jur 3d Criminal Law §§ 138, 291.

2. The Confrontation Clauses of Section 10, Article I of the Ohio Constitution and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution are not violated by the admission of a nontestifying co-defendant's confession, where the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but also any reference to his or her existence. ( Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200, approved and followed.)

APPEALS from the Court of Appeals for Hamilton County, Nos. C-860726, C-860727 and C-860728.

Appellant David L. Johnson is before this court due to an appeal from the appellate court's affirmance of a juvenile court adjudication finding David, then age twelve, delinquent for having committed acts that if he were an adult would constitute petty theft and complicity to murder. Also, appellant Terrence (or Terrance) D. Watson, age fourteen at the time he was charged, is before this court due to an appeal from the appellate court's affirmance of a juvenile court's adjudication finding him delinquent for having committed an act that if he were an adult would constitute complicity to murder.

At approximately 7:00 p.m., on July 25, 1986, Robert Cooley walked to a downtown Cincinnati arcade to play video games. Robert's sister Nina had just given him thirty dollars as payment for babysitting her son during the week.

At about 9:00 p.m. on the same evening, appellants Johnson and Watson were also at the video arcade with Anthony Watson, Leandre Watson and Dante Hill. During the course of the evening, Anthony approached twelve-year-old David Johnson and told David to retrieve some money which was hanging out of Robert's pants pocket. David proceeded to grab the money but became scared and panicked, thereby dropping the money on the floor and running from the building. As David was fleeing from the building, Robert told him to stop. Next, Leandre observed Robert grab David's neck and ask him where the money was. David told Robert that he did not have the money, whereupon David was searched by Robert to see if he had the money and none was found.

Leandre was just starting to walk home when Anthony told him to run. Then the appellants, along with Anthony, Dante and Robert, began chasing Leandre to Richmond Park. Appellants were aware that Anthony was planning to "get" Robert when he reached the park.

Just before Robert was attacked, a witness, Jessie O'Neal, observed Anthony carrying a garbage can, Dante carrying a "stick," and David carrying a concrete brick in the vicinity of Richmond Park. When the boys arrived at the park, Anthony picked up a tree limb which was about two and one-half to three feet long and at least two inches in diameter. Next, Anthony came up behind Robert and struck him on the back of the head. Robert fell to the ground and Terrence proceeded to punch him. Robert attempted to get up, but Anthony hit him several times knocking Robert to the ground. Also, Dante threw a piece of concrete at Robert during the attack.

Robert Cuthbertson, who was walking in the area, noticed Anthony strike Robert Cooley with a "stick," while Robert was pleading with him to stop. Cuthbertson also observed Dante strike Robert with a piece of concrete. Cuthbertson shouted at the attackers, and they fled. Cuthbertson also saw two other boys run away with the attackers. After helping Robert to a park bench, Cuthbertson gave chase but was unable to catch any of the four boys who had fled.

Robert was taken to the hospital where, on July 27, 1986, he died from his injuries. The deputy coroner's autopsy determined that death was caused by any one of four distinct blows to the head.

On July 26, 1986, appellants went to the police station at the request of one of the officers investigating the case. Police Officer paul Rolfes interviewed Terrence and explained the waiver of rights form to him. Terrence was asked to read it from top to bottom. Afterwards Rolfes read the waiver of rights form to Terrence and asked him to initial each sentence if he understood it. Officer Rolfes advised Terrence that anything he did not understand would be explained to him. Terrence then executed the waiver form. Next, Terrence was questioned by Officer Rolfes and denied having anything to do with the offense. The questioning was conducted outside the presence of Terrence's aunt, who was at the station, or any other interested adult who may have interceded on his behalf.

On July 28, 1986, Officers Fletcher and Mullin brought Terrence to the criminal investigation section of the Cincinnati Police Division. Again, Terrence was informed of his rights. Officer Hoffman read the waiver of rights form aloud while Terrence read with him. Terrence was asked if he knew he did not have to respond to questions posed by the police and he responded affirmatively, thereby waiving his rights. Terrence then gave a taped statement. Terrence's mother was not provided access to Terrence during the interview, even though she was present at the police division.

On July 26, 1986, at 11:00 a.m., David Johnson went to a Cincinnati police station in response to a request by Officer Charles Rutledge of the Cincinnati Police Department. Although his aunt was present at the station, David's mother did not arrive until after David had given police a written statement. Rutledge explained the waiver of rights form to David. David told Rutledge he understood his rights. Thereafter, David told Rutledge of his involvement in the theft and wrote out a statement on the back of the rights form admitting his involvement in the theft offense.

On July 27, 1986, Officer Hoffman interviewed David. David was again advised of his rights and he acknowledged his understanding of them. David proceeded to give a taped statement after talking for over twenty minutes with Hoffman. As a prelude to the taped statement David again was informed of his rights and he indicated he understood them.

