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State v. McNaughton

Supreme Court of Maine

August 1, 2017


          Argued: May 12, 2017

          Verne E. Paradie, Jr., Esq. (orally), Paradie, Sherman, Walker & Worden, Lewiston, for appellant Michael R. McNaughton

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Leanne Robbin, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine


          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶l] Michael R. McNaughton appeals from a judgment of conviction entered in the trial court (Androscoggin County, MG Kennedy, /.) after a jury found him guilty of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201 (2016), and hindering apprehension or prosecution (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 753(1-B)(C)(1) (2016). McNaughton argues that the court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence of statements that he made during a police interview and photographs, taken by law enforcement officers, of injuries to his body. He also argues that the court should have granted his motion for a new trial based on his contention that the State presented perjured testimony during his trial. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the jury rationally could have found the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Gagne, 2017 ME 63, ¶ 3, 159 A.3d 316. On Friday, April 5, 2013, Romeo Parent, the victim in this case, informed police that he and William True had committed a theft. As a result, True was detained in jail for a period of time. McNaughton, who knew both Parent and True, put out the word among acquaintances that he planned to harm Parent for "snitching" on True and that he was looking for Parent.

         [¶3] On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, McNaughton and another acquaintance, Nathan Morton, learned that Parent was at a pharmacy in Auburn. By this point, McNaughton had told Morton that they needed to kill Parent. Morton drove McNaughton to the pharmacy, where they asked Parent to get in the car with them. Parent agreed to go with them and they picked up True after leaving the pharmacy.

         [¶4] Morton drove the group-himself, McNaughton, True, and Parent-to a remote location on South Mountain Road in Greene. McNaughton, True, and Parent got out of the car and went down a trail into the woods. There, McNaughton stabbed Parent in the neck with a screwdriver. True punched and kicked Parent. McNaughton strangled him repeatedly with a garrote, a wire with a wooden dowel at each end, until he died.

         [¶5] The next day, April 10, McNaughton, True, and Morton returned to the murder scene. McNaughton and True wrapped Parent's body in trash bags and put it in the trunk of Morton's car. Morton drove the group to Jug Stream in Monmouth, and McNaughton and True threw the body into the water.[1]

         [¶6] Law enforcement officers interviewed McNaughton in the evening on April 11, 2013. During that interview, they photographed injuries on McNaughton's body and collected his clothing. Officers interviewed McNaughton again in the early morning hours on April 12, 2013; during that interview, McNaughton admitted to killing Parent.

         [¶7] On May 8, 2013, the State charged McNaughton by indictment with intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder, 17-A M.R.S. §201(1)(A), (B); and hindering apprehension or prosecution (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 753(1-B)(C)(1).[2]

         [¶8] McNaughton moved to suppress evidence of incriminating statements that he had made during the police interviews as well as the photographic evidence of his injuries. He argued that his statements were made involuntarily and in response to continued questioning after he had invoked his right to remain silent, and that the photographs of his injuries were collected impermissibly absent a search warrant or an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

         [¶9] At a two-day hearing on McNaughton's motion to suppress in May 2014, the court heard testimony from four law enforcement officers who were involved in McNaughton's police interviews. The court admitted in evidence transcripts and recordings of both interviews as well as the photographs of McNaughton's injuries.

         [¶10] The court denied McNaughton's motion in part, declining to suppress the photographs collected and evidence of incriminating statements McNaughton made up to a certain point during the second interview. The court granted the motion as to statements McNaughton made in response to continued questioning after he stated "I really don't want to speak any more on the subject" and "I'll take Mariah, " which the court interpreted to mean "Miranda." In its detailed and thorough order, the court found the following facts, which are supported by evidence admitted at the suppression hearing. See State v. Kittredge, 2014 ME 90, ¶ 7, 97 A.3d 106.

         [¶11] On April 11, 2013, two police officers made contact with McNaughton in Lewiston. McNaughton voluntarily agreed to accompany them to the Lewiston Police Department and rode in the back seat of their unmarked truck to the police station. He was not handcuffed or otherwise restrained and he was not placed under arrest. When they arrived at the police station around 7:20 p.m., an officer escorted McNaughton to an interview room and told him that someone would be with him soon.

