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State v. Huguley

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

October 25, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
MICHAEL L. HUGULEY Appellant

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 2015 08 2362

          ANGELA M. KILLE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD S. KASAY, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          LYNNE S. CALLAHAN JUDGE.

         {¶1} Michael Huguley appeals from his murder conviction in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} 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.

         {¶3} 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.

         {¶4} 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.

         {¶5} Mr. Huguley appeals raising four assignments of error.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1

         THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS AS THE APPELLANT INVOKED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL BEFORE GIVING A STATEMENT TO POLICE[]

         {¶6} 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.

         {¶7} "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." Id.

         {¶8} 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).

         {¶9} 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.

         {¶10} 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.

         {¶11} 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).

         {¶12} 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.

         {¶13} Mr. Huguley's first assignment of error is overruled.

         ASSIGNMENT ...


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