Both appellants claim that the officers threatened them with the electric chair if Robert died. However, these accusations were rebutted by testimony presented by the prosecution.

On July 26 and 28, 1986, complaints were filed in juvenile court alleging both appellants were delinquent for having committed acts which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted aggravated robbery and aggravated murder. Appellants filed motions to suppress their statements made in relation to the offenses. They also filed motions for separate trials. The trial court overruled all of appellants' motions.

On October 14, 1986, after a joint trial, both appellants were adjudicated delinquent for having committed acts which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted complicity to murder. Further, David was found delinquent for having committed an act which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted petty theft. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions.

This cause is before the court pursuant to the allowance of motions for leave to appeal.

Arthur M. Ney, Jr., prosecuting attorney, and Christian J. Schaefer, for appellee.

J. Dean Carro, for appellant Terrence Watson.

Randall A. Dana, public defender, and George H. Lancaster, Jr., for appellant David Johnson.


One of the issues presented is whether the appellants voluntarily waived their Miranda rights in the absence of an interested adult or parent. Also, we are asked to determine whether the trial court properly denied appellants' motions for separate trials. For the reasons which follow, we answer both queries in the affirmative.

Appellants assert in their first proposition of law that under the totality of the circumstances they failed to appreciate the nature and significance of their constitutional rights as enunciated in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436. Therefore, they urge, their confessions were involuntarily obtained.

In State v. Edwards (1976), 49 Ohio St.2d 31, 3 O.O. 3d 18, 358 N.E.2d 1051, vacated in part on other grounds (1978), 438 U.S. 911, paragraph two of the syllabus, we stated:

"In deciding whether a defendant's confession is involuntarily induced, the court should consider the totality of the circumstances, including the age, mentality, and prior criminal experience of the accused; the length, intensity, and frequency of interrogation; the existence of physical deprivation or mistreatment; and the existence of threat or inducement."

The Supreme Court of the United States has noted with respect to juvenile defendants that "the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination is applicable in the case of juveniles as it is with respect to adults. We appreciate that special problems may arise with respect to waiver of the privilege by or on behalf of children, and that there may well be some differences in technique — but not in principle — depending upon the age of the child and the presence and competence of parents. * * * If counsel was not present for some permissible reason when an admission was obtained, the greatest care must be taken to assure that the admission was voluntary in the sense not only that it was not coerced or suggested, but also that it was not the product of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright or despair." In re Gault (1967), 387 U.S. 1, 55. In essence, the fact that a juvenile is subject to police interrogation does not change the nature of the constitutional rights afforded to him.

Appellants propose that we establish a more rigorous standard with respect to juvenile defendants who are subjected to custodial interrogation. Specifically, this proposed standard has been labeled the "independent advice/interested adult" standard, and has been adopted in a few jurisdictions outside Ohio. In Lewis v. State (1972), 259 Ind. 431, 439, 288 N.E.2d 138, 142, the Supreme Court of Indiana held "that a juvenile's statement or confession cannot be used against him at a subsequent trial or hearing unless both he and his parents or guardian were informed of his rights to an attorney, and to remain silent. Furthermore, the child must be given an opportunity to consult with his parents, guardian or an attorney representing the juvenile as to whether or not he wishes to waive those rights. After such consultation the child may waive his rights if he so chooses provided of course that there are no elements of coercion, force, or inducement present." See, also, Commonwealth v. A Juvenile (1983), 389 Mass. 128, 134, 449 N.E.2d 654, 657.

In Sills v. State (Ind. 1984), 463 N.E.2d 228, the Supreme Court of Indiana recognized that under the Indiana Code, juveniles could no longer waive their Miranda rights without the approval of either an attorney or custodial parent. (Citing Ind. Code Section 31-6-7-3 [1980 Repl.].)

In State v. Stewart (1964), 176 Ohio St. 156, 159-160, 27 O.O. 2d 42, 44, 198 N.E.2d 439, 442, certiorari denied (1964), 379 U.S. 947, we addressed a situation in which a confession was elicited from a juvenile during custodial interrogation where his parents and friends were not readily accessible due to his flight from the jurisdiction: "There is nothing in the `totality of circumstances' involved here, which made the confession anything but voluntary. To find that it was inadmissible, we would have to hold that any confession made by a person who is not yet 18 years old is involuntary unless one of his parents or his attorney is present. This is not the law."

