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Graham v. United States

June 19, 2000


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (No. F-7516-02) (Hon. John H. Bayly, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glickman, Associate Judge

Argued October 19, 2006

Before RUIZ, REID AND GLICKMAN, Associate Judges.

A jury found appellant Marcus Graham guilty of robbing and killing his next-door neighbor, Lucille Batchelor.*fn1 Appellant's two confessions to the police, made four days after the murder, were the centerpiece of the prosecution's case, and his Fifth Amendment challenges to their admission are the principal focus of this appeal. Appellant asserts that his first confession, in which he admitted stealing from Batchelor but denied killing her, was the product of custodial interrogation not preceded by the required Miranda*fn2 warnings and a valid waiver of his rights. Appellant contends his second confession, in which he admitted committing the murder, was obtained in violation of Edwards*fn3 because the police allowed his mother to continue interrogating him after he invoked his right to counsel. Finally, appellant contends that the prolonged interrogation he endured together with other coercive factors operated to overcome his will and rendered his statements to the police involuntary. In addition to advancing these Fifth Amendment claims, appellant asserts the government violated its disclosure obligations under (i) Brady,*fn4 with respect to evidence supporting his suppression motion, and (ii) Criminal Rule 16,*fn5 with respect to the introduction of his statements at trial.

We conclude the trial judge did not err by denying appellant's motion to suppress his statements. Specifically, we hold appellant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda when he made his first confession; the police did not violate appellant's Fifth Amendment right to counsel by permitting his mother to question him after he asked for an attorney; and his statements to the police were not the product of impermissible governmental coercion. We also reject appellant's other claims of error and therefore affirm appellant's convictions.


The trial judge orally denied appellant's motion to suppress his statements after a pretrial evidentiary hearing at which three witnesses testified. The main witness was Metropolitan Police Department Detective Jeffrey Williams, who was in charge of the investigation of Batchelor's murder, questioned appellant, and obtained his confessions. The judge also heard brief testimony from Detective Christopher Kauffman, who assisted Williams and made contemporaneous notes during the questioning of appellant, and from appellant himself. In a post-verdict motion for a new trial, appellant asked the judge to reconsider his ruling admitting his confessions in light of all the evidence -- including a videotaped interview of appellant's parents by Detective Williams that had been withheld from appellant until the middle of trial. The judge denied appellant's request for reconsideration in a written opinion.

The judge specifically credited much of Williams's testimony, finding it corroborated by Kauffman's notes and other evidence. The judge did not credit appellant's testimony. We summarize the evidence relevant to appellant's Fifth Amendment claims, including the videotape interview turned over after the suppression hearing, in accordance with the trial judge's credibility determinations and findings of historical fact.*fn6


On Sunday morning, November 17, 2002, sixty-seven-year-old Lucille Batchelor was murdered in her apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C. Her body was discovered that afternoon. She had been beaten about her head and stabbed in her chest, and the dresser drawers in her bedroom had been ransacked. Canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses, Detective Williams spoke with appellant, nineteen-year-old Marcus Graham, who lived next door to Batchelor. Appellant told Williams he had taken soup and tea to Batchelor on Saturday afternoon, the day before the murder, at his mother's request. Pressed for time, Williams said he would meet with appellant at a later time to take a formal statement.

The First Confession

Four days later, on November 21, 2002, Williams returned to appellant's home with Detective Kauffman. Williams asked appellant "if he would mind coming to my office and talking to me in reference to Ms. Lucille's death." Appellant agreed to do so, and he rode with the two detectives in an unmarked police car to the Violent Crime Branch at a police station in Southeast Washington, D.C. Appellant sat in the front passenger seat. He was not frisked or handcuffed.

Upon arriving at the Violent Crime Branch at 2:52 p.m., Williams escorted appellant past some secured doors to a small room used for conducting interrogations and interviews. The door to the room locked automatically; it was necessary to punch in a special code on a keypad to enter or exit the room. Williams propped open the door with a chair to improve ventilation and, as he testified, so that appellant would not feel "closed in." At some point later in the afternoon, however, Williams allowed the door to close. Unbeknownst to appellant, Kauffman listened in on the interview from an adjacent room equipped with audio and visual equipment.

Williams, who was unarmed, employed a conversational tone when questioning appellant. After inquiring whether appellant wished to use the bathroom or have something to eat, Williams began the interview by asking him about his visit with Batchelor the day before she was killed. Appellant affirmed his earlier statement and added that on Sunday morning he was at church with his wife, his parents, and other members of his family. After something less than half an hour, at 3:22 p.m., Williams excused himself and left the room to phone Daniel Zachem, the Deputy Chief of the Homicide Section of the United States Attorney's Office. Williams sought Zachem's advice as to whether he was required to read appellant his Miranda rights before questioning him further. Zachem advised Williams that Miranda warnings were unnecessary because appellant had come to the Violent Crime Branch voluntarily and had not been taken into custody. While Williams was talking with Zachem, appellant was left alone in the interview room with the door open.

