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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

December 18, 2015

DEANDRE RICARDO WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Argued October 6, 2015.

Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. Case No. CT110710X. Certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals (Circuit Court for Prince George's County). Cathy H. Serrette JUDGE.

ARGUED BY Deborah S. Richardson, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER/CROSS-RESPONDENT

ARGUED BY Michelle M. Martin, Assistant Attorney General (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief. FOR RESPONDENT/CROSS-PETITIONER.

ARGUED BEFORE Barbera, C.J., Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Harrell, Jr., Glenn T. Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ. Opinion by Battaglia, J. Barbera, C.J., Adkins and McDonald, JJ., dissent.

OPINION

Page 31

[445 Md. 455] Battaglia, J.

Was Petitioner Deandre Ricardo Williams's statement that " I don't want to say nothing. I don't know" an ambiguous or clear invocation of his right to remain silent under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)? Whether Williams's confession, given after waiving his Miranda rights, was voluntary or the product of inducement, poses another conundrum.

Specifically, the questions before us are the following:

1. Did police violate Petitioner's right to remain silent during a custodial interrogation when he said " I don't want to say nothing. I don't know, -" to which the police responded " But you don't have to say nothing" but continued with the interrogation?
2. Did the police interrupting Petitioner while he invoked his right to remain silent convert an unambiguous invocation into an ambiguous invocation?
3. Was Petitioner's confession involuntary under Maryland common law because the police implied that Petitioner might see outside again if he confessed to a robbery gone bad instead of a premeditated murder?

The State filed a Conditional Cross-Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which we also granted, but do not reach.[1]

Page 32

We shall hold that Williams's invocation of his right to remain silent by saying " I don't want to say nothing. I don't know" was ambiguous and that his confession was voluntary.

[445 Md. 456] Williams was indicted in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County for first degree murder, second degree murder, first degree assault, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, second degree assault, reckless endangerment and carrying a handgun. The charges arose from the shooting death of Justin DeSha-Overcash on January 10, 2011 in College Park. Ultimately, Williams was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, with all but 49 years suspended for first degree murder, as well as a concurrent 20 years sentence for the use of the handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

Prior to trial, Williams moved for the suppression of a confession he had given to a Detective Harris and Sergeant Gregory McDonald of the Prince George's County Police. Detective Harris and Sergeant McDonald had interviewed Williams in an interrogation room in the District of Columbia; the interview was digitally recorded, then later copied to a DVD and transcribed.

The video and the transcript reflect Detective Harris and Sergeant McDonald asking whether Williams wanted to speak with them and noting several times that he did not have to talk:

[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: (Inaudible). Heard you was fast as lightening. Lightening. Okay. The reason why me and Sergeant McDonald are here, we are investigating an incident that happened in January. We been working nonstop on it. Through our investigation your name came up, okay?
[WILLIAMS]: Uh-huh.
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: Now, what we have now are what other people have been saying about it. It was enough for us to get an arrest warrant for you, okay? What we'd like to do is give you an opportunity to answer any questions that we may have, or ask us any questions that you have about the incident. We want to ask you questions. You can stop answering at any time. You don't have to talk to us. We want you to talk to us, to be honest with you. Like I say, it's your prerogative. Like I said, you can talk [445 Md. 457] to us about anything. If you are wondering what we may have to say, this is your opportunity to say, okay.
[WILLIAMS]: What's the incident?
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: Huh?
[WILLIAMS]: I said what's the incident?
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: What's the answer to what?
[WILLIAMS]: I said what's the incident?
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: Well, we'll get into it after I, if you want to know about it, if you want to know what we're talking about, I'm going to have to read you your rights. You have the right to talk to us, you have the right not to talk to us. You have the right to talk to us and stop talking at any time. You understand that? Like I said, we'd like to lay everything out for you and then sit back and listen to what you have to say. We'll listen to anything that you have to

