Attorneys for Appellant
Susan K. Carpenter
Public Defender of Indiana
David P. Freund
Deputy Public Defender
Attorneys for Appellee
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Attorney General of Indiana
Janice Brown Mallett
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA SUPREME COURT
MICHAEL O. RINGO,
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
APPEAL FROM THE GREENE SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable David Holt, Judge
Cause No. 28D01-9702-CF-140
ON DIRECT APPEAL
October 18, 2000
Defendant Michael Ringo was convicted of Murder. He appeals, arguing that his
confession was improperly admitted into evidence. We find that the trial court
properly denied Defendants motion to suppress his confession.
We have jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the longest single sentence exceeds
50 years. Ind. Const. art. VII, § 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).
The facts most favorable to the verdict show the victim, Larry Ringo, was
last seen alive on February 10, 1997. Defendant Michael Ringo, the victims
brother, was reported missing on February 25, 1997. On February 27, 1997,
Defendant was located in a motel in Lafayette. When contacted by the
police, Defendant refused to leave the motel room resulting in a standoff.
At approximately 3:10 a.m. on February 28, 1997, the State Police Emergency Response
Team removed the door of the motel room and entered. Defendant was
apprehended and escorted out into the parking lot. Upon being placed in
a police vehicle, Defendant was read his Miranda rights and then transported to
the Tippecanoe County Detention Center and booked.
Detectives David Reed and James Richardson interviewed Defendant. Both officers testified that
Defendant was alert and responsive, had no problem walking or speaking, was able
to understand their questions, and provided detailed answers. Defendant was again advised
of his Miranda rights and signed a waiver of rights form. Defendant then
confessed to killing the victim.
On September 15, 1997, Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement arguing
his statement was not proceeded by a knowing and voluntary waiver of Miranda
rights. On December 9, 1997, the trial court held a hearing on
Defendants motion to suppress. On January 14, 1998, the trial court denied
The State charged Defendant with Murder.
On February 6, 1998, a jury
found Defendant guilty. The trial court imposed a sentence of 65 years
for murder. Defendant appeals.
We will recite additional facts as needed.
Defendants sole contention on appeal is that the trial court committed reversible error
by denying his motion to suppress his statement to the police.
Several standards govern our review. First, the State bears the burden of
proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant voluntarily and intelligently waived his
rights, and that the defendants confession was voluntarily given.
Schmitt v. State,
730 N.E.2d 147, 148 (Ind. 2000) (citing Berry v. State, 703 N.E.2d 154
(Ind. 1998) (citing in turn Owens v. State, 427 N.E.2d 880 (Ind. 1981))).
Second, where that standard has been met, [t]he decision whether to admit
a confession is within the discretion of the trial judge and will not
be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. Jones v. State, 655
N.E.2d 49, 56 (Ind. 1995), rehg denied. And third, when reviewing a
challenge to the trial courts decision to admit a confession, we do not
reweigh the evidence but instead examine the record for substantial probative evidence of
voluntariness. Carter v. State, 730 N.E.2d 155, 157 (Ind. 2000).
The first question that must be addressed is whether Defendant waived his Miranda
rights. A waiver of ones Miranda rights occurs when the defendant, after
being advised of those rights and acknowledging that he understands them, proceeds to
make a statement without taking advantage of those rights. See Speed v.
State, 500 N.E.2d 186, 188 (Ind. 1986). The admissibility of a confession
is controlled by determining from the totality of the circumstances whether the confession
was made voluntarily and was not induced by violence, threats, or other improper
influences that overcame the defendants free will. See Wilcoxen v. State, 619
N.E.2d 574, 577 (Ind. 1993). The same test determines whether Miranda rights
were voluntarily waived. See Gregory v. State, 540 N.E.2d 585, 592 (Ind.
1989). Thus, the voluntariness of a defendants waiver of rights is judged
by the totality of the circumstances. See Allen v. State, 686 N.E.2d
760, 770 (Ind. 1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1073 (1999). A signed
waiver form is one item of evidence showing the accused was aware of
and understood his rights. Id. When challenged, the State may need
to show additional evidence tending to prove that Defendants waiver and decision to
speak were voluntary. Id.
The testimony at the suppression hearing supports the finding that beyond a reasonable
doubt Defendant had been fully advised of his rights and he voluntarily waived
those rights. During the hearing, the State showed that the appropriate
rights were read on at least two occasions and in addition Defendant signed
a waiver of rights form. During the taped statement, Detective Reed asked
Defendant, You remember in the car at the motel I advised you of
your rights, do you remember that? Defendant answered, Yes. (R. at 552.)
Next, Detective Richardson read the waiver of rights form to Defendant and
concluded by asking Defendant, Do you understand those rights? Defendant responded, Yes,
Sir. (R. at 553.) Defendant then signed the waiver of rights form.
Defendant followed this exchange with a very detailed account of what happened on
the day of the murder. After reiterating that he read Defendant his
rights, Detective Richardson then asked Defendant if he voluntarily gave his statement of
his own free will, so that he was not threatened or coerced in
anyway. Defendant responded, Yes. (R. at 568.)
Defendant argues that he was confused about his Miranda rights. Yet during
his own testimony, Defendant admitted that he remembered both his Miranda rights advisement
when he was put in the police car and the fact that he
acknowledged understanding those rights. (R. at 714.) And there is no evidence
of violence, threats, promises or improper influence.
Defendant also argues that due to his physical and mental state at the
time of his arrest, he was unable to appreciate his Miranda rights and
give a voluntary confession. Once again, the trial court judge disagreed and
denied Defendants motion to suppress.
Coercive police activity is a necessary prerequisite to finding a confession is not
voluntary within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Light v. State, 547 N.E.2d 1073, 1077 (Ind. 1989) (citing Colorado v.
Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167 (1986)), rehg denied. A confession is voluntary
if, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the confession is the
product of a rational intellect and not the result of physical abuse, psychological
intimidation, or deceptive interrogation tactics that have overcome the defendants free will.
United States v. Dillon, 150 F.3d 754, 757 (7th Cir. 1998). The
critical inquiry is whether the defendants statements were induced by violence, threats, promises
or other improper influence. Page v. State, 689 N.E.2d 707, 710 (Ind.
Defendant contends that he was intoxicated on the day of his arrest.
He also argues that he was stressed and fatigued by the events leading
up to his arrest. Intoxication and lack of sleep may be factors
in determining voluntariness. Brewer v. State, 646 N.E.2d 1382, 1385 (Ind. 1995)
(citing Pettiford v. State, 619 N.E.2d 925 (Ind. 1993) (citing in turn Colorado
v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986))). But as noted in Part I,
there is no evidence of violence, threats, promises, or improper influence in this
We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying
Defendants motion to suppress. The record contains substantial probative evidence sufficient to
establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was able to appreciate his Miranda
rights and give a voluntary confession, and there is no evidence of improper
police influence in obtaining the confession.
We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
Ind. Code § 35 42-1-1(1) (1993).
In his brief, Defendant characterizes police questioning of him as emotional
and compassionate, Appellants Br. at 24, and as compassionate, artful, and skilled, id.
at 26. We do not take this to be a claim of
improper coercion and do not find it to be.