ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
JOHN P. WILSON STEVE CARTER
Wilson, Green & Cecere Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
We agree that this delay exceeded acceptable limits, but conclude that the trial
court correctly declined to suppress the confession, which was given well after Griffiths
initial court appearance, during an interview which he requested.
The Greenwood police learned that a witness saw a black male carrying a
gas can in the front yard of the Georges house and walking into
the front door of their home. A neighbor informed police that he
saw the Georges car pulling out of their garage the same morning around
5:05 a.m. The police found the car ablaze a few days later
and ruled it arson because accelerant was used to fuel the fire.
Assisting the Greenwood Police, Indianapolis Officer Jack Tindall and Detective Thomas Richard Tudor went to Griffiths apartment building around 10:15 p.m. on May 21st, where they noticed that Griffith smelled of burnt smoke and had band-aids on his hands and fingers. At Detective Tudors direction, Officer Tindall transported Griffith to the Greenwood Police Department where Officer John Laut noticed the strong smoke odor and the band-aids while booking Griffith. Upon further inspection, Laut found one of Lloyds rings in Griffiths pocket. Griffith was arrested between 10:20 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.
Greenwood Detective Patti Cummings directed Officer Tindall to bring Griffith to the interrogation
room for questioning. When Griffith arrived, Detective Cummings advised him of his
Miranda rights during the early morning hours of May 22. Griffith was
held at the Greenwood Police Department before transport to the Johnson County Jail,
which caused his name to be excluded from the jail population list of
suspects who were to appear before the Magistrate within forty-eight hours. Later
that day, police transported Griffith to the Johnson County Jail.
Hollis Kehrt was also arrested in connection with the present case. On
May 23rd, the Greenwood Police, a captain from the Johnson County Jail, and
the Johnson County Prosecutor wired Kehrt and placed him in the cell with
Griffith to obtain incriminating information about the Georges murder. Police placed Kehrt
in the cell with Griffith before he appeared before a magistrate. The
police were unable to collect any information, however, because they could not decipher
any data from the wire.
The following day, police asked Griffiths girlfriend Jamie Young to make a controlled
call in an effort to obtain incriminating information from Griffith. Though police
instructed Young not to reveal that the call was controlled, she immediately did
so, and Griffith revealed nothing.
The Greenwood Police prepared a probable cause affidavit on May 22nd, and revised
it on May 23rd. On May 24th, Magistrate Craig Lawson conducted an
initial hearing and determined that probable cause existed for Griffiths arrest.
The following day, Griffiths wife Elizabeth phoned Greenwood police and told them that
Griffith wanted to speak with them. One day later, a judge granted
an order to draw a sample of Griffiths blood. While en route
to the hospital for the blood draw, Griffith confirmed that he wanted to
speak with the Greenwood police.
At the later meeting with the Greenwood police, officers informed Griffith of
his rights, including his right to counsel and right to remain silent, and
Griffith signed a waiver. Griffith then confessed to the murder of Lloyd
and Judy Georges and the burglary and arson of their home.
Thereafter, the State charged Griffith with two counts of murder, one count of
burglary as a class B felony, and one count of arson, a class
B felony. A jury found him guilty of all counts. The
court sentenced Griffith to life without parole for the murders, and two consecutive
eighteen-year sentences for the counts of burglary and arson.
Griffith initiated this direct appeal, claiming (1) that the police did not have
probable cause to arrest him without a warrant, (2) that the delay in
taking him before a magistrate made his confession involuntary, and (3) that he
had an Equal Protection right to counsel before being charged.
This Court reviews all challenges on a question of law under a de
novo standard. We review denial of motions to suppress as a matter
of sufficiency. Goodner v. State, 714 N.E.2d 638 (Ind. 1999). In
reviewing the trial court's ruling on the validity of a warrantless arrest, we
consider the evidence favorable to the trial court's ruling and any uncontradicted substantial
evidence to the contrary to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support
the ruling. Vance v. State, 620 N.E.2d 687 (Ind. 1993).
A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admissibility of evidence,
and we will disturb its rulings only where it is shown that the
court abused that discretion. Wilkinson v. State, 743 N.E.2d 1267 (Ind. Ct.
App. 2001), trans. denied. We view the circumstances in their totality and,
without reweighing evidence and considering conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial court's
ruling, determine if there was substantial evidence of probative value to support the
trial court's ruling. Id.