Page 33

say. Anything. You can dispute anything that we might say, and then we'll listen to you. You understand that? Okay. Like I said, all we have at this point is what we've heard up to this point. We would love to hear from you. You understand? We're fair. You've probably got two of the fairest people at the Homicide Unit talking to you right now, okay? Like I said, that's your prerogative. Like I said, we'd love to lay it out and get you to talk to us, but like I said, you don't have to. But we would love for you to talk to us, and we can stop so you can see exactly where we're coming from and go from there. Is that something you'd like to do?
[WILLIAMS]: I don't even know what's going on. That's why I ask you what's the incident.
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: That's what I said. I can read you your rights. Like I said, after that, we can talk. Like I said, if you don't like what I'm saying you ain't got to say nothing.
[WILLIAMS]: I don't know what's going on, so I--
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: Okay. This incident happened January in College Park. Through our investigation your [445 Md. 458] name came up. Like I said, this is your opportunity to say, yeah, you were involved or no, you weren't involved.
[WILLIAMS]: I don't know anything about what you all are talking about.
[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: Well, we can get to that. We got to go over your, your rights, first.
[WILLLIAMS]: I know. I still, I don't know what,--
[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: I understand that. I understand that. But we got to go through the process. Before we can ask you were you involved, we got to,--
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: We got stuff we got to take care of before we,--
[WILLIAMS]: Yeah, I understand that. I still don't know,--
[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: I understand that. But we still got to go through the process, though. You know. We want to talk to you, but we got to go through the process.
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: We want to lay everything out to you, but you have to agree to, you want to at least hear what we have to say, and that's fine. But you say you don't, once we read you your rights, if you don't have nothing to do with it, then we just get up and roll. But we can't get into it until we get through that. That's all I'm saying. So if you're sitting here and wondering why you're here, we, we're ready to tell you why you are here.
[WILLIAMS]: We already know but it's so, you all sound, it sounds so confusing. I don't know--
[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: It's not confusing. Let me break it down to you like this right here. You be, you watch T.V., right? Do you see when the police walk up to somebody, and we want to ask you, we want to talk to you about something, we always read the person their rights? You've seen that on T.V., right? They say, you've got the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You've heard that before, haven't you? Yeah. We have to go through that formality to [445 Md. 459] get to what we want to talk about. That's, we have to go through that formality.
[WILLIAMS]: I don't want to say nothing. I don't know,--
[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: But you don't have to say nothing.
[WILLIAMS]: Yeah.

Page 34

[SERGEANT MCDONALD]: You don't have to say nothing. That's, you know, that's your right. But to get to one point, from point A to point B, we have to read you your rights. And the key word is, they're your rights. So we got to read them to you, so you understand.

(emphasis added).

In addition to the videotape of the interview, Detective Harris turned on a tape recorder before reading Williams his Miranda rights and then asking several follow-up questions:

[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: And I told you, it's your prerogative, but we'd love to get everybody's side. All we got is one side. One side at this point. We couldn't risk just asking in confidence. We have to take it.
(Tape recording begins.)
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: My name is Detective Harris with the Prince George's County Police Department. Today's date is March 30, 2011. The time is 1:58, put 13:58 on here because we use military time. All right? I am now going to read to you your rights under the law. If you do not understand something I say to you, please stop me and I will explain it to you. Okay? You have the right to remain silent. If you chose to give up this right, anything that you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you are asked any questions, and have a lawyer while you are being questioned. If you want a lawyer but cannot afford one, a lawyer will be provided to you at no cost. If you want to answer questions now without a lawyer you still have the right to stop answering at any time. That's what I emphasized before we started. You understand that? At this point in time, would you like [445 Md. 460] to make a statement or would you like to talk about why we are here, without a lawyer? Okay. Have you been promised anything? Have you been offered any kind of reward or benefit, or have you been threatened in any way in order to get you to make a statement? Have I threatened you? Has he threatened you?
[WILLIAMS]: (No verbal response.)

Williams then received a copy of the Prince George's County Advice of Rights form from Detective Harris, from which Williams read a portion aloud; the questioning continued:

[WILLIAMS]: Man, I don't know. Is this for my best interest?
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: Hold on for a second. Now, let me show you a couple, a couple of pictures real quick, okay? See, what we don't want you to do is have us leave here thinking that you went in there specifically to kill somebody. That's what you don't want us to do. You understand that? That means you premeditatively went in there with your gun and gunned this guy down. You don't really want us to believe you were doing that. Do you understand that? Do you understand what I'm saying?
[WILLIAMS]: Yeah.
[DETECTIVE HARRIS]: That's different, that's different than a robbery gone bad.
[WILLIAMS]: Yeah. I hear, I hear, I hear what you all are saying, but --
[DETECTIVE HARRIS: Hold on, hold ...

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