County District Court No. 14CR679 Honorable Francis C.
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Megan C. Rasband,
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
Lauretta A. Martin Neff, Alternate Defense Counsel, Bayfield,
Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant
1 Defendant, Martin Castruita Espinoza, appeals the judgment
of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of
ten counts of attempted murder, twenty-three counts of first
degree arson, ten crime of violence counts, and multiple
misdemeanors. Espinoza raises two issues on appeal. First, he
challenges the admissibility of his statements to police,
alleging that because he was in custody during the
questioning, the statements were inadmissible. Second, he
contends the trial court misconstrued the applicable
sentencing statutes and erroneously concluded it had to
impose consecutive sentences. The latter contention involves
applying existing law to unique facts.
2 We disagree with his first contention and affirm the
judgments of conviction. However, we agree with his second
contention, vacate his 160-year prison sentence, and remand
3 This case involved the burning of an apartment complex in
which Espinoza had previously lived. Espinoza's mother
lived in apartment 303, and Espinoza had lived with her until
two months before the fire. The day before the fire,
Espinoza's mother placed all of Espinoza's personal
belongings on the apartment's balcony. She texted him and
said that he needed to retrieve them.
4 The next day, Adams County Sheriff's deputies and
firefighters responded to a structure fire and found the
apartment complex engulfed in flames. All the residents were
able to leave the building. Espinoza, his mother, his aunt,
and his cousin were part of the crowd watching the building
burn. While on scene, Espinoza's aunt and cousin told the
police that they were concerned that Espinoza was potentially
involved with the fire.
5 The police interviewed Espinoza and his family members as
part of the fire investigation. A deputy transported Espinoza
to the police station, where he waited for several hours
before being interviewed. Espinoza told the police that he had
been panhandling at a Walmart across the street from the
apartment complex when he saw people running toward the
building, saying there was a fire. After observing the fire
for himself, Espinoza called his sister from the Walmart
courtesy phone and told her he was across the street at
Walmart and could see the fire. Police ended the interview
when Espinoza invoked his right to counsel.
6 A Walmart surveillance video showed that the fire started
on the third floor of the apartment building, that Espinoza
was in the Walmart parking lot, and that he used the courtesy
phone. Arson investigators concluded that the fire was
incendiary and had started on the balcony of apartment 303. A
Walmart employee described a male matching Espinoza's
description using the courtesy phone and smelling like
charcoal, lighter fluid, and smoke.
7 Espinoza contends that the trial court failed to consider
several factors in finding that he was not in custody at the
police station, including the several-hour wait in the
interview room, the presence of two armed detectives during
the interview, and the confrontational question near the end
of the interview. Because the trial court's detailed
factual findings, supported by the record, show that Espinoza
was not in custody, we affirm its order denying
Espinoza's motion to suppress.
8 Before trial, Espinoza moved to suppress his statements
from a videotaped interview with the police. He claimed that
he was in custody and that the police failed to give him
Miranda warnings. The trial court rejected his
custody claim and, in a detailed order, made the following
. Police learned that Espinoza was a
potential suspect at the scene. Acknowledging that they had
no probable cause, the police requested that he come to the
police station for an interview, and Espinoza agreed.
. Espinoza had no transportation and
accepted a ride from an officer.
. Espinoza consented to a pat-down search
before entering the officer's car.
. Police did not handcuff Espinoza.
. Police found a lighter in Espinoza's
pocket and asked to keep it. Espinoza did not object.
. Once at the police station, an officer
took Espinoza through at least one locked door to the
detective division on the second floor.
. The officer placed Espinoza in an
interview room, unrestrained, and provided him with a bottle
. Espinoza's mother and stepfather were
also at the police station in a different room.
. After "some time" and the
completion of two other interviews, two detectives
. The tone of the interview was
conversational, and the detectives used no coercive
interrogation methods or techniques.
. The detectives wore plain clothes.
. One of the detectives told Espinoza that
he was not under arrest and was free to leave.
. Although closed, the door was located next
to Espinoza and nothing blocked his exit from the ...