Probable cause can rest on collective information known to the law enforcement organization
as a whole, and not solely on the personal knowledge of the arresting
officer. See Manson v. State, 249 Ind. 53, 229 N.E.2d 801 (1967).
The police force is considered a unit. Where there is a police-channel
communication to the arresting officer, he acts in good faith thereon, and such
knowledge and information exist within the department, the arrest is based on probable
cause. See Whiteley v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560 (1971); see also Francis
v. State, 161 Ind. App. 371, 316 N.E.2d 416 (1974).
The evidence here indicates that Lloyd recently told a friend that his relationship
with Griffith, who he called Val, had become dire because he refused to
purchase a vehicle for Griffith. Griffiths son confirmed that Val was Griffith.
A neighbor reported that Lloyd argued with a black man who fit
Griffiths description on his porch on the day of the fire. The
Georges car was missing and found ablaze two days later. A witness
saw a black male carrying a gas can in the Georges front yard
and walk into the front door of their home. Furthermore, upon approaching
Griffiths apartment, Officer Tindall immediately smelled the strong odor of smoke on Griffith
and noticed band-aids on Griffiths hands and fingers. He also found one
of Lloyds rings in Griffiths pocket.
The arresting officers had probable cause to believe that Griffith murdered the Georges and committed burglary and arson. The arrest was thus valid.
The law of Due Process acknowledges that delays cannot always be avoided,
the government must justify such delays. Where an arrested individual does not
receive a probable cause determination within 48 hours,
the burden shifts to
the government to demonstrate the existence of a bona fide emergency or other
extraordinary circumstance. Id. at 57. The fact that in a particular
case it may take longer than forty-eight hours to consolidate pretrial proceedings does
not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance. Id.
The facts show that approximately sixty-three hours passed between Griffiths arrest and his
appearance before the magistrate for a determination of probable cause. Thus, the
burden shifted to the State to demonstrate a bona fide emergency or extraordinary
circumstance. Because Griffith was not included on the jail population list, his
appearance before a magistrate was delayed. Of course, Riverside stands for the
proposition that preliminary paperwork and pretrial proceedings do not constitute an extraordinary circumstance.
The State is thus correct to acknowledge that the detention for sixty-three hours
prior to a probable cause hearing was unreasonable under the Riverside analysis.
Whether this requires suppression of Griffiths confession is another matter. Even where
a confession occurs before the defendant sees a magistrate, suppression may not be
the inevitable remedy.
Powell v. Nevada, 511 U.S. 79, 84 (1994) (delay
in presentation to judge was unconstitutionally delayed, but [i]t does not necessarily follow,
however, that Powell must be set free).
The trial court in this case ordered suppression
of any evidence gained after the forty-eight hours elapsed but before the probable
cause hearing occurred. (App. at 585.) Griffiths confession, however, did not
occur until two days after he saw the magistrate. And it occurred
because he asked to speak with officers from the Greenwood Police Department.
We think it plain enough that Griffiths confession was not the product of
delay in bringing him before the magistrate and that the trial court correctly
declined to suppress it.
Substantial evidence supports the trial courts finding that
Griffiths confession was voluntary. Griffith signed a waiver after police informed him
Miranda rights. While being held, Griffith asked his
wife to inform police that he wished to speak with them.
Griffith never invoked his right to remain silent, as he now argues.
He simply commented, I might as well not say anything more, in response
to the police not striking any deals with Griffith for his information.
(Appellants App. at 95-96.) Yet, he continued to disclose information after this
statement during the interrogation. Griffiths statement, like that of the defendant in
Haviland v. State, 677 N.E.2d 509, 514-15 (Ind. 1997) who told police during
interrogation, I am through with this, does not constitute an invocation of silence.
We therefore hold that Griffiths confession was voluntary.
As Justice Kennedy has observed, The Fourteenth Amendments promise that no person shall
be denied the equal protection of the laws must coexist with the practical
necessity that most legislation classifies for one purpose or another, with resulting disadvantage
to various groups or persons. Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 631
(1996). The line for court-appointed counsel has been drawn where it has
been drawn. Griffith does not contend he suffered any damage by virtue
of what occurred during his preliminary hearing, and when he asked to speak
with the police and eventually confessed, he did so with the full knowledge
that legal help at public expense was just at the horizon.
The trial court was right to deny Griffiths request to suppress his confessions
on these grounds.
DICKSON, SULLIVAN, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.