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State of North Carolina v. Flowers

March 03, 1998

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARION LAMONT FLOWERS, DEFENDANT.



Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 31 May 1996 by Judge D. Jack Hooks, Jr. in Columbus County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 September 1997.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis, Judge.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, defendant pled guilty to robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. We affirm his convictions.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on 12 April 1995, the BP Hasty Mart in Chadbourn, North Carolina was robbed by two black males. In the course of the theft a customer, Larry Harrison, was shot in the neck by one of the robbers. He survived.

Investigators developed a list of suspects that included defendant, who was one month shy of his fourteenth birthday. On the evening of 13 April 1995, defendant's mother, Teresa Kelly, learned that the police were looking for her son. On her own volition she brought defendant to the Chadbourn Police Department. Defendant and his mother were escorted to a private room by Special Agent Warner and Detective Coffman. Coffman told defendant's mother that her son was in a lot of trouble and that the police needed to speak with him.

Before asking defendant any questions, Special Agent Warner read defendant his rights in the presence of defendant's mother. After each right was read, Warner asked defendant and his mother if they understood. They answered "Yes" each time. Defendant made no affirmative statement regarding whether he agreed to talk to the investigators or whether he wanted an attorney present. The investigators proceeded to interrogate defendant in his mother's presence for 1½ to 2 hours.

When first asked about the Hasty Mart robbery, defendant denied any involvement and indicated that he was at home at the time the robbery occurred. Defendant's mother intervened and told him to tell the truth. Defendant then changed his story and gave a statement implicating himself in the Hasty Mart robbery. When he was asked by Detective Coffman about a different, unrelated crime, defendant indicated that he did not want to talk about it. The officers ended the interrogation and charged defendant for his part in the Hasty Mart robbery.

The State filed petitions alleging that defendant was a delinquent juvenile, that he had committed robbery with a dangerous weapon in violation of N.C.G.S. § 14-87 (1993), and that he had attempted to murder Larry Harrison in violation of N.C.G.S. § 14-17 (1993). After a hearing the court found probable cause as to robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury in violation of N.C.G.S. § 14-32(a) (1993). The court found no probable cause for attempted murder. The State moved to transfer the case to superior court for trial of defendant as an adult pursuant to N.C.G.S. §§ 7A-608 and 7A-610 (1995). The motion was granted and the court made specific findings as to why a transfer was appropriate.

A grand jury indicted defendant for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. Defendant moved to dismiss the case from superior court for lack of jurisdiction and moved to suppress the statement defendant had given investigators the day after the robbery. The trial court conducted a hearing on the defense motions and heard testimony from Special Agent Warner, defendant's mother, defendant, and a clinical psychologist who had examined defendant. Both defense motions were denied. On 28 May 1996, defendant pled guilty to armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in exchange for the State's dismissal of the conspiracy charge, reserving the right to appeal the court's denial of his suppression motion. He was sentenced on 31 May 1996 and now appeals his convictions.

Defendant has abandoned assignments of error four and six by failing to argue them in his brief. N.C.R. App. P. 28.

Defendant first assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress his confession of 13 April 1995. He argues that the court erred in concluding he was not in custody when he made the confession. For purposes of this appeal, we will assume without deciding that defendant was in custody at the time his confession was obtained.

Defendant argues that despite being in custody, he was not informed of his constitutional and statutory rights until after he was questioned and therefore his confession was illegally obtained. The trial court found as a fact that Special Agent Warner read the following rights to defendant and his mother before any questioning began: You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand this right? Anything you say can be and may be used against you. Do you understand this right? You have the right to have a parent, guardian, or custodian present during questioning. Do you understand? You have the right to talk with a lawyer for advice before questioning and to have that lawyer with you during any questioning. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you at no cost before any questioning, if you wish.

This warning fully satisfied the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A- 595(a) (1995) and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966). The court's finding that this warning was read to defendant before he was questioned is supported by competent evidence and is therefore conclusive on appeal. State v. Gibson, 342 N.C. 142, 146-47, 463 S.E.2d 193, 196 (1995).

Defendant argues that even if he was read his rights before he was questioned, the significance of those rights was not explained to him. An interrogating officer need not explain the Miranda rights in any greater detail than what is required by Miranda, even when the suspect is a minor. See, e.g., California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355, 356-57, 361, 69 L. Ed. 2d 696, 699-700, 702 (1981); Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 726, 61 L. Ed. 2d 197, 213 (1979); State v. Brown, 112 N.C. App. 390, 395-97, 436 S.E.2d 163, 166-68 (1993), aff'd per curiam, 339 N.C. 606, 453 S.E.2d 165 (1995). Nor is there a statutory duty to explain the juvenile rights in greater detail than what is required by G.S. 7A- 595(a). The warning defendant received was sufficient.

Defendant contends that even if he was sufficiently informed of his juvenile rights, he did not waive those rights before confessing. In support of this contention, defendant first asserts that he never expressly waived his rights to remain silent or to the assistance of counsel. It was once the rule in North Carolina that a person could waive his Miranda rights only by an express statement of waiver, but that rule has long since been repudiated. North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 373, 60 L. Ed. 2d 286, 292 (1979). Moreover, we find no statute that requires a waiver of juvenile rights to be expressly made in order to be valid. Defendant was entirely ...


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