FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 2015 08 2362
M. KILLE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD S. KASAY,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
S. CALLAHAN JUDGE.
Michael Huguley appeals from his murder conviction in the
Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.
Mr. Huguley and Jasmine Williams had been in a romantic
relationship, lived in an apartment together, and had a child
together. Ms. Williams spent the day and night of June 22,
2015 with a friend and co-worker, D.D. When the two returned
the next morning, Mr. Huguley was packing up the belongings
in the apartment. D.D. and Ms. Williams were scheduled to
work that night, so D.D. planned to stay at the apartment as
she often did.
Mr. Huguley and Ms. Williams began to argue. After that, Mr.
Huguley's and D.D.'s stories diverge as to exactly
what transpired. They do, however, agree that Mr. Huguley
stabbed Ms. Williams, stabbed himself, and fled the
apartment. Mr. Huguley claims that Ms. Williams stabbed him
first and that he acted in self-defense. Ms. Williams died as
a result of her stab wounds.
Mr. Huguley was apprehended five weeks later. He was indicted
for one count of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two
counts of felonious assault, and one count of domestic
violence. Following a jury trial, Mr. Huguley was acquitted
of aggravated murder and found guilty of the remaining
counts. The trial court merged the offenses, and sentenced
Mr. Huguley to a term of 15 years to life for murder.
Mr. Huguley appeals raising four assignments of error.
OF ERROR NO. 1
TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
SUPPRESS AS THE APPELLANT INVOKED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL BEFORE
GIVING A STATEMENT TO POLICE
In his first assignment of error, Mr. Huguley argues that the
trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because,
after he was in police custody, he requested and was denied
counsel. This Court disagrees.
"Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a
mixed question of law and fact." State v.
Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8.
The trial court, as the trier of fact, is in the best
position to judge the credibility of witnesses and resolve
factual issues. Id. An appellate court, therefore,
"must accept the trial court's findings of fact if
they are supported by competent, credible evidence."
Id. "Accepting these facts as true, the
appellate court must then independently determine, without
deference to the conclusion of the trial court, whether the
facts satisfy the applicable legal standard."
In the present case, Mr. Huguley does not challenge the trial
court's factual findings. His challenge is limited to the
court's legal conclusion that he did not invoke his right
to counsel. Therefore, this Court conducts a de novo review.
See State v. Raber, 189 Ohio App.3d 396,
2010-Ohio-4066, ¶ 9 (9th Dist.) (legal conclusions in
ruling on a motion to suppress are reviewed de novo).
When a suspect in a criminal investigation requests counsel,
police questioning must cease until a lawyer is provided or
the suspect reinitiates the interrogation. State v.
Henness, 79 Ohio St.3d 53, 63 (1997). "But if a
suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or
equivocal in that a reasonable officer in light of the
circumstances would have understood only that the suspect
might be invoking the right to counsel, [Supreme
Court] precedents do not require the cessation of
questioning." (Emphasis sic.) Davis v. United
States, 512 U.S. 452, 459 (1994). Courts have found that
a suspect asking questions about counsel does not amount to
an unequivocal request for counsel. See Raber at
¶ 19 (collecting cases). Similarly, "[an]
appellant's equivocal statement, 'I think I need a
lawyer, 'cause I don't know what you're talking
about DNA, ' does not amount to an invocation of
counsel." State v. Wellman, 10th Dist. Franklin
No. 05AP-386, 2006-Ohio-3808, ¶ 26.
In the present case, Mr. Huguley was arrested and taken to an
interview room in the Akron Police Department. Detective Bell
asked him if he knew why he was there and then proceeded to
open an envelope containing a kit for collecting a DNA
sample. Detective Bell presented Mr. Huguley with a voluntary
consent form for the sample. Mr. Huguley responded, "Can
I deny this until I see my lawyer?" Detective Bell then
indicated that Mr. Huguley's DNA might already be in the
system or they could get a search warrant for it. After that,
Mr. Huguley signed the consent form. On cross-examination,
Detective Bell agreed that Mr. Huguley was in custody and
"[t]he word 'lawyer' c[a]me out of his
mouth." From this, Mr. Huguley appears to conclude that
he invoked his right to counsel.
The mere use of the word "lawyer" does not amount
to an unambiguous request for counsel. See Raber at
¶ 19 (listing various statements or questions containing
the word "lawyer" or "attorney" that have
been held not to amount to an unambiguous or unequivocal
request for counsel).
The trial court correctly found that Mr. Huguley "did
not make an unambiguous or unequivocal request for
counsel." Rather, he "merely inquired if he could
defer consent to the DNA collection until after he spoke to
an attorney." Mr. Huguley's question was
insufficient to invoke his right to counsel. Consequently,
the trial court did not err denying his motion to suppress.
Mr. Huguley's first assignment of error is overruled.