         [¶12] Officers first interviewed, among other individuals, Sebastian Moody, an acquaintance of McNaughton's who, at trial, directly implicated him in Parent's murder. By the time they began their interview with McNaughton nearly two hours after he had arrived at the police station, Maine State Police Detectives Randall Keaten and John Hainey had received information that McNaughton was responsible for Parent's murder. Upon entering the interview room, Hainey observed that McNaughton had several scratches that went from his chin to his throat, and that he had a black eye and injuries to his hands.

         [¶13] The detectives told McNaughton that the interview would be recorded, that he was not under arrest, that he could leave whenever he wanted to, and that he did not have to talk to them. McNaughton responded, "So you're giving me the option to plead the fifth if necessary?" He was told again that he could leave if he wanted, to which he said, "Fair enough. I will sit right here and talk to you." McNaughton was read Miranda warnings. After each right was read, Hainey asked if he understood; McNaughton responded, "Yes, Sir." Hainey asked, "[H]aving all those rights which I just explained to you in mind, do you wish to answer questions at this time?" McNaughton replied, "Yes, Sir."

         [¶14] The detectives asked McNaughton questions about his activities during the previous several days and his relationships with Parent, True, Morton, and other acquaintances. As the questions became more specific, McNaughton made several statements about how he felt "lost." The detectives implied that they did not believe him when he denied knowing anything about Parent's death. He continued to respond to the detectives' questions. At one point, he stated that he wanted to "leave." "In context, " the court found, "it is clear that the reference was to leaving Lewiston and not leaving the police interview."[3] McNaughton never stated that he did not want to answer questions.

         [¶15] Hainey told McNaughton that the detectives needed to take photographs of his injuries. They asked McNaughton if that was okay and he replied, "Fair enough." Hainey asked if he had other clothing, and McNaughton said he only had one set of clothes and that his other clothing was in storage and he did not have the key. Hainey told McNaughton that due to "exigent circumstances, " they were going to take his clothes and give him replacement clothing and boots. Hainey and Keaten left to make arrangements for photographs and replacement clothing, leaving McNaughton alone in the interview room. During that time, without being asked, McNaughton removed his sweatshirt, shirt, and belt.

         [¶16] Detective Herb Leighton took numerous photographs of McNaughton's face, neck, and hand injuries. The detectives asked questions about how the injuries occurred. McNaughton was again told that he did not have to say anything and that he could stop talking any time he wanted to. Leighton collected McNaughton's clothes.

         [¶17] After McNaughton had replacement clothing, Hainey again told McNaughton he could leave, continued questioning him, and "talked about mitigating factors."[4] McNaughton did not say that he wanted to leave the interview. Before the interview concluded, in response to one of the officers' questions, McNaughton said, "I tried to say no . . . when you asked me the same question again, it makes me want to give you a different answer." McNaughton continued to deny any involvement in the murder and left the police station at about 11:30 p.m.

         [¶18] After McNaughton left, police questioned Morton, who gave them additional information about McNaughton's involvement in the murder. Morton identified the location of the murder and went with detectives to Greene, where they found signs of a struggle, clothing that they believed belonged to Parent, and a screwdriver.

         [¶19] At 2:45 a.m. on April 12, 2013, officers made contact with McNaughton again at an apartment in Lewiston where McNaughton had told them he would be staying that night. McNaughton agreed to come back to the police station for further questioning. He was again escorted to an interview room. Hainey and Detective Wayne Clifford entered the room at 3:08 a.m. Hainey said, "I wanted to get some more information. We already read you Miranda, that's still in effect. Your rights I read you earlier." McNaughton responded, "Fair enough."

         [¶20] Hainey told McNaughton that he had gone to Greene with Morton and asked McNaughton to tell them what really happened. McNaughton said that he could not tell them. He also stated his name and then a nine-digit number. Hainey said, "What's that? You're not a prisoner of war, Michael, so I don't know why you are giving us your serial number." The detectives continued to ask questions.[5] The following exchange took place:

McNaughton: "You are asking some questions and I don't want to give the answers to ...

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