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State v. Jackson

Supreme Court of Oregon, En Banc

December 6, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Appellant Cross-Respondent,
HOMER LEE JACKSON, III, aka Homer Jackson, aka Homer Lee Jackson, Defendant-Respondent Cross-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted June 27, 2018

          On direct appeal of orders of the Multnomah County (CC 15CR46257) Circuit Court under ORS 138.060 and ORAP 12.05. [*]

          Paul L. Smith, Deputy Solicitor General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for appellant. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Marc D. Brown, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, Salem, argued the cause and fled the briefs for respondent. Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender.

          [364 Or. 2] Case Summary: The trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress statements made during an interrogation on the ground that the statements were not voluntary. The state brought an interlocutory appeal, arguing that defendant's statements had been made voluntarily. Held: Under ORS 136.425 and Article I, section12, of the Oregon Constitution, statements made by a defendant in custody that are induced by the influence of hope or fear may not be admitted into evidence. Whether statements are involuntary depends on whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant's capacity for self-determination was critically impaired. In this case, the trial court correctly assessed the totality of the circumstances and determined that defendant's statements, made after a lengthy interrogation during which officers informed him that confessing would be in his best interests, and prevented him from contacting his family until he had confessed, were involuntary.

         The orders of the circuit court are affirmed.

          [364 Or. 2] WALTERS, C. J.

         In this criminal proceeding, the state has filed an interlocutory appeal of the circuit court's two pretrial rulings suppressing evidence. Former ORS 138.060 (2015), renumbered as ORS 138.045 (2017). Defendant has been charged with 12 counts of aggravated murder, relating to the deaths of four victims that occurred in the 1980s. He was brought to the police station for questioning regarding those offenses in October 2015, and the present appeal concerns the trial court's suppression of evidence derived from a two-day interrogation. The trial court concluded that certain inculpatory statements that defendant had made during and immediately after the interrogation were not voluntary[1] For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


         Because this case is in a pretrial posture, facts concerning the underlying crimes have not been established. However, we provide some background facts based on materials in the record and representations made by counsel during pretrial proceedings. The murder victims were EJ, whose body was found in March 1983 near Overlook Park in north Portland; TH, whose body was found in July 1983 near West Delta Park in Portland; AA, whose body was discovered in September 1983 in a house in north Portland; and LW, whose body was found was found near a sidewalk in Portland in March 1987. All of the victims were believed to have engaged in prostitution activities in north Portland. Evidence from the crime scenes eventually was tested for DNA, and the police discovered the DNA of multiple individuals at the various crime scenes.

          [364 Or. 4] Defendant is a schizophrenic.[2] He has a fairly long history of interactions with police in the Portland area.[3]Defendant does not appear to have been a suspect early in the investigation, but he became a suspect after subsequent examination of the evidence. As relevant here, it appears that defendant's DNA was found on evidence near AA's body and on LW's body. In addition, defendant could not be excluded as a contributor to DNA found near the location of TH's body.

         At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the following evidence was presented. On the morning of October 15, 2015, plainclothes detectives brought defendant to the Portland Police Bureau for questioning. Those detectives told defendant that they wanted to discuss issues from the 1980s but did not give him any additional information at that point. At the police station, defendant was placed in a small room. He was interrogated in that room between approximately 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on October 15, then again from about 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on October 16. The interrogation was video recorded and defendant's statements during two cigarette breaks were audio recorded. The trial court received those recordings into evidence and they are part of the record on appeal.

          [364 Or. 5] A. Interrogation Before First Cigarette Break on October 15

         Shortly before 10:00 a.m., detectives Lawrence and Hopper joined defendant in the interrogation room. The detectives introduced themselves, offered defendant beverages, and asked him about his medications. Defendant indicated that he took medication for his heart, for high blood pressure, for depression, and for sleep, and that he had taken his medications that morning. Lawrence then told defendant that, if he felt sick or needed to take a break, to let the detectives know. After that, defendant was read Miranda warnings and asked if he understood his rights. He said that he did and signed a document indicating that he understood his rights.

         The interview began with Lawrence asking defendant general questions about his life, his background, and his romantic relationships. Defendant answered those questions, albeit sometimes in a confusing manner.[4] Defendant told the detectives that he received disability services and had a family member acting as a live-in care provider. He said that he needed assistance with shopping, could not drive, and had a limited ability to walk. He also talked about drinking alcohol and described some of his problems with his memory.

