County District Court No. 14CR2048 Honorable Gilbert A.
REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Molly E. McNab,
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
Migliaccio, Alternate Defense Counsel, Colorado Springs,
Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant
1 Defendant, Brian K. Springsted, appeals the judgment of
conviction entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of
one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to
commit first degree murder, and two counts of violent crime.
We reverse and remand for a new trial.
2 This case involves the shooting death of the victim, Daniel
"Chopps" Baird. The prosecution presented evidence
that the victim was shot by two different people, and the
primary issue at trial was the identity of the second
3 The first shooter, codefendant Michael Malory (Popeye),
allegedly shot the victim in retaliation for an arson the
victim committed against Popeye's friend. The shooting
occurred at Popeye's house, in his kitchen. Springsted
and Nathan Varnadore were present during the incident.
4 During trial, the prosecution presented evidence that there
was an ongoing dispute between Popeye and the victim
regarding the arson, that Popeye invited the victim to his
house via text messages and phone calls, that Popeye and the
victim argued, and that the victim was shot once in the face
and twice in the chest with different guns.
5 Shortly after the shooting, a police officer, who was in
the neighborhood for unrelated reasons, responded to the
house. When she entered, the officer saw the victim on the
kitchen floor and observed Springsted coming up the stairs
from the basement. Within one hour of the shooting,
Springsted was in a police interview room for questioning and
6 Over the course of the next four days, the police conducted
five interviews of Springsted totaling more than eleven hours
and eventually arrested him for the victim's death. The
prosecution's evidence implicating Springsted as the
second shooter included Springsted's descriptions of the
shooting from these interviews, his text messages to other
friends anticipating the victim's arrival, and statements
from two witnesses who testified that Springsted told them he
shot the victim to put the victim out of his misery.
7 The serological evidence, however, implicated only Popeye
as a shooter; it did not implicate Springsted. Specifically,
the victim's blood was found on Popeye's clothing,
while none was found on Springsted's.
8 A jury convicted Springsted of all counts, and the court
sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, Springsted
challenges only the court's admission of his statements
from the police interviews, alleging that they were obtained
Admissibility of the Recorded Statements
9 As an initial matter, the People contend that Springsted
did not raise the same argument in the trial court that he
now raises on appeal and, therefore, that he did not preserve
the issue for our review. Specifically, the People allege
that Springsted's arguments in his suppression motion
addressed each interview separately, while on appeal he
argues the cumulative effect of these interrogations.
Springsted contends that he preserved the cumulative issue by
challenging the voluntariness of each statement in his motion
to suppress and by arguing at the motions hearing that the
police would "build on" prior interrogations when
conducting new ones.
10 We conclude that Springsted sufficiently preserved this
issue for our review. Parties are not required to use
"talismanic language" to preserve particular
arguments for appeal; rather, the trial court must be
presented with an adequate opportunity to make findings of
fact and conclusions of law on any issue before we will
review it. People v. Melendez, 102 P.3d 315, 322
(Colo. 2004). Springsted filed a motion to suppress the
statements, alleging they were involuntary. The trial court
held a hearing and issued a ruling in which it specifically
discussed the cumulative effect of the interrogations. The
court stated, "I looked at all the videos as a whole to
determine if at any point the interviews, because of the
cumulative effect, became involuntary or improper."
Accordingly, because the trial court was presented with an
adequate opportunity to make findings of fact and conclusions
of law on the cumulative impact of the interrogations, we
conclude this claim is preserved for our review. See
11 On May 3, 2014, Springsted was in Popeye's home when
the victim was shot three times and died. Within an hour of
the shooting, Springsted was in a police interview room. This
first interview lasted approximately three and one-half
hours. Officers never provided Springsted an advisement under
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and instead
told him he was a witness and not a suspect. After the
interview, Springsted was allowed to leave the station.
12 The second interview occurred less than four hours later
when officers arrived at Springsted's home and requested
that he return to the sheriff's office for more
questioning. This time, the officer advised Springsted of his
Miranda rights, which Springsted waived, but did not
inform Springsted he was now a suspect. The interview lasted
two hours, and the officer's demeanor was more
aggressive. The officer told Springsted he faced life
imprisonment, suggested the shooter likely put the victim out
of his misery by shooting him in the chest, said the
codefendant was not "going down" alone, and stated
that the first person who was honest generally received the
"most slack." Springsted responded that either he
or Varnadore could have shot the victim - he could not
remember. He said if he did shoot the victim, "it was
probably just for mercy." Springsted was allowed to
leave at the end of the interview.
13 The third interview occurred the following day and lasted
another four and one-half hours. Springsted again received a
Miranda advisement and agreed to speak with the
officers. Two different officers, separated by minutes,
questioned Springsted in a confrontational manner. The
officers, in raised voices, repeatedly cursed, repeatedly
accused Springsted of lying, told Springsted he was going to
prison, asked if he loved his wife, said they knew he had
shot the victim out of mercy, asked whether his religion
condoned murder, and asked whether they should tell the
district attorney to charge him with first or second degree
14 This time, Springsted said if he killed the victim he used
a .45 caliber gun and that Popeye used a .50 caliber gun. He
said he shot the victim to put him out of his misery and that
he did not want to hurt anyone. He said gunshot residue from
the .45 caliber gun would be on his hands and that his DNA
would be on the gun. He was again released.
