RODNEY DOUGLAS BECKHAM V. COM.
CRIMINAL: Suspect was not in custody during interrogation he was free to leave
OPINION BY MINTON
NOBLE CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART BY WHICH SCHRODER AND SCOTT JOIN
DATE RENDERED: 3/20/2008
SC affirmed Beckham’s convictions and life sentence for murder and PFO 1st. The Court rejected Beckham’s contentions that 1.) TC erred by denying his motion to suppress incriminating statements he made to police during a lengthy interrogation process that preceded Miranda warnings; and 2.) TC violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by prohibiting him from discussing his testimony with his attorneys during an overnight recess that interrupted his cross-examination by the Commonwealth.
This case presents some factors suggesting that Beckham was in custody, primarily the length of the interrogation and the presence of multiple officers. But the weight of the evidence tends to show that Beckham was not in custody. Specifically, the officers testified that they informed Beckham he was free to leave and that Beckham never showed any inclination to leave or otherwise to stop speaking and cooperating with them. And Beckham offered nothing at the suppression hearing to rebut the officers’ testimony. So, on balance, SC concluded that the trial court correctly determined that Beckham was not in custody.
In separate decisions, the United States Supreme Court has held that a court cannot prevent a criminal defendant from having any consultation with his attorney during an overnight recess but that it is constitutionally permissible for a trial court to bar a testifying defendant from consulting with his attorney during a briefer recess. Citing the second opinion, Perry v. Leeke, 488 U.S. 272, 283-84, 109 S.Ct. 594, 102 L.Ed.2d 624 (1989), SC held that TC’s actions attempted to protect the integrity of the proceedings and did not impermissibly limit all attorney-client contact during the waning minutes of the overnight recess, and therefore, TC’s admonition to counsel did not abridge Beckham’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Digested by Scott C. Byrd