Williams returned to appellant at 4:10 p.m. In response to the detective's increasingly focused questions, appellant said he left church on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. and went straight home, making no stops on the way. He denied having gone to a bank after church or at any time that weekend; denied having either an ATM card or a bank account; and denied having received property belonging to someone else. At 4:35 p.m., appellant declined Williams's renewed offers to let him go to the bathroom and have something to drink or eat.

Williams then momentarily left the room again. He returned five minutes later, at 4:40 p.m., with a bank surveillance photograph showing appellant by a Sun Trust Bank ATM machine at Stanton Road and Alabama Avenue, Southeast. The time-stamped photograph had been taken at eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, November 17, 2006. Confronted with the photograph and the (concededly false) assertion by Williams that a witness had identified him, appellant admitted that when he brought Batchelor soup and tea on Saturday, he stole credit cards and $15 in cash from a purse on her table. Appellant said he tried to use one of the cards at the bank, but was unsuccessful because he did not have the PIN.

At 5:25 p.m., after making those admissions, appellant asked to use the bathroom down the hall. Williams entered the code to open the interview room door and allowed appellant to walk down the hall to the bathroom by himself. The bathroom was located near the building's exit, which was not locked. It is not clear from the record whether appellant knew it or not, but as Kauffman later testified, "there was nothing to stop him" from leaving the police station at that time. When appellant returned to the interview room, Williams again offered to get him something to eat or drink, which he declined. At 6:10 p.m., following additional probing by Williams of appellant's account, Kauffman entered the room with a large pizza. Appellant was offered some pizza but did not take any of it.

Williams then asked appellant if he would agree to make a formal statement, which could either be transcribed on a typewriter or videotaped. Appellant agreed and chose to be videotaped. The taping began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted 55 minutes. Appellant repeated his earlier statements about the theft, explaining that he was in need of money and saw an opportunity to get some fast. He denied going to Batchelor's house on Sunday or having anything to do with her death. Appellant confirmed he had come to the police station voluntarily; no one had threatened or forced him to make a statement; he had been offered food and drink; he had been able to leave the room and go to the bathroom on his own; he was not under the influence of drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol; and he had completed the 11th grade and could read and write.

The Second Confession

While appellant was being videotaped, his parents, Irene and Clarence Perry, arrived at the station. They had not been summoned, but came on their own initiative. Williams met with them, told them appellant had been photographed using Batchelor's credit card, and said he did not believe appellant was being completely truthful. Appellant's mother asked to speak with her son. At 8:25 p.m., Williams escorted her into the interview room and left her alone with him. Appellant and his mother spoke privately for one hour and 25 minutes. Kauffman turned down the volume of the monitoring equipment in the next room so that he could not overhear their conversation.

When Irene Perry finished meeting with her son, Kauffman entered the interview room. Appellant stood up and walked toward the door, saying "he wanted to leave" and "was ready to go." At that point, Kauffman told appellant he could not leave because he was under arrest for murder.

The time was 10:05 p.m. (approximately seven hours after appellant arrived at the station).*fn7

Meanwhile, after emerging from the interview room, appellant's mother told Williams she did not believe her son was telling "the whole truth." Williams proceeded to conduct a lengthy interview of appellant's parents; with their permission, it was videotaped. Irene Perry described how appellant had brought some soup and tea to Batchelor on Saturday evening because the elderly woman had complained of a cold. The next morning, the family went to church. Sometime before 10:30 a.m., appellant left the service abruptly following an argument with his wife, and he did not return home until shortly after 1:30 p.m. A little later, Irene Perry learned that Batchelor had been killed. Almost immediately, she stated, she began to wonder if appellant was involved:

I just started thinking, you know. I'm a very suspicious type. I mean, like a private investigator. . . . So, with Marcus being the type of person that won't rightfully -- won't tell you the truth right up front, I have to get my truth myself.

Perry said she was suspicious of appellant because "he's different than the rest of the kids. He's not serving Jehovah. He's been in the street . . . you know, he acts kind of thug-ish." Moreover, she told Williams, he had stolen credit cards and other things in the past and recently was "pressed for money." Acting on her suspicions, Perry stated she went into appellant's room and examined his clothing "because if I find something, I'm going to turn it in." She found nothing ...

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