15 The following day, after threatening Springsted's wife
with potential charges, the police located Springsted and
arrested him. The fourth interview, which lasted another
hour, was consistent in content, tone, and confrontation
level with the third; however, Springsted remained in custody
at its conclusion. Eleven minutes after the fourth interview,
a different officer conducted the final interview. In
contrast to the previous officers, this officer did not raise
his voice, did not curse at Springsted, and was not
accusatory. This last interview - in which Springsted
admitted watching Popeye text the victim to get the victim to
the house, described the argument between the victim and
Popeye, explained how Popeye shot the victim, and detailed
how and where he was when he shot the victim - was played for
Standard of Review
16 We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to
suppress as a mixed question of law and fact. People v.
Ramadon, 2013 CO 68, ¶ 21. We defer to the trial
court's factual findings and uphold them on review where
those findings are supported by the record. Effland v.
People, 240 P.3d 868, 878 (Colo. 2010). However, we
review the legal effect of facts de novo. Ramadon,
¶ 21. Where the interrogation is video- or
audio-recorded and there are no disputed facts outside the
recording pertinent to a suppression ruling, we are in the
same position as the trial court in deciding the
voluntariness issue. Ramadon, ¶ 21. In such
instances, the question on appeal is one of law and is
reviewed de novo. See People v. Valdez, 969 P.2d
208, 211 (Colo. 1998); People v. Wickham, 53 P.3d
691, 694 (Colo.App. 2001); see also People v.
Miranda-Olivas, 41 P.3d 658, 661 (Colo.
2001)("[W]here the record below reveals no conflicting
evidence regarding the details of the encounter, remand is
unnecessary where the appellate court can apply the correct
17 Additionally, we review errors involving a constitutional
violation under the constitutional harmless error standard.
Hagos v. People, 2012 CO 63, ¶ 11.
These errors require reversal unless the reviewing court is
"able to declare a belief that [the error] was harmless
beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (alteration in
original) (quoting Chapman v. California, 386 U.S.
18, 24 (1967)). In other words, we reverse if "there is
a reasonable possibility that the [error] might have
contributed to the conviction." Id. (alteration
in original) (quoting Chapman, 386 U.S. at 24).
18 Under the Due Process Clauses of the United States and
Colorado Constitutions, only voluntary statements made by a
defendant are admissible into evidence. U.S. Const. amends.
V, XIV; Colo. Const. art. II, § 25; see also Mincey
v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 387 (1978); People v.
Raffaelli, 647 P.2d 230, 234 (Colo. 1982). In contrast,
involuntary statements are inadmissible
not because such [statements] are unlikely to be true[, ] but
because the methods used to extract them offend an underlying
principle in the enforcement of our criminal law: that ours
is an accusatorial and not an inquisitorial system - a system
in which the State must establish guilt by evidence
independently and freely secured and may not by coercion
prove its charge against an accused out of his own mouth.
Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 540-41 (1961). For
a statement to be involuntary, government coercion must have
played a significant role in obtaining it. Colorado v.
Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 164 (1986) ("[A]ll
[confession cases] have contained a substantial element of
coercive police conduct."); Ramadon, ¶ 18.
19 When a defendant seeks to suppress a statement as
involuntary, the prosecution must prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the statement resulted from a free and
unconstrained choice by the maker. Ramadon, ¶
19. The statement must not be the product of "any direct
or implied promises, however slight, " or result from
the government's exertion of improper influences.
People v. Medina, 25 P.3d 1216, 1222 (Colo. 2001).
Coercive physical or psychological governmental conduct
renders an otherwise voluntary statement involuntary if that
conduct plays a significant role in inducing the statement.
Id. "Coercive conduct includes not only
physical abuse or threats directed against a person, but also
subtle forms of psychological coercion."
Ramadon, ¶ 19. "The deliberate
exploitation of a person's weakness by psychological
intimidation can, under some circumstances, constitute a form
of governmental coercion that renders a statement
20 "The focus of the voluntariness inquiry is whether,
under the totality of the circumstances, the behavior of the
official was coercive so as to overbear the defendant's
will in making the statements." People v.
Zadran, 2013 CO 69M, ¶ 10. This is a two-step
inquiry involving (1) whether the officer's behavior was
coercive; and (2) if so, whether that coercive behavior
played a significant role in inducing the defendant's
statement. Ramadon, ¶ 20.
21 Courts determine voluntariness by considering the totality
of the circumstances under which the statements were given,
looking at the significant details surrounding and inhering
in the interrogation under consideration. Id. Courts
examine both the defendant's ability to resist coercive
pressures and the nature of the police conduct, using a
nonexclusive list of factors that includes:
(1) whether the defendant was in custody;
(2) whether the defendant was free to leave;
(3) whether the defendant was aware of the situation;
(4) whether the police advised the defendant of his or her
(5) whether the defendant understood and waived
(6) whether the defendant had an opportunity to confer with
counsel or anyone else prior to or during the interrogation;
(7) whether the statement was made during the interrogation
or volunteered later;
(8) whether the police threatened [the] defendant or promised
anything directly or impliedly;
(9) the method or style of the interrogation;
(10)the defendant's mental and physical condition just
prior to the interrogation;
(11)the length of the interrogation;
(12)the location of the interrogation; and
(13)the physical conditions of the location where the