CRACK, CONFESSION, AND A TV
A case review of State v. Derek Vander Collier’s case filed In The Court of Appeals on October 4, 2017.
YOU MAY BE HIGH ON CRACK, AND A COP MAY HAVE PROMISED YOU TELLING THE TRUTH WOULDN’T HURT YOUR SITUATION BUT YOUR STATEMENT WILL BE CONSIDERED VOLUNTARY AND IT WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU
On November 20th and 21st of 2013 the room doors at the Jamaican Motor Inn in Myrtle Beach were being repainted. I guess Justin Kirkman was a big wig in the subcontractor industry because he stayed on the fifth-floor penthouse and was in charge of checking the doors at thirty-minute intervals and closing them when the paint dried. On November 21, 2013 Kirkman was in the penthouse between the tough job of door checking when he noticed the light in one of the rooms was on even though he had turned it off. Kirkman went to the room and saw a man attempting to take a T.V. Kirkman said he confronted the man and the man pulled, what looked like, a handgun and fled the room. Kirkman said he saw the man face-to-face for 10 to 15 seconds. He followed the man to the parking lot and saw him drive away in a four-door sedan where he noticed a TV in the back seat of the sedan. He tried to get a license number but didn’t quite. (I know this is incorrect grammar but the line ‘didn’t quite’ is in a James McMurty song and this is on a blog so piss off!)
About a week after the incident Kirkman went to the police station to meet with an artist. (I guess the penthouse was nice. He didn’t have time to go down to the cop shop any sooner.) The artist created a computer sketch of the suspect based on Kirkman’s description. Later, Kirkman viewed a lineup and narrowed his selection down to two photos. (Talk about a beauty pageant you don’t wanna win. AmIright?) Out of the two, Kirkman could not make a final decision. (He loves me, he loves me not?)
A detective recognized Derek Collier on the street and tried to contact Collier because he was facing several burglary charges. Collier gave a false name but the police already knew who he was and arrested him.
First Interrogation: The detective then interrogated Collier about 5 to 10 minutes after Collier was arrested. Collier told the detective he smoked crack cocaine a short time earlier. However, the detective stated Collier ‘did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs’ and wanted to proceed with the interview. Collier admitted to burglarizing several hotels claiming he did so to help his financially strapped mother and further admitted that he had been to the Jamaican multiple times.
Second and Third Interrogation: Another detective interrogated Collier two more times on January 30 and 31 of 2014. In the 3rd interrogation Collier admitted Kirkman had encounter him at the Jamaican but denied pulling a gun on him.
Collier went to trial, was found guilty of 2nd degree burglary, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
The issues the Court of Appeals were concerned with were:
Did the trial court improperly limit Collier’s closing argument by prohibiting him from responding to the State’s alleged bolstering of its key witness?
Did the trial court err in allowing the jury to hear recordings of Collier’s first
and third police interviews?
Did the trial court err in allowing Kirkman’s in-court identification of
The only issues that this article addresses are the interviews.
Collier argued the jury should not have heard the recording of the first interrogation because it took place just after Collier smoked crack cocaine. Collier argued the highly addictive and intoxicating effects of the drugs were likely to have induced him to do almost anything to avoid prison. See Tyrone Biggums. Collier argued the 3rd interrogation was requested by him because of concerns about the admission he made during the first interview and because law enforcement promised leniency during the interview that overbore his will. (Did someone say ‘Freeeedom’?) The trial court ruled the statements were made voluntarily and allowed the admission to be heard by the jury. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the detective testified Collier did not appear to be under the influence of drugs and that Collier refused to postpone the first interrogation. The Court found that Collier appears relaxed and forthcoming in the ‘interview’ and that it did not appear that the detective was overreaching. Collier argued the 3rd tape should have been suppressed because had he not made the 1st statement after just smoking crack cocaine he wouldn’t have made the 3rd, so the 3rd statement was also involuntary. The Court didn’t buy it, stating the first interview was voluntary so the 3rd interview was voluntary too.
Collier argued his cooperation with detectives was only a desperate attempt to appease the police in order to avoid incarceration. The Court stated that the detective only assured him that telling the truth would not hurt his situation.
The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter if you’re high on crack cocaine and make a confession if you don’t appear to be under the influence and are ‘eager’. (Aren’t crackheads stereotypical ‘eager’?) and even if an officer tells you ‘telling the truth won’t hurt your situation’ your statement will be considered voluntary unless there is a ‘promise of leniency that is so connected with the inducement as to be a consequence of the promise’ (What’s that mean???? These words…”Because I don’t understand them, I’m gon’ take them as disrespect”)
Source: State v. Collier