Mr. James was not in custody during the taped interview at hospital for purposes of Miranda because Mr. James not formally restrained, remained at the hospital for treatment purposes following the interview, and reasonable person in Mr. James’s position would not believe that he or she was in custody.
State v. James
2022 – Ohio – 592
Fifth District Appellate Court
Licking County, Ohio
February 28, 2022
Mr. Justin James, who would later be discovered was a heinous sexual predator, was the live-in roommate of two parents, Mother and Father. Mother and Father have ten-year-old twin daughters, Jane and Mary Doe, who also live in the residence. On June 2, 2020, Mother reported to the Newark, Ohio Police Department that Mr. James sexually assaulted Jane and Mary Doe. The girls disclosed the abuse and Mother called the Newark Police Department.
Newark Police contacted Mr. James at the residence. Mr. James was in his bedroom just off the living room. Police observed Mr. James “had caused physical harm
to himself using various sharp objects.” Mr. James was transported to Licking Memorial Hospital and then to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for treatment.Jane and Mary Doe were interviewed by a social worker at Children’s Services. One child disclosed Mr. James came into her bedroom in the middle of the night, removed her from her bed, took her into his bedroom, and rubbed her vagina over her clothing.
Mr. James was admitted into THE Ohio State University Medical Center to recover from self-inflicted injuries. While he lay in the hospital bed two detectives interviewed him and he would claim that he was in custody for purposes of Miranda.
Newark detectives interviewed Mr. James at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Mr. James admitted that early that morning, he went upstairs, took the child out of her bedroom, and brought her into his bedroom. He said while in his bedroom, he rubbed her vagina with his left hand over her clothing for around two minutes. Mr. James also admitted he rubbed her vagina under her underwear for around five seconds.
Mr. James also admitted to detectives that the previous night, on June 1, 2020, he rubbed the other child’s vagina over her pants for two minutes while they were seated on the couch in the living room. Mr. James was charged by indictment with two counts of gross sexual imposition pursuant to O.R.C. § 2907.05(A)(4), both felonies of the third degree. Mr. James entered pleas of not guilty – even though he was guilty.
On August 14, 2020, Mr. James filed a Motion to Suppress his statements to law enforcement.
The following evidence is adduced from the hearing on November 30, 2020. Mr. James called one witness, Detective Ryan Fumi of the Newark Police Department.
Mr. James testified as the sole defense witness. When defense counsel calls a law enforcement officer as a defense witness that is typically not a good indicator for a successful Motion to Suppress.
On June 2, 2020, Det. Fumi was dispatched to a residential address regarding a report of a sexual assault. Upon arrival, Mr. James was present and was identified as
the suspect, but he was being treated by a squad for self-inflicted injuries and was transported to Licking Memorial Hospital.
After Mr. James was transported from the scene, Det. Fumi stayed at the residence to interview the parents; he then went to Children’s Services to speak to the victims; and finally, he went to the OSU Wexner Medical Center to speak to Mr. James. Mr. James had been transported to OSU from Licking Memorial due to the extent of his injuries.
Det. Fumi was accompanied by Detective Angles, also of the Newark Police Department. Det. Fumi and Det. Angles wore plain clothes and had badges around their necks and firearms visible on their hips … like all cops. Later during Mr. James’ feeble attempt to appeal his conviction, he would make great issue that the officers were armed.
Upon entering Mr. James’s hospital room, Det. Fumi introduced himself and Angles, and asked if he could stay in Mr. James’s room for a few minutes to speak to him. Mr. James responded, “Fair enough.” Mr. James was in bed, eating. Det. Fumi testified Mr. James was bandaged and his injuries were not visible; Mr. James was coherent and did not appear to be under the influence.
Det. Fumi’s conversation with Mr. James was recorded and the audio tape was played at the hearing. Det. Fumi told Mr. James he didn’t have to speak to him, but Mr. James responded that he didn’t mind. Det. Fumi asked permission to shut the door of Mr. James’s room for privacy and to prevent interruption. Mr. James was not handcuffed or restrained. A nurse advised Det. Fumi that Mr. James was not “pink slipped,” referring to a process in which a patient may be held involuntarily if he is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Mr. James’s room was not under guard and no security personnel were present.
Det. Fumi testified that Mr. James was untruthful at first, but then truthful. Mr. James confessed to the sexual assaults. Det. Fumi asked whether Mr. James’s finger entered the victim’s vagina and Mr. James insisted penetration did not occur. Mr. James was not under arrest during the interview, as Det. Fumi told him several times. Mr. James said he was worried about going to jail, and Det. Fumi responded that he wasn’t there to arrest Mr. James. After the confession, Det. Angles remained with Mr. James in the room while Det. Fumi spoke to a nurse, asking her to alert Newark Police upon Mr. James’s release. The nurse advised the hospital did not have staff available to supervise Mr. James and would not be able to detain him.
