pre-trial appeal filed pursuant to OCGA § 5-7-1 (a) (4),
the State challenges the trial court's order suppressing
the inculpatory statement of Appellee Andrew Troutman. We
affirm in part and reverse in part.
the course of investigating the murder of Earl Clemons,
investigators learned through a witness and cellular
telephone records that Troutman may have met with Clemons on
the day of the murder. Investigators picked up Troutman from
his home on a Thursday morning in January 2014 and, over the
course of nine hours, interviewed him three times; at the end
of the third interview, Troutman admitted killing Clemons.
Following his indictment for murder and related offenses,
Troutman moved to suppress his incriminating statement. After
conducting a hearing - at which the trial court received as
evidence testimony from various witnesses, including
Troutman, and the recorded and transcribed interview - the
trial court concluded that the statement was inadmissible
because it was a custodial statement elicited without the
benefit of the Miranda warnings and, further, that the
statement was involuntary. We now address each ruling in
turn, keeping in mind that, in reviewing these mixed
questions of fact and law, "'we accept the trial
court's findings on disputed facts and credibility of
witnesses unless clearly erroneous, but independently apply
the legal principles to the facts.'" (Citations
omitted.) Vergara v. State, 283 Ga. 175, 177 (657
S.E.2d 863) (2008). Likewise, we will construe the evidence
most favorably to uphold the findings and judgment of the
trial court. Teele v. State, 319 Ga.App. 448 (2)
(738 S.E.2d 277) (2012).
trial court determined that Troutman was in custody prior to
the beginning of the third interview and that, because
investigators never advised Troutman of his Miranda
rights, Troutman's subsequent inculpatory statement was
inadmissible. On appeal, the State contends that
Miranda warnings were unnecessary because Troutman
was not in custody. We disagree. Miranda warnings
must be administered to an accused who is in custody and
subject to interrogation or its functional equivalent.
Phillips v. State, 285 Ga. 213 (2) (675 S.E.2d 1)
(2009). "A person is considered to be in custody and
Miranda warnings are required when a person is (1)
formally arrested or (2) restrained to the degree associated
with a formal arrest. Unless a reasonable person in the
suspect's situation would perceive that he was in
custody, Miranda warnings are not necessary."
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Sewell v. State,
283 Ga. 558, 560-561(2) (662 S.E.2d 537) (2008). Thus, the
proper inquiry is how a reasonable person in Troutman's
shoes would have perceived his situation. State v.
Folsom, 286 Ga. 105 (1) (686 S.E.2d 239) (2009).
case, the record supports the trial court's findings
that: (1) Troutman was kept at the police station over the
course of nearly nine hours in a non-public area, during
which he was interviewed three times; (2) he was never
advised of his Miranda rights; (3) investigators
never advised Troutman that he was free to leave; and (4)
Troutman was explicitly told that he was not allowed to
leave. Under these circumstances, in which Troutman was
sequestered for hours, repeatedly interviewed, and never
given any indication that he was free to leave or terminate
the interview (and advised the he could not go), we cannot
say that the trial court erred in its determination that a
reasonable person in Troutman's position would have
believed that he was in custody before the start of the third
interview and, thus, that Troutman's unwarned statement
given during that third interview was due to be suppressed.
See Folsom, 286 Ga. at 108 (affirming trial
court's suppression of unwarned statement where defendant
was sequestered for hours, repeatedly asked incriminating
statements, and never advised that he could leave).
"We next address the issue of whether the in-custody
statement admitted in violation of Miranda was,
nevertheless, voluntary under traditional due process
standards." Metheny v. State, 197 Ga.App. 882,
885 (400 S.E.2d 25) (1990). The trial court concluded that
Troutman's statement to investigators was involuntary
and, thus, could not be used at trial for any purpose.
Underpinning its conclusion were the following findings of
Defendant was interrogated for 2 hours and 45 minutes, held
at the police station for nearly 9 hours, was held
incommunicado throughout, had his phone and shoes removed by
police, was kept in isolation in a non-public area of the
police headquarters, and, on two occasions, was told that he
was not free to leave on his own. Moreover, he was 21 years
old and still in high school, was dyslexic and told
detectives he had not slept in three days.
appeal, the States contends that these facts are insufficient
to conclude that Troutman's statement was involuntary. We
police activity is a necessary predicate to the finding that
a confession is not 'voluntary' within the meaning of
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167 (107 S.Ct.
515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473) (1986). However, the investigators'
mere failure "to administer Miranda warnings
does not mean that the statements received have actually been
coerced, but only that courts will presume the privilege
against compulsory self-incrimination has not been
intelligently exercised." Oregon v. Elstad, 470
U.S. 298, 310 (II) (B) (105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222)
(1985). Thus, because "the Miranda presumption
does not necessarily constitute a finding that the statement
was coerced, " Metheny, 197 Ga.App. at 885,
"[s]tatements obtained in violation of the procedural
requirements of Miranda may be found otherwise
voluntary under due process standards."
Metheny, 197 Ga.App. at 885.
accepting the trial court's findings of fact, "the
circumstances of the investigation and arrest in the case
reveal none of the extreme tactics identified as the
hallmarks of coercive police activity offensive to
fundamental notions of due process, " id., "such as
lengthy interrogation, physical deprivation, brutality, or
deception, " Gober v. State, 264 Ga. 226, 228
(443 S.E.2d 616) (1994). The findings of the trial court
regarding the conduct of investigators - isolating Troutman,
taking his shoes and phone,  holding him incommunicado, and
advising him that he could not leave - are hallmarks that
Troutman was in custody and that his freedom was
restrained, see, e.g., Folsom, supra, but they do
not rise to "'techniques and methods offensive to
due process' [cits.] or [create] circumstances in which
the suspect clearly had no opportunity to exercise 'a
free and unconstrained will.'" (Citations omitted.)
Elstad, 470 U.S. at 304. While Troutman was kept at
police headquarters for approximately nine hours, the trial
court recognized that only a fraction of that time was spent
in interrogation. Compare Darwin v. Connecticut, 391
U.S. 346 (88 S.Ct. 1488, 20 L.Ed.2d 630) (1968) (statement
involuntary where suspect interrogated for 48 hours and held
incommunicado while being denied access to counsel).
Likewise, though Troutman's mental state and intellectual
disabilities are factors to be considered, see Colton v.
State, 296 Ga. 172 (1) (766 S.E.2d 38) (2014), those
factors, without more - i.e., "deliberate tactics
calculated to break the will of the suspect, "
Metheny, 197 Ga.App. at 886 - are insufficient to
support a conclusion of coercive police activity. Cf.
Browner v. State, 296 Ga. 138, 142 (2) (765 S.E.2d
348) (2014) ("[W]e reject the suggestion that he was of
such tender years [at the age of 19] that being held in the
interview room by himself prior to commencement of the
questioning, without more, constituted physical or mental
torture of the type to render an in-custody statement
involuntary and inadmissible."). See also
Elstad, 470 U.S. at 312-313, n. 3 (collecting cases
where confessions deemed involuntary). Accordingly, the trial
court's findings of fact regarding the conduct of
investigators in this case are insufficient to support the
legal conclusion that Troutman's statement was a result
of coercive police activity and, thus, involuntary. See
State v. Davidson, 280 Ga. 84 (1) (623 S.E.2d 500)
(2005) ("Accordingly, the trial court erred in its legal
conclusion that, under the undisputed evidence,
Appellee's statements were the result of coercive
in part and reversed in part. All the Justices concur.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436 (86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694) ...