Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Roberts

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 4, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
WAYNE DOUGLAS ROBERTS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted June 29, 2017

          Multnomah County Circuit Court 14CR31903; A159647 Edward J. Jones, Judge.

          Anne Fujita Munsey, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          David B. Thompson, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Garrett, Presiding Judge, and Lagesen, Judge, and Edmonds, Senior Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for assault in the first degree, ORS 163.185. Defendant first challenges the court's denial of his motion to suppress incriminating statements made during a police interview after, according to defendant, he equivocally invoked his constitutional right to counsel by asking detectives, "Do I need [a lawyer]?" Defendant also challenges the trial court's denial of his motion under OEC 403 to exclude evidence that defendant used a racial epithet to describe a black person who was immaterial to the case. In response to defendant's second challenge, the state argues that the trial court's failure to develop a record of its balancing analysis necessitates a limited remand under State v. Baughman, 361 Or. 386, 393 P.3d 1132 (2017). The state alternatively argues that any error in admitting that evidence was harmless.

         Held: First, the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant's question, "Do I need [a lawyer]?" was not an equivocal invocation [291 Or.App. 125] because the only reasonable interpretation of that question is that defendant had not yet formed an intent to invoke his right. Second, the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to exclude the evidence of the racial epithet. Although the court failed to make a record of its OEC 403 balancing analysis, a limited remand under Baughman is unnecessary here because the circumstances in this case presented no discretionary options for the trial court except exclusion. Furthermore, the error was not harmless because the evidence of the racial epithet was qualitatively different than the state's other evidence, which was far from overwhelming in proving defendant's guilt.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [291 Or.App. 126] GARRETT, P. J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for assault in the first degree, ORS 163.185. On appeal, defendant raises four assignments of error. We reject the third and fourth assignments without discussion. In his first assignment of error, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress incriminating statements made during a police interview after, according to defendant, he invoked his constitutional right to counsel. In his second assignment of error, defendant argues that the trial court should have granted his motion in limine to exclude evidence that he used a racial epithet to describe a black person. For the reasons explained below, we reject defendant's first assignment of error because we conclude that he never invoked his right to counsel. With respect to his second assignment, we conclude that the trial court erred, that the error was not harmless, and that a new trial is necessary. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

         Police officers arrested defendant as a potential suspect in a stabbing at a Portland MAX Station. Detectives Hogan and Crate interviewed defendant at the police station early in the morning. Defendant was asleep when they entered the room. After brief introductions, Hogan read defendant his Miranda rights, and then asked if defendant had any questions about them. Defendant responded that he was intoxicated, homeless, and did not know what time it was, where he was, or how he had gotten there. Hogan told defendant the time and explained where he was, and began re-reading his Miranda rights. The following exchange ensued:

"DETECTIVE HOGAN: Okay. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present when you're being questioned. If you want to have a lawyer, you can have a lawyer present, okay?
"[DEFENDANT]: Do I need one?
"DETECTIVE HOGAN: I can't make that decision for you.
"DETECTIVE CRATE: We're just going to be talking to you about stuff that happened tonight, okay, but we need [291 Or.App. 127] to make sure you understand your rights first before going through them. So once you understand those, we'll explain everything that's going on, okay?
"[DEFENDANT]: Okay.
"DETECTIVE HOGAN: If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you at no expense."

(Emphasis added.) Neither defendant nor the detectives further discussed defendant's right to an attorney. A few moments later, the detectives told defendant that they were investigating a fight at a MAX Station, and asked:

"DETECTIVE CRATE: Mr. Roberts, you know that Tri-Met and everything has excellent video on its platforms, right?
" [DEFENDANT]: I have no idea about that, but I was on that platform and this dude punched me in the face, so I punched him and I walked away.
"DETECTIVE HOGAN: Okay.
"[DEFENDANT]: They was probably doing some nigger shit[1] there. This dude hit me."

(Emphases added.) The detectives later asked about what defendant meant when he said either "nigger shit" or "nigger chick, " and learned that defendant was referring to a black woman who witnessed the fight at the MAX Station. The police never discovered her identity, and she had no further significance in the case. After that exchange, defendant made several incriminating statements.

         Defendant moved to suppress all statements from the interview, arguing that the police failed to obtain a valid Miranda waiver of his right to remain silent. Defendant's written motion did not make any argument concerning the right to counsel. During arguments on the motion, the court watched a video of the interview and asked the state if defendant's question "Do I need one?" was at least an equivocal invocation of the right to counsel. An extended discussion followed, primarily between the court and state, about what [291 Or.App. 128] constitutes an equivocal invocation. Both parties cited case law. As the state points out on appeal, however, defendant's counsel never argued that the question "Do I need one?" constituted an equivocal invocation, and never asserted that the trial court did or would err by ruling otherwise. The trial court ultimately determined that defendant had made no invocation, and, even if he had made an equivocal invocation, the police properly clarified his intent before proceeding.

         Next, defendant moved in limine to exclude all references in the police interview to the racial epithet, asserting that his use of the word had nothing to do with the case and would cause him unfair prejudice. The court denied the motion, stating:

"THE COURT: The bottom line is, you know, if we start sanitizing everybody's statements-
"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Well, it's just the one.
"THE COURT: -where does that end, you know. So, no, I'm not going to ask the State or anybody else to clean up poor word choices that either he or the officers made. You know, it's a path that would lead to nothing but disaster. So, denied."

         At trial, defendant relied on a self-defense theory. The state played a portion of the police interview video in which defendant used the racial slur once and the detectives quoted it twice more to clarify what defendant was talking about. The state used the interview video to attack defendant's credibility by highlighting inconsistencies between his interview statements and other contrary evidence. The state also presented one eyewitness of the fight and played a video of Tri-Met security camera footage depicting the stabbing itself; both parties argued extensively over whether the witness testimony and footage proved or disproved defendant's self-defense theory. The jury found defendant guilty by a 10-2 verdict.

         On appeal, defendant first argues that the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress on the ground that his question near the beginning of the police interview-"Do I need one?"-was an equivocal invocation [291 Or.App. 129] of his right to counsel, which the police failed to adequately clarify.[2] The state responds that defendant's argument is not preserved, and, in all events, fails on the merits because defendant's question did not constitute an invocation of any rights.

         Second, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion in limine under OEC 403 to exclude evidence of defendant's use of the racial epithet, arguing that the evidence was highly prejudicial and devoid of probative value. The state responds that any error in admitting the evidence was harmless, but that, if it was not harmless, then ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.