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State v. Duncun

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District

August 3, 2007

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
CHARLES DUNCAN Defendant-Appellant

Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court T.C. NO. 06 CR 552

WILLIAM H. LAMB, Atty. Reg. No. 51808, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

KENNETH G. RUSH, Atty. Reg. No. 11687, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant

OPINION

WALTERS, J. (By assignment)

{¶ 1} Defendant-Appellant, Charles Duncan, appeals a judgment of the Clark County Common Pleas Court finding him guilty of one count of Murder, one count of Reckless Homicide, and two firearm specifications, and sentencing him to life in prison with parole eligibility after serving fifteen years plus one year on the firearm specification, to be served consecutively. Duncan asserts that the trial court erred in denying his suppression motion and in denying his Crim.R. 29 motion on the felonymurder charge, and that his convictions on both charges are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Finding that there was no error in the trial court's denial of the suppression motion, that there was sufficient evidence to convict the appellant of the felony-murder charge, and that neither conviction was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

{¶ 2} In the early evening hours of May 6, 2006, Charles Duncan shot his live-in girlfriend of nine years, Bobbi Jo Pyles. Pyles subsequently died of the gunshot wound. Duncan was taken into custody by the Springfield Police Department at his home at about 10:00 p.m. and transported to Police Headquarters, where he was placed in a holding cell. He was subsequently removed to an interview room where he unequivocally invoked his right to counsel. Thereupon the detectives immediately ceased questioning Duncan and returned him to his holding cell.

{¶ 3} Over the next approximately four hours, Duncan remained in the holding cell while the detectives obtained and executed a search warrant for Duncan's home. At approximately 2:15 a.m., the detectives informed Duncan that Pyles had died. Shortly thereafter, Duncan told the detectives that he wanted to make a statement.

{¶ 4} Duncan was again moved to the interview room where he was re-Mirandized. Duncan signed the waiver of rights form and told the detectives that he wanted an attorney, but that he wanted to make a statement. Thereafter Duncan spontaneously told the officers that he accidentally shot Pyles.

{¶ 5} Duncan was subsequently indicted on two counts of murder, both with specifications that he had a firearm on or about his person or under his control while committing the offense. Count one alleged murder of Bobbi Jo Pyles, in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A). Count two alleged murder as the proximate result of committing or attempting to commit felonious assault, in violation of R.C. 2903.02(B). Duncan filed a motion to suppress any statements on the basis that they were made after he had asserted his right to counsel. This motion was overruled by the trial court.

{¶ 6} Thereafter, Duncan was tried by a jury. At the close of the state's evidence, Duncan moved for a directed verdict of acquittal pursuant to Crim.R. 29, which was renewed at the close of all of the evidence. The court overruled both motions, and after deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the second count (felony-murder) and a guilty verdict on the lesser-included offense of Reckless Homicide on the first count. They also found Duncan guilty of both gun specifications.

{¶ 7} Duncan was subsequently sentenced on the felony-murder conviction to a term of life imprisonment with parole eligibility after fifteen years, and he was sentenced to a one-year consecutive sentence on the gun specification.

{¶ 8} It is from this judgment that Duncan appeals, presenting four assignments of error for our review.

First Assignment of Error

{¶ 9} "There was error in the lower court in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress his statement and the taped interview in that Defendant did not make a knowing voluntary and intelligent waiver of his constitutional rights."

Second Assignment of Error

{¶ 10} "There was error in the lower court in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress his statement, given after Defendant requested a lawyer, thereby denying him right to counsel guaranteed by the fifth and sixth amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article One Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution."

{¶ 11} In these assignments, Duncan argues first that the waiver of his Miranda rights was not voluntary, and second, that prior to the second interview and after his Miranda waiver, he still manifested a desire to have an attorney present prior to making a statement.

{¶ 12} The standard of review regarding motions to suppress is whether the trial court's findings are supported by competent, credible evidence. State v. Vance (1994), 98 Ohio App.3d 56, 58-59, 647 N.E.2d 851; State v. Ferguson, Defiance App. No. 4-01-34, 2002-Ohio-1763. "At a suppression hearing, the evaluation of evidence and the credibility of witnesses are issues for the trier of fact." State v. Mills (1992), 62 Ohio St.3d 357, 366, 582 N.E.2d 972. However, an appellate court makes an independent determination of the law as applied to the facts. Vance, 98 Ohio App.3d at 59.

{¶ 13} In its findings of facts, the trial court found that "the defendant unequivocally invoked his right to an attorney prior to the [first] interview * * * [and] the detectives immediately ceased questioning and returned the defendant to the holding cell." The trial court further found that prior to the second interview, "which the defendant was responsible for initiating * * * he * * * signed a waiver form after being re-advised of his rights." Finally, the trial court found that after this waiver, "the defendant was not clear that he wanted ...


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