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People v. Zadran

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

December 9, 2013

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant
Khaled ZADRAN, Defendant-Appellee.

As Modified December 12, 2013.

Page 831

Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court, Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 13CR164, Honorable Christopher C. Cross, Judge.

Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District, L. Andrew Cooper, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Centennial, Colorado.

Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Jessica Enggasser, Deputy State Public Defender, Centennial, Colorado.



¶ 1 The prosecution brings this interlocutory appeal challenging the Arapahoe County District Court's suppression of Khaled Zadran's statements, which were obtained through a custodial interrogation at the Aurora

Page 832

Detention Center on January 23, 2013.[1] The police arrested and interrogated Zadran in the course of an investigation of a suspected drug dealer. At issue here is whether the police officer who interrogated Zadran engaged in coercive conduct sufficient to render Zadran' s inculpatory statements involuntary. The trial court found that Officer Wheelis, the interrogating officer, made improper implied promises and had a generally coercive demeanor. Thus, the trial court concluded that all of Zadran's statements at the Aurora Detention Center were involuntary and inadmissible. We hold, under the totality of the circumstances, that the interrogation at the Aurora Detention Center was not coercive and the statements were voluntary. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's suppression order.


¶ 2 In May 2012, the Aurora Police Department began investigating an individual suspected of selling marijuana to high school students. During the investigation, the police found a phone number they suspected belonged to the individual selling marijuana. By conducting a " reverse phone look up," the police were able to find a name, picture, and address associated with the phone number. This information all pointed to Zadran. Based on that information, on January 23, 2013, the police began surveillance of the address. During the surveillance, the police saw a person, who matched the picture from the " reverse phone look up," exit the home and drive away in a silver Infinity vehicle. Over a span of forty minutes, the police saw the driver of the Infinity conduct what they suspected to be multiple drug deals. The police stopped the silver Infinity for a traffic violation. Zadran was the person driving the car. He consented to a search of his vehicle and stood off to the side of the vehicle, not in handcuffs, while the police searched the car. During the search, the police found a scale, a medical marijuana card, and some marijuana residue called " shake."

¶ 3 The police searched Zadran's person, arrested him, and transported him to the Aurora Detention Center. The police found roughly $900 in cash and numerous medical marijuana coupons on Zadran. Officer Ellison testified that while he transported Zadran to the detention center, Zadran seemed relaxed. He asked Ellison whether he was under arrest, and Ellison told him he was under arrest for the distribution of narcotics.

¶ 4 At the Aurora Detention Center, Officer Wheelis conducted a custodial interrogation of Zadran. Before advising Zadran of his Miranda rights, Wheelis said,

I'm just telling you what I'm going to talk to you about. I think it would be in your best interest to talk to me. I think you are going to be interested in some of the things that I already know. You don't have to talk to me. I'm going to advise you of your rights. I'm going to let you read this form, sign it, and you can [ ] talk to me. You don't have to.

Zadran then signed a Miranda waiver and consented to answering questions. Wheelis said, " You may stop answering at any time, if you like. We'll have a little conversation." Zadran did not ask for a lawyer. Wheelis proceeded to ask Zadran questions about his involvement in selling marijuana to high school students.

¶ 5 During the custodial interrogation, Zadran made numerous inculpatory statements to Wheelis. For example, he admitted that he had been selling marijuana for several months. The tone of the interrogation was conversational, Wheelis placed very little pressure on Zadran, and Zadran answered questions in a calm and clear manner. Wheelis attempted to obtain Zadran's consent to search his bedroom at Zadran' s parent's house. Toward the end of the exchange, Wheelis said, " I'm telling you, you want to get ahead of this. You want to make things right. You want a positive outcome from this. I'm trying ...

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