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People v. Sampson

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

October 30, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
James Ashley Sampson. Defendant-Appellee

         Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court

         Arapahoe County District Court Nos. 16CR87 & 16CR419 Honorable Phillip L. Douglass, Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Richard H. Orman, Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gilbert, Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado.

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Jake C. Taufer, Deputy Public Defender Centennial, Colorado.

          OPINION

          HOOD JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Defendant James Sampson spoke with a police officer while Sampson was in a hospital for treatment of knife wounds. Sampson's statements are now at issue in a criminal case pending against him in Arapahoe County. The key question is whether Sampson was in custody when he spoke to the officer. The trial court ruled Sampson was not in custody for Miranda purposes until the officer gave Sampson a Miranda advisement. Finding the People failed to prove Sampson made a voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights, the trial court suppressed the statements Sampson made after the advisement.

         ¶2 The People bring this interlocutory appeal pursuant to section 16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2017), and C.A.R. 4.1, challenging the trial court's suppression order. Assuming without deciding that giving Miranda warnings can be considered in determining whether a person is in custody, we conclude Sampson was not in custody at any point during his conversation with the officer at the hospital. Because the defendant was not in custody, Miranda did not apply. Therefore, we reverse the trial court's suppression order.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶3 On January 12, 2016, Aurora Police Department (APD) Officer Darren Martinez spoke with Sampson at the Medical Center of Aurora. Officer Martinez was dispatched to the hospital on a report that a stabbing victim had walked into the emergency room. Sampson told Officer Martinez someone on the street had stabbed him while trying to rob him, and a good Samaritan drove him to the hospital.

         ¶4 Officer Martinez ran Sampson's name in APD's information database. He learned Sampson was a suspect in a September 2015 domestic violence assault case that allegedly occurred at an address near where Sampson said he was picked up. Officer Martinez then sent officers to the address to make sure it wasn't a crime scene.

         ¶5 When the officers arrived at the address, they saw what looked like blood outside the apartment door. No one answered the door, so they forced entry. Inside they found Ms. R. with a stab wound on her thigh. Ms. R. told the officers that Sampson had attacked her with a bat, and she had defended herself with a knife.

         ¶6 At the hospital, Officer Martinez told Sampson that officers were in contact with Ms. R. and that he knew what had happened at the apartment. At first, Sampson stuck to his original story, but after Officer Martinez said, "[L]ook, we already know what happened, " Sampson admitted he had lied.

         ¶7 After this admission, Officer Martinez read Sampson a Miranda advisement, the sufficiency of which is not in dispute. Sampson acknowledged that he understood his rights, and he agreed to answer Officer Martinez's questions.

         ¶8 Officer Martinez asked what had happened at the apartment. Sampson said he was there with Ms. R. when they began arguing. Ms. R. told him to leave, so Sampson invited another woman to the address to pick him up. According to Sampson, this upset Ms. R. and caused her to attack him in the kitchen. Sampson told Officer Martinez that Ms. R. stabbed him, but did not provide any details. Officer Martinez told Sampson he would be arrested when he was released from the hospital.

         ¶9 Sampson now faces charges on the 2015 and 2016 alleged domestic violence incidents, which have been ...


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