Det. Fumi testified he did not provide Mr. James with Miranda warnings because Mr. James was not in custody. Throughout Det. Fumi’s time with Mr. James at the hospital, Mr. James was not under arrest. At the conclusion of the interview, Det. Fumi told Mr. James they were leaving and Mr. James asked if he was going to jail. Det. Fumi replied, “At some point, probably.”
Mr. James was released from the hospital several hours later. Det. Angles arrested Mr. James upon his release. Upon cross-examination, defense counsel asked Det. Fumi if he was aware of a notation in Mr. James’s medical records indicating a conversation with hospital security. Specifically, the notation stated, “Hold patient per ED guidelines with risk of elopement and/or self-harm or pink slip.” Det. Fumi stated he was unaware of this note in Mr. James’s medical records and didn’t know what it meant.
Det. Fumi concurred that Mr. James did not have his clothes or his cell phone with
him in the hospital room during the interview, but disagreed with counsel’s inference that Mr. James was not free to leave. Mr. James testified on his own behalf and said the period during which he was transported to Licking Memorial then OSU was “fuzzy.” He testified that during transport to OSU, “they” told him either police or security would contact him, but he didn’t know why. He testified security and doctors met him upon arrival at the OSU trauma unit, and security asked him if he wanted to receive phone calls or talk to anyone; he said he didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Mr. James testified he was taken to a second hospital room where he eventually spoke to Det. Fumi. He was not aware of the notation in his medical records about “holding” him. During the interview, Mr. James testified he was “leery” because the detectives wore guns and he didn’t believe he was free to leave. He was not free to leave if he wanted medical care for his self-inflicted harm but that would not initiate a Miranda detention. Det. Fumi told him several times he was not presently under arrest but that he probably would eventually be arrested.
The trial judge overruled Mr. James Motion to Suppress his statement.
On or around May 10, 2021, Mr. James waived his right to trial by jury and changed his previously entered pleas of not guilty to ones of no contest. Having reviewed a pre-sentence investigation (PSI), the trial court proceeded to sentence Mr. James to a prison term of four years upon both Counts I and II, to be served concurrently.
Mr. James appealed the denial of his Motion to Suppress his statements to Det. Fumi in the hospital room to the Fifth District Appellate Court.
Mr. James argues the trial court should have suppressed his statements made to Det. Fumi at the hospital because Mr. James did not believe he was free to leave. The trial court concluded that Mr. James was not in custody or subject to a custodial interrogation such that Miranda warnings would be required “Custody” is when a defendant is taken into custody “[O]r otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and is subjected to questioning.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478 (1966). The relevant inquiry is whether a reasonable person under those circumstances would have felt he was under arrest. State v. Schlupp, 5th Dist. Coshocton 2012–Ohio–6072. In order for an accused’s statement to be admissible at trial, police must have given the accused a Miranda warning if there was a custodial interrogation. If that condition is established, the court can proceed to consider whether there has been an express or implied waiver of Miranda rights. Id., at 476. The mere fact of Mr. James’s hospitalization during the interview is not sufficient to establish he was in custody such that Miranda warnings are required prior to questioning by law enforcement. State v. Phillips 2018-Ohio-2652.
The Fifth District Appellate Court denied Mr. James’ appeal as it held “Mr. James was not in custody during the taped interview at hospital for purposes of Miranda because Mr. James not formally restrained, remained at the hospital for treatment purposes following the interview, and reasonable person in Mr. James’s position would not believe that he or she was in custody.”
- For Miranda to ‘attach’ or be required a suspect must first be in custody and second be interrogated. As the Second District Appellate Court reviewed “Custody” is when a defendant is taken into custody “[O]r otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and is subjected to questioning.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478 (1966).”.
- In this case both Newark Police Det. Ryan Fumi and Det. Angles were inside of Mr. James’ hospital room and shut the door. The detectives were armed and had displayed their badges. However, the detectives did not threaten Mr. James, coerce him in any way or attempt to intimidate him to the level that he would have been determined to be in custody for purposes of Miranda. This situation like all other Miranda analyses will always be evaluated through the totality of the circumstances. As Mr. James would later learn, the totality of his circumstances will mean he will be nestled in prison for four years for molesting two ten-year-old girls.
- Law enforcement must be diligent about non-custodial interviews. Because an interview is non-custodial the officer does not have recite the Miranda If an officer is in doubt, it is best to read the Miranda warning. However, if there is no doubt, then officers should pursue the interview without reciting the warning. Both Det. Fumi and Det. Angles should be commended for their legal prowess in knowing that the Miranda warning was not required while Mr. James was treated for his self-inflicted injuries.
Does your agency train on Custodial Interrogation?
Don’t fail your training.
Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!