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Hudson v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

November 14, 2019

HUDSON
v.
THE STATE.

          BARNES, P. J., MERCIER and BROWN, JJ.

          Mercier, Judge.

         Following a bench trial, Robert Lee Hudson was convicted of aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, and aggravated child molestation. He appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.

         Viewed favorably to the verdict, the evidence shows the following. See Blackwell v. State, 337 Ga.App. 173, 174 (786 S.E.2d 552) (2016). On November 30, 2015, the mother of 13-year-old D. M. reported to police that she had discovered sexually explicit social media messages exchanged between D. M. and Hudson. The police interviewed D. M., who stated that she and Hudson had met online, corresponded via social media, and engaged in both sexual intercourse and oral sex on several occasions at her home. D. M. picked Hudson's picture out of a photographic lineup and identified him as the man with whom she had sex.

         After interviewing D. M. and reviewing the sexually explicit messages, the investigating officers went to the apartment complex where Hudson possibly lived and saw him walking toward an apartment that had been leased by his wife. They lost sight of Hudson and, believing that he had entered the apartment, knocked on the front door. No one responded. Instead, the officers spotted Hudson running behind the apartment building. They apprehended him after a short chase, arrested him, placed him in a patrol car, and read him his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694) (1966).

         After receiving his Miranda warnings, Hudson made several statements to police. He initially denied any inappropriate conduct and asserted that he did not know D. M. The following conversation then occurred:

Officer: Maybe you just didn't know [D. M.] was young. Maybe she told you a lie, told you she was a different age. If that's what happened you just need to tell me that, so I know. But to tell me that you don't know her and you was never there, and I know that's a lie, then that's not helping.
Hudson: Ain't gonna help me neither sir if I go to jail. If I tell you I messed with her like, I'm admitting the guilt.
Officer: At least then I could tell them you cooperated instead of lying to me. Then denying it and them proving that you denied it and lied. They [will] throw the book at you.

         After that exchange, Hudson admitted that he and D. M. had engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex and that he had placed his fingers inside her vagina. He insisted, however, that D. M. had told him she was 20 years old.

         Prior to trial, Hudson moved to suppress his statements to police. The trial court granted the motion in part, excluding any custodial statements Hudson made before he was advised of his Miranda rights, but denied the motion as to relevant statements made after he received the Miranda warnings. The case proceeded to a bench trial on stipulated evidence, and the trial court found Hudson guilty of aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, and aggravated child molestation. Hudson filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied, and this appeal followed.

         1. Asserting that his "confession was the product of a threat," Hudson argues that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the incriminating statements. Before admitting evidence of a confession, a "trial court must consider the totality of the circumstances and assess whether the defendant made the statement voluntarily." Blackwell, supra at 175 (1); see also OCGA § 24-8-824 ("To make a confession admissible, it shall have been made voluntarily, without being induced by another by the slightest hope of benefit or remotest fear of injury."). We will not reverse a trial court's determination as to voluntariness absent clear error. See Blackwell, supra.

         Hudson argued below that the police coerced his confession by "saying they would throw the book at [him] if [he didn't] confess[.]" The trial court rejected this claim, finding the officer's statement to be "akin to a mere 'truism' or recounting of fact rather than a threat of injury that would render the statement involuntary."

         We agree. "There is a material difference between a statement to a [suspect] that it would be better for him to tell the truth, and one wherein he is told that it would be better for him to make a confession." Rogers v. State, 142 Ga.App. 387, 388 (2) (236 S.E.2d 134) (1977) (citations, punctuation, and emphasis omitted). Mere "exhortations that [an accused] should tell the truth" do not render a confession involuntary because "no hope of benefit springs from such an admonishment." M ...


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