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State v. King

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

April 12, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
MOSES KING

         Argued September 17, 2015

          On the briefs: David S. Bobrow, Esq., Bedard & Bobrow, P.C., Eliot, for appellant Moses King.

         Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney, and Angela Cannon, Asst. Dist. Atty., Prosecutorial District No. Two, Portland, for appellee State of Maine.

         At oral argument: David J. Bobrow, Esq., for appellant Moses King.

         Angela Cannon, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee State of Maine.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          OPINION

         JABAR, J.

          [¶1] Moses King appeals from a judgment of conviction of criminal threatening (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 209(1) (2015), entered in the Unified Criminal Docket (Cumberland County, Kelly, J. ) after a jury trial. Before trial, King moved to suppress statements that he had made after police officers stopped King's vehicle, took his license and registration, and asked him to wait for a detective to arrive on the scene. The suppression court ( O'Neil, J. ) granted the motion in part, but denied the motion as to the statements that King made before he was placed in handcuffs and formally arrested. At trial, the State played for the jury a video recording of the statements that King made before his formal arrest.

          [¶2] In this appeal, King argues that the suppression court erred by denying his motion in part because (1) the stop of his vehicle was not based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion; (2) his statements were made involuntarily; and (3) he was subjected to a custodial interrogation and had not received Miranda warnings before he was formally arrested. Based upon our de novo review of the factual circumstances attending King's stop, wait, and subsequent questioning, we conclude that King was subjected to a custodial interrogation before he was formally arrested and advised of his Miranda rights, and that evidence of King's pre-arrest statements was therefore inadmissible against him at trial. We accordingly vacate the judgment of conviction and the order denying the motion to suppress, and remand for further proceedings.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

          [¶3] The following facts are derived from the suppression court's express findings, the detective's testimony at the suppression hearing, and a video recording played at the suppression hearing.[1]

          [¶4] On November 9, 2013, a woman reported that she had been assaulted by a man in a cemetery in South Portland. The woman later provided a description of the assailant and his vehicle to a detective of the South Portland Police Department who was assigned to investigate the case. On December 27, 2013, the woman called the detective and told him that she had seen her assailant drive past her as she was walking near the 7-Eleven on Congress Street in Portland. She also sent the detective a text message that contained the license plate number of the vehicle she had seen. The woman was adamant that the man she had seen in the vehicle was the same man who had assaulted her in the cemetery, and she told the detective that she would " stick the lives of her kids on it."

          [¶5] When the detective received the woman's phone call, he was off-duty and exiting a grocery store located about ten minutes away from the 7-Eleven. After answering the call, the detective drove to his residence in a nearby town to remove groceries from his vehicle. While he was driving, the detective contacted dispatch and directed the Portland Police Department to locate and stop the vehicle that the woman had described. As the detective was pulling into his driveway, he was advised that Portland police officers had stopped the suspect's vehicle. The detective asked the officers to detain the suspect. He then put his groceries away and proceeded to the scene.

          [¶6] While the detective was en route, the blue lights on the police cruiser detaining the suspect's vehicle remained activated. One of the officers on the scene asked for the suspect's license and registration, and asked him to wait for an agent from another jurisdiction to arrive. The suspect, Moses King, surrendered his license and registration. At some point, a second officer approached King's vehicle and reiterated that they were " just waiting for that South Portland [detective] to come down and, uh, he has a couple of questions for you." King responded, " Alright," and the officer invited him to roll up his window to stay warm. The officers talked on the sidewalk while waiting. They did not return King's license and registration before the detective arrived.

          [¶7] The detective arrived on the scene more than fifteen minutes after King was stopped. He determined that King and his vehicle matched the description that the woman had provided, then approached King's vehicle, introduced himself, and asked whether King would mind exiting the vehicle. Less than three minutes later, the detective stated, " I just got a feeling it's you, and if it's you, you might as well just tell me the truth." He continued, " There was a [woman] that was picked up and assaulted . . . and I got a feeling it's you because not only does this car match the description, but she saw you today."

          [¶8] King responded, " Yeah I did pick a woman up that day and . . . we went over to South Portland to do a job whatever and . . . once she got the money she . . . said 'It's time to leave.' . . . . She started walking off and I said, 'You know how far it is to the road, don't you?' It's like a mile back in the cemetery there where I was, and she said 'What do you mean a mile?'" King stated that he had responded, " You didn't see how far we drove in here?'" King further explained, " She didn't want ...


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