Furthermore, we explicitly declined to adopt the "independent advice/interested adult" standard in State v. Bell (1976), 48 Ohio St.2d 270, 276-277, 2 O.O. 3d 427, 430-431, 358 N.E.2d 556, 562, reversed on other grounds, Bell v. Ohio (1978), 438 U.S. 637. Specifically, we stated that "[w]e decline * * * [the] invitation to alter existing Ohio law. We perceive no requirement in Miranda that the parents of a minor shall be read his constitutional rights along with their child, and that, by extension, both parent and child are required to intelligently waive those rights before the minor makes a statement." Id. In construing whether a juvenile defendant's confession has been involuntarily induced, courts should consider the standard set forth in State v. Edwards, supra, which looks to the totality of the circumstances, including the age, mentality, and prior criminal experience of the accused; the length, intensity and frequency of interrogation; the existence of physical deprivation or mistreatment; and the existence of threat or inducement. Given the above standard, the trial court can properly determine whether the juvenile appreciated his rights and voluntarily waived them in the absence of an interested adult or parent.

Several jurisdictions have held that a confession is not inadmissible merely because the person making it is a minor. See DeSouza v. Barber (C.A. 9, 1959), 263 F.2d 470, certiorari denied (1959), 359 U.S. 989, and Olivera v. State (Okla.Crim.App. 1960), 354 P.2d 792 (defendants' ages standing alone were not enough to suppress their confessions); Commonwealth v. Cavalier (1925), 284 Pa. 311, 131 A. 229 (a confession given by a fourteen year old was upheld since the law made him responsible for his actions); Mosley v. State (1969), 246 Ark. 358, 438 S.W.2d 311 (a fifteen year old was capable of making an admissible voluntary confession, there being no requirement that he have advice of his parent, guardian or other adult); Boyd v. State (Ala.Crim.App. 1977), 350 So.2d 757 (a voluntary confession from a sixteen year old who was fully informed as to all his rights was admissible where his age and mental faculties made him amenable to criminal sanctions); see, also, Annotation, Voluntariness and Admissibility of Minor's Confession (1963), 87 A.L.R. 2d 624, and Annotation, Validity and Efficacy of Minor's Waiver of Right to Counsel — Modern Cases (1983), 25 A.L.R. 4th 1072.

In reviewing whether the appellants voluntarily waived their Miranda rights, we note that they were apprised of their rights verbally and proceeded to execute waiver forms. Furthermore, we have examined the testimony of the appellants and interrogating officers, as well as the ages and academic backgrounds of the appellants. We conclude that under the totality of the circumstances the trial court did not err in determining that the confessions were voluntary, and in overruling appellants' motions to suppress.

Next, appellants assert that the trial court erred by not granting their respective motions for separate trials. Specifically, appellants claim that the trial court improperly admitted inculpatory statements of each co-defendant to the prejudice of the other two defendants. In Bruton v. United States (1968), 391 U.S. 123, the Supreme Court of the United States was confronted with a robbery conviction of a nonconfessing defendant who had been implicated in the crime by a co-defendant's extrajudicial confession. The court held that the admission of the co-defendant's confession had deprived the defendant of his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Lee v. Illinois (1986), 476 U.S. 530, the Supreme Court explained its holding in Bruton by noting at 542:

"Our ruling in Bruton illustrates the extent of the Court's concern that the admission of this type of evidence will distort the truthfinding process. In Bruton, we held that the Confrontation Clause rights of the petitioner were violated when his codefendant's confession was admitted at their joint trial, despite the fact that the judge in the case had carefully instructed the jury that the confession was admissible only against the codefendant. We based our decision in Bruton on the fact that a confession that incriminates an accomplice is so `inevitably suspect' and `devastating' that the ordinarily sound assumption that a jury will be able to follow faithfully its instructions could not be applied. Bruton, supra, at 136."

The Supreme Court has taken a different posture when redacted confessions have been introduced at trials involving co-defendants. In Richardson v. Marsh (1987), 481 U.S. 200, 211, the Supreme Court stated with respect to the introduction of redacted confessions "the calculus changes when confessions that do not name the defendant are at issue. While we continue to apply Bruton where we have found that its rationale validly applies * * * we decline to extend it further. We hold that the Confrontation Clause is not violated by the admission of a nontestifying co-defendant's confession with a proper limiting instruction when, as here, the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but any reference to his or her existence." Cf. Cruz v. New York (1987), 481 U.S. 186, 193-194 (unredacted nontestifying co-defendant's incriminating pretrial confession violates a criminal defendant's Confrontation Clause rights under the Sixth Amendment to the federal Constitution); see, also, Bruton, supra. Thus, the Confrontation Clauses of Section 10, Article I of the Ohio Constitution and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution are not violated by the admission of a nontestifying co-defendant's confession, where the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but any reference to his or her existence. See Richardson v. Marsh, supra.

In the present case each appellant argues that the confessions made by the other two co-defendants contained inculpatory statements about that appellant and, therefore, under Bruton, the trial court should have ordered separate trials for each appellant so that the confessions of the other co-defendants could not be used against him. Clearly, this case involves interlocking confessions from the appellants and Dante Hill. However, the record reveals that the trial court took great care to insure that each confession was considered only against the co-defendant who gave it. Moreover, the confessions were redacted to exclude any reference to the other co-defendants.