         Lawrence told defendant that the detectives wanted to talk to him about some of his prior contacts with police. Defendant acknowledged his participation in minor property crimes when he was young, including an incident in which he had broken into a fast-food restaurant because he was hungry. Lawrence said that he wanted to talk about incidents in the 1980s for which defendant had been arrested, although the charges had been dismissed. Defendant replied that he had memory problems, that it was difficult to remember what he had done the day before, and that when he went to a store, he would not be able to remember what he was shopping for if it was not written down. Lawrence replied that defendant would probably remember because the charges [364 Or. 6] were for rapes of two women. Defendant responded that he had not raped anyone and reiterated that "I can barely remember what I did yesterday, much less 20, 30 years ago." Lawrence said that he wanted to talk to defendant about "some things similar to that" and that he wanted to know about prostitution in the 1980s. He asked if defendant had frequented prostitutes back then, and defendant at first denied doing so. However, when pressed, defendant said that before his second marriage, he had had contact with prostitutes in Portland every few weeks.

         Lawrence also asked about defendant's history of drinking and fighting. Defendant at first claimed that he had few problems with fighting, but then acknowledged that he had been stabbed at one point, and, in another incident, had been shot by his brother-in-law, causing injury to his heart and a lung. He also acknowledged that he suffered from depression. Over the course of the next few hours, defendant also revealed that he had used significant amounts of alcohol, marijuana, amphetamine, and cocaine during the 1980s, and had experienced blackouts on numerous occasions as a result. Lawrence asked defendant what type of prostitutes he liked, and defendant replied that he liked "black girls."[5] Lawrence then showed defendant pictures of three of the murder victims, and defendant said that he did not recognize them, but that one looked like his ex-wife's niece. Lawrence indicated that all three had been prostitutes in Portland, and defendant denied any contact with them. At that point, Lawrence revealed to defendant that they had been killed, and that they all had defendant's "DNA associated with them." Lawrence said that they knew how the crimes had occurred but wanted to know why they had occurred. Defendant denied that he had killed the victims. Lawrence stated: "I've concluded that you are responsible for this and what I'm trying to do is explain, have you explain to me so that we can explain together to everybody why this occurred." Defendant repeatedly denied that he had killed the victims, and, when asked why his DNA would be associated with them, defendant responded that maybe he had had sex with them. Hopper interjected that [364 Or. 7] she was confident that defendant was involved in the murders. Lawrence added that the victims' families were waiting for answers and that the only way the families would forgive defendant was if they understood why he had committed the crimes. Lawrence offered that he believed that defendant was no longer violent and he wanted "to be able to explain to people that you are different now." He said that defendant needed "to explain to us why this occurred so we can help explain to these families why they lost a loved one and so they can help find forgiveness for you, because they want that as well." Defendant responded that he was trying to cooperate, but that he did not remember the victims. Lawrence said that "everything turns out for the best for everybody" if defendant explained to them why the crimes had occurred, and told defendant that he knew that defendant could recall the murders. Defendant again denied that he could recall. Lawrence indicated that he believed that defendant's depression and other ailments were a result of having committed the murders. Both detectives told defendant-and reiterated throughout the morning-that they were certain that defendant had committed the crimes.

         Lawrence stressed what a relief it would be for defendant to acknowledge his crimes and take responsibility, "because today is the day." He stated that when the case was tried, the jury would "hear what the physical evidence is that links you to these three, and then your next response is 'I'm, I, I can't explain it.' I mean, what do you think, how do you think those people are gonna react? They're not [going to] react favorably, are they?" Lawrence described the physical evidence against defendant as a "done deal," stressing the accuracy of DNA testing. Again, defendant maintained his innocence.

         The detectives changed tactics, stressing religious atonement of sins and telling defendant that God was giving him a chance to explain what had happened. After defendant reiterated that he could not help the detectives, Hopper took a more hostile stance, accusing defendant of "playing a game" with them. She added: "How do you think that's gonna sound a year from now when you're in front of the courtroom? I can remember everything about this burglary [364 Or. 8] about this goofy fast food thing when I was hungry and needed food *** but I don't remember killing these three women." When defendant again stated he did not remember, Lawrence said that he did remember, and asked defendant how would be able to explain the presence of his DNA, adding "I'll tell you right now it's gonna sound bad." Shortly thereafter, defendant asked for a break to smoke a cigarette.

         B. Interrogation After the First Cigarette Break on October 15

         When they returned from the cigarette break, Lawrence noted that defendant had been crying, but defendant denied crying and continued to deny involvement in the crimes. Lawrence then indicated that, although they had shown defendant pictures of three victims, those were only to get started; Lawrence told defendant that they were investigating other cases as well. Lawrence reiterated that the detectives already knew what had happened and they just wanted defendant to tell them why. Lawrence claimed significant expertise about people's motivations and said that he could help defendant "figure that part of it out," but that first defendant must give him information. The detectives then began talking about the locations of the crimes and showing defendant pictures of the locations. They showed defendant a picture of the house where AA's body had been found, but he denied that he recognized it. Lawrence told him that his DNA had been found there. Defendant then was shown pictures from two other murders, but he again denied any knowledge. During this part of the interrogation, defendant's cell phone rang, and Lawrence asked defendant to turn it off.

