This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Oliver Eugene Crawford,
Rock County District Court
File No. KX-02-264
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Tibor Gallo, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Donald R. Klosterbuer, Rock
County Attorney, 120 North McKenzie,
John Stuart, State Public
Defender, Lydia Villalva Lijo, Assistant State Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Wright, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from convictions of third- and fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, and aiding and abetting second-degree controlled-substance crime, appellant argues that his custodial statement to police should have been suppressed because police continued questioning him even though he invoked his right to remain silent by telling police he had nothing to say about the drug transactions with a police informant. Because the district court did not clearly err in determining that appellant failed to invoke his right to remain silent, we affirm.
On November 26, 2002, appellant Oliver Crawford was arrested for various controlled-substance crimes. After administering a Miranda warning to appellant, officers transported him to the police station where he was advised of the charges against him. After hearing the charges described, appellant stated, “I don’t know nothin’ about, so I don’t got nothin’ to say about it.” Officers then proceeded to ask appellant several biographical questions, followed by questioning on substantive matter. During the interrogation, appellant initially admitted selling drugs, but later retracted the admission.
Appellant was subsequently charged with one count of aiding-and-abetting second-degree controlled-substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.022, subd. 1(1), 609.05 (2002); one count of third-degree controlled-substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 1(1) (2002); and one count of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 1(1) (2002). The district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress the custodial statement on the basis that the officers should have ceased the interrogation because he invoked his right to remain silent. A jury trial followed.
At trial, Robert Jarman, a confidential informant
Jarman also testified that law enforcement arranged for him to participate in another undercover operation on November 10, 2002. Jarman stated that after law enforcement provided him with $560 in marked “buy money,” he went to appellant’s house to arrange another drug transaction with appellant and Wade. According to Jarman, the parties agreed that because Jarman was leaving town, he would leave $560 with appellant to be used to purchase cocaine. When Jarman returned, he would stop by appellant’s house and pick up the controlled substance. Although Jarman wore a microphone under his clothing as part of the November 10 undercover operation, the recording was inaudible.
Jarman further testified that on November 24, 2002, he contacted appellant to set up yet another transaction. Although Jarman believed that a third person was to deliver the ordered marijuana, it was appellant and Wade who arrived at Jarman’s motel room with the drugs. Jarman testified that he paid Wade $100 for the substance, and then he and appellant discussed the $560 that Jarman had given to appellant on November 10 to purchase cocaine. According to Jarman, appellant stated that they were going to the Twin Cities to get the cocaine, and that the deal should happen shortly. The entire meeting was videotaped by law enforcement and played to the jury.
Appellant testified at trial and denied talking to Jarman on the telephone on November 3. He admitted that Jarman came to his house on November 10 looking for drugs, but that instead of giving the $560 to appellant, Jarman stuck the money in his own pants. Appellant further testified that although he went to Jarman’s motel room on November 24, he had no idea that Wade was going to sell any drugs. Appellant claimed that he went to the motel to tell Jarman to quit bothering and threatening him.
The jury found appellant guilty of the charged offenses. He received the presumptive guidelines sentence of 58 months for aiding and abetting the second-degree controlled-substance crime. Concurrent sentences were imposed for the other two convictions.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant argues that
his custodial statement should have been suppressed because police continued to
question him after he invoked his right to remain silent. Whether a person has invoked his right to silence is a question of
fact for the district court. State v.
Johnson, 463 N.W.2d 527, 532 (
determining whether a suspect unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent,
“the proper inquiry is whether the suspect articulated his desire to remain
silent sufficiently clearly that a reasonable police officer in the
circumstances would understand the statement to be an invocation of the right
to remain silent.” State v. Day, 619 N.W.2d 745, 749 (
In support of his claim that he unambiguously invoked his
right to remain silent, appellant cites Day, in which the Minnesota
Supreme Court held that the defendant sufficiently invoked his right to silence
when he told officers: “Said I don’t
want to tell you guys anything to say about me in court.” 619 N.W.2d at 750. Likewise, this court concluded in State v.
Marshall that the defendant unequivocally and unambiguously invoked her right to silence by
stating, “No. I don’t wish to say
anything.” 642 N.W.2d 48, 53 (Minn. App.
2002), review denied (
Here, the following exchange occurred at the law enforcement center:
Agent Soppeland: Okay I’m gonna turn the tape back on. It’s 1:25, we just got reconnected up, right Ollie. I haven’t talked to you or asked you any questions at all, yet?
Agent Soppeland: Okay. Um, you know what, we are in a police department, I bet you want those handcuffs off.
Appellant: Yeah, I’d like –
Agent Soppeland: If you can stand back up it will be easier for me to do that. Okay, have a seat there. Let me get my coat off Ollie, I’ll pull this chair up. Okay, you understand your rights were read to you here, uh to me before, right?
Agent Soppeland: And you indicated that you were willing to talk to us, and wanted to talk to us.
Appellant: Yeah ‘cause I don’t know the charges. (Inaudible)
Agent Soppeland: Well, Klyde do you want to tell him –
Appellant: Okay. I ain’t never sold no methamphetamines.
Appellant: Okay, well then – I just – I ain’t got the – I don’t know nothin’ about, so I don’t got nothin’ to say about it.
The officers then asked appellant a few biographical questions before resuming the interrogation on substantive matters.
We find no clear error in the determination of the district court that appellant did not unambiguously or unequivocally assert his right to remain silent. He had stated that he understood his rights and indicated that he was interested in talking with the officers. After being told that he was charged with selling methamphetamine, appellant stated, “Okay, well then – I just – I ain’t got the – I don’t know nothin’ about, so I don’t got nothin’ to say about it.” Rather than an unambiguous and unequivocal invocation of his right to remain silent, appellant’s statement appears to be a denial of any involvement in selling methamphetamine. Appellant neither stated that he did not want to speak with police, nor that he did not want to give a statement that could be used against him in court. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court’s refusal to suppress appellant’s custodial statement was proper.
we note that in Day, a case on which
appellant heavily relies, the supreme court determined that the error in
failing to suppress defendant’s statement was harmless; the conviction was
affirmed. 619 N.W.2d at
751. Similarly, even if we were to assume here, for the sake of further analysis, that
the district court erred in finding that appellant did not invoke his right to
remain silent, we would nonetheless conclude that the error was harmless. A review of the evidence at trial convinces this court that the substantial
independent evidence in the record led to a verdict that was unattributable to
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Jarman acknowledged that police were unable to locate the $560 “buy money” when appellant’s house was searched two weeks later.
 Evidence included testimony of Jarman describing several “sting” drug purchases involving appellant and his associates, videotape and telephone recordings, and corroborating police testimony.