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State v. Tullis

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District

July 12, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
DAMERICK W. TULLIS Defendant-Appellant

(Criminal Appeal from (Common Pleas Court) Trial Court Case No. 2011-CR-607

STEPHEN K. HALLER, Atty. Reg. #0009172, by NATHANIEL R. LUKEN, Atty. Reg. #0087864, Greene County Prosecutor's Office, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

JAY A. ADAMS, Atty. Reg. #0072135, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant

OPINION

HALL, J.

{¶ 1} Damerick W. Tullis appeals from his felony and misdemeanor convictions. Tullis argues that the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress the statements and confession he made to detectives during an interview. We affirm.

I. Facts

{¶ 2} On the morning of October 17, 2011, Detective Daniel Foreman called Tullis at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Tullis worked, and asked him to come to the police department to discuss some cases. Tullis agreed and arrived at the department a little after noon the same day. Detective Foreman and Detective Ryan Whittaker met Tullis and took him to an interview room. Foreman told Tullis that he was not under arrest and that he was free to leave at anytime. The interview-room door locked automatically but was left ajar for most of the interview. The detectives closed it once for a short time because a S.W.A.T. Team member was making a lot of noise in the hall demonstrating a robotic camera.

{¶ 3} The detectives questioned Tullis about an incident of voyeurism. They told Tullis that a witness had reported seeing him peering into a neighbor's windows. At first, Tullis denied that he had done this, but later, he confessed. Tullis also confessed to a second incident of voyeurism and confessed to burglary, kidnaping, and rape. The interview lasted about two hours. When the interview was completed, Tullis was allowed to leave the police department.

{¶ 4} A few months later, Tullis was indicted on two counts of voyeurism, two counts of burglary, two counts of kidnaping, one count of attempted rape, and one count of rape. Tullis moved to suppress his statements and confession to the detectives, arguing that the detectives had failed to give him Miranda warnings and arguing that he had been coerced into confessing. At an evidentiary hearing, Detectives Foreman and Whittaker testified, and a video recording of the interview was admitted in evidence. The trial court overruled the motion to suppress, concluding that the detectives were not required to give Tullis Miranda warnings because he was not in custody and concluding that the detectives did not coerce Tullis's confession improperly.

{¶ 5} Tullis pleaded no contest to all eight counts, and the trial court sentenced him to a total of 20 years in prison.

{¶ 6} Tullis appealed.

II. Review

{¶ 7} Tullis assigns two errors to the trial court, both related to his motion to suppress. The first assignment of error alleges that the court erred in determining that Tullis was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. The second assignment of error alleges that the court erred in determining that Tullis's confession was not improperly coerced. "The appeal of a motion-to-suppress determination presents a mixed question of fact and law. The trial court is the trier of fact. By virtue of this role it is 'in the best position to resolve questions of fact and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses.' For this reason, an appellate court is 'bound to accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence.' But the appellate court 'must independently determine as a matter of law * * * whether they [the ...


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