United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Donald Adams has been indicted on two felony counts related
to his alleged possession and distribution of certain
controlled substances. Doc. 21. Among the charges, the
Government has accused Defendant of distributing
hydromorphone and fentanyl, resulting in death. Id.
at 4. Defendant disputes whether certain statements he made
to law enforcement officers during an interview prior to his
arrest were voluntary. On March 7, 2019, the Court conducted a
hearing in accordance with Jackson v. Denno, 378
U.S. 368 (1964), to evaluate whether Defendant's
statements were, in fact, voluntary. Doc. 78. For the reasons
that follow, I RECOMMEND the Court find that
Defendant's statements were voluntary.
evaluating the voluntariness of Defendant's statements,
the Court considered video footage of Defendant's
interview by law enforcement officers. The Government
provided the Court a copy of Defendant's interview and
produced that interview to Defendant during discovery. Doc.
75. The interview was admitted into evidence during the March
7, 2019 hearing, and no party contests the video's
accuracy or completeness. Doc. 21. The footage shows
Defendant was questioned on the morning of September 27,
2018, for just under one hour, from approximately 6:15 a.m.
to 7:15 a.m. Defendant was questioned by Investigator Stephan
Lowrey and Officer Jeremy Stagner of the Glynn County Police
Department at a Police Department facility.
video shows that Defendant was interviewed in what appears to
be a small room with a table, three chairs, and no windows.
At the outset of the video, Investigator Lowrey advises
Defendant that he is not under arrest and that he is free to
leave at any time, though Investigator Lowrey states,
“I would really advise against that.” Doc. 75 at
0:04:00-0:05:00. Investigator Lowrey then proceeds to inform
Defendant of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona,
384 U.S. 436 (1966), and Defendant executes a waiver
acknowledging that he is aware of those rights. Id.
the beginning of the video, Investigator Lowrey states,
“The moment you start lying, any cooperation you
receive from [the state] is gone, ” and “this is
your chance to give me your side of the story.”
Id. at 0:05:30; 0:08:00. Investigator Lowrey then
begins questioning Defendant about his relationship with
codefendant Makeda Atkinson, who had been previously
arrested, and Atkinson's role in the death of Leann
Monaghan following an overdose.
then answers various questions for the remainder of his
interview. Defendant states to Investigator Lowrey, “I
was hooked on drugs a long time ago, and I don't do them
anymore.” Id. at 0:13:00. Throughout the
interview, Investigator Lowrey never promises Defendant
anything in exchange for his cooperation but encourages him
to continue speaking and thanks him for his cooperation,
I'm glad you wanted to come and speak with us because
getting your side of the story, it helps, it helps you. And
instead of leaving, you know, leaving a lot left to be
determined from what I'm hearing from other people,
it's nice to be able to hear your side of things.
Id. at 0:13:30-0:14:00. The video does not show that
Defendant was physically threatened or restrained at any
time. During the video of the interview, Defendant does not
ask for a break in questioning, for food, for water, to speak
to an attorney, or to speak to anyone else. Rather, the video
shows that Defendant was questioned for approximately one
hour and was free to leave the police station at any time.
the March 7, 2019 hearing, Investigator Lowrey testified
that, on the morning of the interview, he approached
Defendant at the Salvation Army homeless shelter on Reynolds
Street in Brunswick, Georgia, where Defendant was residing.
Investigator Lowrey requested that Defendant return with him
to the police station to be questioned, and Defendant agreed.
Investigator Lowrey stated he did not engage in any
substantive discussion with Defendant until he reached the
police station and that Defendant was not handcuffed during
the drive to the police station. During cross-examination by
defense counsel, Investigator Lowrey stated he saw Defendant
exit the Salvation Army, walk back inside, and then exit
again a few minutes later. Investigator Lowrey also testified
that the recorded interview was the only interview law
enforcement conducted with Defendant, and that Defendant
appeared to be alert, articulate, and unimpaired during the
hearing, Defendant testified that, on the morning of the
interrogation, Defendant noticed the presence of a police
officer when he first exited the Salvation Army. Defendant
claims he was in possession of drugs (a combination of heroin
and cocaine) that morning, and once he learned of police
presence at shelter, he re-entered the building and snorted
the drugs.Defendant stated the drugs made him relaxed
and gave him a feeling of not caring about the impact of his
statements. Defendant also stated he was under the influence
of drugs during the entirety of his interview, and though he
recalls his statements, he testified that he would not have
made some of his statements if he had not been under the
influence of drugs. During cross-examination, Defendant
stated he had not done drugs for “a couple
months” before the interview. Defendant testified that
police did not coerce him during their questioning but
insists he was under the influence of drugs at the time he
was interviewed. Notably, Defendant's assertion that he
consumed drugs the morning of the interview-September 27,
2018-is contrary to his sworn testimony during his bond
hearing in this matter on October 24, 2018, where he
testified that he last used heroin eight months prior to the
date of that hearing. Doc. 19.
United States Supreme Court's holding in Jackson v.
Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), governs the voluntariness of
confessions and, in pertinent part, provides:
It is now axiomatic that a defendant in a criminal case is
deprived of due process of law if his conviction is founded,
in whole or in part, upon an involuntary confession, without
regard for the truth or falsity of the confession, and even
though there is ...