         Noting defendant's lack of emotion, Hopper asked why defendant was not more upset by the crime scene photos, referring to him as "cold-blooded."[6] Lawrence said that they were trying to help defendant, and "I can't impress upon you enough that this train is moving down the tracks and when I say this train I mean this case." Lawrence added: "And I would rather see you as a passenger than get run over by it because as a passenger you still have some control [364 Or. 9] over your future." Lawrence said that, if defendant maintained that he did not remember, then "other people determine the course of your future for you." Hopper then joined in, stating that, "when we're all sitting in a courtroom and we're showing these pictures and the jurors are listening to your words," and defendant was maintaining that he could not remember, "you know what that makes a person think on the outside? He really doesn't remember because he's killed so many of'em." She continued, "I'm telling you right now, that's what people are gonna think and they're gonna think you're a monster." When defendant again maintained that he had not killed anyone, Hopper responded, "that's a lie," and Lawrence added that it was a "flat out blatant lie." Both detectives continued to insist that defendant was lying and that he had killed more than one woman, but defendant continued to maintain his innocence. Lawrence then told defendant that not confessing indicated that there was more that the detectives did not know about, and that made defendant "an even bigger monster." Hopper suggested that people would understand if defendant explained that he had had a rough childhood, was abused, and had anger issues. When defendant made another denial, Hopper again called him a "monster" and said, "You deserve what's comin' to ya and I hope you get every bit of it." She added, "[W]e will do everything we can to make sure you spend as much time in prison as we can put you there for."

         Lawrence told defendant that he would be going to jail that day, and defendant replied that he was aware of that. Lawrence then told him that he had been brought in for questioning rather than being booked because "we actually care about not only these victims' families, but how this case proceeds for you." Lawrence claimed that he could tell from defendant's body language that he had recognized the crime scenes, that he was giving defendant an opportunity to explain, and "this is really the only chance you're gonna get to do that that is going to have meaning. Because beyond this it's gonna look like you're cooking a story." Lawrence stated that he had dealt with people who deny crimes that "have no remorse" and "are truly evil people," and added, 'I don't want that to be you." Lawrence stated that "we are literally trying to save you from you because when you go [364 Or. 10] down this road and say I don't remember, I didn't do it, you make it worse." He added that, when defendant reached the point of saying "here's what I do remember," that would be "the point where now we're working together to help these victims' families." Lawrence then returned to his train analogy, saying that "this train is moving," and "I want you to be a passenger, I don't want you to get run over by it." Lawrence told defendant that it was important for him to explain when he had stopped killing people, because they were investigating other cases as well: "And when you don't talk about it and you don't help us get that understanding there's potential that there's more and that's what we don't want." Lawrence said that he was ready to spend all day to "get through this," and "I want to do it with you, I don't want us working from opposite ends." At that point, defendant asked for a second bathroom and smoke break.

         C. Interrogation During the Second Cigarette Break on October 15

         During the second cigarette break, [7] the detectives talked with defendant about having lunch, after which all three engaged in casual conversation about the transit police, defendant's health problems, fishing, and smoking and drinking. Defendant then talked quite a bit about his various relatives, then asked, "So I am going to jail today?" Lawrence replied that he would at some point, but that it would not necessarily be that day, stating that they could "put you up tonight if we need to if it's taking us time to get to the point where we can get all this stuff worked out." Lawrence explained that defendant would be kept overnight at the police station. Then the following exchange occurred:

"[DEFENDANT]: Okay, so is there a possibility like, after a little while, can I make a couple of phone calls?
"LAWRENCE: We need to get through this first before we allow you to make some phone calls.
"HOPPER: At some point though.
[364 Or. 11] "LAWRENCE: At some point you will-
"HOPPER: When we're all done-
"LAWRENCE: At some point, you'll be able to.
"LAWRENCE: When we get to the point-
" [DEFENDANT]: Yeah, 'cause my-
"LAWRENCE: -where we're working together on this, yes, we can allow you to-
"LAWRENCE: -use the phone.
"[DEFENDANT]: Cause my sister, this is her second time calling.
"HOPPER: Oh, yeah?
"[DEFENDANT]: So Dejaunay must've called her.[8]
"HOPPER: Well, sure.
" [DEFENDANT]: Yeah, right after I left out.
"HOPPER: Of course.
"LAWRENCE: Um-hm. And that's the thing is we want you to be able to make that phone call. But we need to start making some progress with this in order to do that because we don't want to have to explain to your family what's going on.[9] It's better that you s-, put it in your words.
"LAWRENCE: Do you know what I ...

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