This case differs from Bruton in two important respects. First, because the co-defendants' confessions were redacted there was little risk of applying one co-defendant's confession against the others. Also, this case was tried before the trial judge; therefore, the risk that the jury would not follow the court's instructions was not present. Furthermore, we have noted that the trial court can be presumed to apply the law correctly, and there is no reason to believe otherwise in this case. See State v. Coombs (1985), 18 Ohio St.3d 123, 18 OBR 153, 480 N.E.2d 414; State v. Eubank (1979), 60 Ohio St.2d 183, 14 O.O. 3d 416, 398 N.E.2d 567. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court did not err in overruling appellants' motions for separate trials and in receiving into evidence the confession of each co-defendant.

Appellants maintain that their convictions were against the manifest weight of the evidence and based upon insufficient evidence. In State v. Eley (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 169, 10 O.O. 3d 340, 383 N.E.2d 32, syllabus, we stated: "A reviewing court will not reverse a jury verdict where there is substantial evidence upon which a jury could reasonably conclude that all the elements of an offense have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Thus, we must concern ourselves with whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the decision of the trier of facts. In State v. Thomas (1982), 70 Ohio St.2d 79, 79-80, 24 O.O. 3d 150, 151, 434 N.E.2d 1356, 1357, we explained the emphasis that appellate courts should place on the trier of facts' judgment, by noting:

"It is fundamental that the weight to be given the evidence and credibility of the witnesses are primarily for the trier of the facts. Thus, in reviewing the legal sufficiency of evidence to support a jury verdict, it is the minds of the jurors rather than [those of] a reviewing court which must be convinced. State v. Petro (1947), 148 Ohio St. 473, 501-502; State v. DeHass (1967), 10 Ohio St.2d 230. The test for the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal appeal is whether reasonable minds can reach different conclusions on the issue of whether defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Black (1978), 54 Ohio St.2d 304. " See, also, State v. Barnes (1986), 25 Ohio St.3d 203, 25 OBR 266, 495 N.E.2d 922.

In the case sub judice, appellants were found delinquent for having been complicitors in the offense of murder. Also, David Johnson was found delinquent for having committed petty theft. The facts show that Anthony Watson announced his intention to attack Robert Cooley on the night of the incident. David, Terrence, and Dante followed Robert to the park. A witness identified David as carrying a piece of concrete in the vicinity of Richmond Park where the incident took place. And, Terrence admitted hitting Robert twice.

"Murder" is defined as purposely causing the death of another, R.C. 2903.02(A), while "complicity" is defined by R.C. 2923.03(A) as:
"No person, acting with the kind of culpability required for the commission of an offense, shall do any of the following:
"(1) Solicit or procure another to commit the offense;
"(2) Aid or abet another in committing the offense;
"(3) Conspire with another to commit the offense in violation of section 2923.01 of the Revised Code;
"(4) Cause an innocent or irresponsible person to commit the offense."

Therefore, upon a complete review of the facts, as presented to the trial court, we find that there was substantial evidence upon which reasonable minds could have reached different conclusions on the issue of whether appellants were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes with which they were charged. See State v. Thomas, supra; State v. Black, supra.

In conclusion, we hold that appellants voluntarily relinquished their Miranda rights, and were properly tried together in the same proceeding, since their confessions and that of Dante Hill had been redacted.

Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals is affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

MOYER, C.J., SWEENEY, DOUGLAS, WRIGHT, H. BROWN and RESNICK, JJ., concur.


Summaries of

In re Watson

Supreme Court of Ohio
Dec 20, 1989
47 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1989)

holding a 14-year-old aggravated-murder suspect's statements to be voluntary

Summary of this case from State v. Tibbs

finding juveniles, who were 12 and 14 years old, voluntarily waived their rights and confessed, despite absence of a parent or interested adult

Summary of this case from In re D.Y.

concluding that because a juvenile defendant is not required to have a parent or guardian present in order to voluntarily waive Miranda rights, courts should consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether juvenile's confession was voluntary

Summary of this case from State v. Eal

stating no requirement in Miranda that parents be read child's constitutional rights along with him to effectuate valid waiver

Summary of this case from State v. Horse

explaining Ohio's rejection of standard requiring independent advice/interested adult for juveniles during custodial interrogations

Summary of this case from In re E.A.E.

saying that "the trial court can be presumed to apply the law correctly"

Summary of this case from In re B.M.

following Edwards

Summary of this case from State v. Leet

applying cases based on adult criminal convictions to a juvenile delinquency case

Summary of this case from In Matter of T.C.
Case details for

In re Watson

Case Details

Full title:IN RE WATSON, A JUVENILE, ET AL

Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Date published: Dec 20, 1989

Citations

47 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1989)
548 N.E.2d 210

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