Arapahoe County District Court No. 14CR874 Honorable
Elizabeth A. Weishaupl, Judge
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Christine Brady,
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Jeffrey
Svehla, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for
1 Defendant, Durron Larry Bryant, appeals the judgment of
conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of
unlawful possession of a controlled substance and two counts
of third degree assault. We affirm.
Background and Procedural History
2 According to the prosecution's evidence, in the late
afternoon on April 4, 2014, a woman called the police because
she had seen Bryant jumping up and down, cursing, and
screaming near an intersection in Aurora. Officers arrived
just after Bryant struck a male teenager in the back of the
head and hit a female teenager on the side of her face. After
arresting Bryant, officers interviewed eyewitnesses and
conducted a field showup. The witnesses identified Bryant as
the man who had been acting erratically and as the man
involved in the altercation, and Officers Ortiz and Fink
transported Bryant to the Aurora jail.
3 Shortly after arriving at the jail, and approximately one
hour after Bryant was arrested, Officers Ortiz and Fink
interviewed Bryant in the booking room. Officer Ortiz read
Bryant his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436, 444 (1966). He then asked Bryant if he understood his
rights, and Bryant said that he did. Officer Ortiz asked
Bryant if he would be willing to speak with police, and
Bryant said that he was willing to do so.
4 During the interview, Officer Ortiz asked Bryant if he was
under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and Bryant answered
that he was. When Officer Ortiz asked Bryant what substance
he was under the influence of, Bryant said that the substance
was in his sock and pointed to his ankle, telling the
officers that they could retrieve the substance. After the
officers retrieved a small vial from Bryant's sock,
Officer Ortiz asked Bryant what the substance was. Bryant
responded that the substance was "sherm."
5 Officer Ortiz was not familiar with the term "sherm,
" but Officer Fink recognized it as a term meaning
"PCP" or phencyclidine. Officer Fink asked Bryant
several times during the interview if the substance was
"PCP, " and Bryant eventually responded that the
substance was "PCP." At trial, Officers Ortiz and
Fink testified to this exchange, and Officer Fink also
testified that, based on his training and experience, he knew
that "sherm" is a street slang word for
6 Bryant was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled
substance and two counts of third degree assault.
7 Before trial, Bryant submitted several motions to suppress,
and the court held a two-day suppression hearing. As relevant
here, Bryant contended that his statements to police were
involuntary and that his Miranda waiver was invalid.
Officers Ortiz and Fink both testified at the suppression
hearing, as did the two teenagers who were assaulted and a
witness to the assault. The trial court denied all of
Bryant's motions to suppress, ruling that Bryant's
statements were made voluntarily and that he had validly
waived his Miranda rights.
8 A jury convicted Bryant as charged, and he now appeals.
9 Bryant contends that the trial court erred by ruling that
his statements to the police were voluntary and that he had
validly waived his Miranda rights. We are not
10 The following facts were established at the suppression
hearing through testimony from Officers Ortiz and Fink.
11 On the day of Bryant's arrest, Officers Ortiz and Fink
were originally dispatched to Bryant's location to
conduct a welfare check on a man who was acting erratically
in the middle of the street and who was possibly under the
influence of drugs. While Officers Ortiz and Fink were on the
way to Bryant's location, however, they received a
further dispatch that the same individual who had been acting
erratically had possibly threatened and assaulted people at
12 Upon arriving at the scene, Officers Ortiz and Fink saw a
man who matched the description given in the dispatch and who
was later identified as Bryant. They proceeded to approach
Bryant, and Officer Ortiz ordered Bryant to stop and speak
with him. In response, Bryant looked at Officers Ortiz and
Fink and then began to walk away. Officers Ortiz and Fink
continued to approach Bryant, and Officer Ortiz ordered
Bryant to stop, turn around, and interlock his fingers.
Officer Ortiz gave Bryant several orders to do this, but
Bryant did not comply. Instead, Bryant put his hands up and
then down in response to Officer Ortiz's commands, and
then he got down on the ground before standing back up.
Finally, a third officer on the scene ordered Bryant to sit
back down on the ground.
13 Officers Ortiz and Fink both testified that this was
unusual behavior and that Bryant did not seem to understand
Officer Ortiz's commands. After arresting Bryant, they
proceeded to interview witnesses and conduct a field showup.
14 While Officers Ortiz and Fink were transporting Bryant to
the Aurora jail, Bryant repeatedly asked why he had been
arrested, and Officer Ortiz repeatedly explained to Bryant
that he had assaulted someone. Officer Ortiz described Bryant
as acting in disbelief each time he explained to him that he
had assaulted someone. Officer Ortiz also testified that
Bryant asked why he had been arrested approximately fifteen
to twenty times, while Officer Fink estimated that Bryant
asked this question approximately five times.
15 Officer Ortiz further testified that he believed Bryant
was under the influence of drugs or alcohol because of his
behavior; Officer Fink testified that Bryant seemed to be
coming off of a high. Officers Ortiz and Fink both testified
that Bryant's demeanor changed, however, by the time they
arrived at the jail, and they both described him as being
calm and cooperative at the jail.
16 Officers Ortiz and Fink brought Bryant to a booking room
where Officer Ortiz read Bryant his Miranda rights
from a pre-prepared card issued by the Aurora Police
Department, and Bryant orally waived those rights. During the
course of the interview, Bryant admitted that he was under
the influence of drugs, revealed to Officers Ortiz and Fink
that he had a small vial of drugs in his sock, and identified
the vial as containing "sherm, " which he later
admitted during the interview meant "PCP."
According to the officers' testimony, neither of them
threatened or coerced Bryant in any way, nor did they use
physical force on Bryant. B. Voluntariness
17 Bryant contends that his statements to the police at the
jail were involuntary and should have been suppressed,
arguing that the police exploited his intoxicated state
during their interrogation to elicit incriminating responses.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
18 When a trial court rules on a motion to suppress, it
engages in both factfinding and law application. People
v. Platt, 81 P.3d 1060, 1065 (Colo. 2004). We will
uphold a trial court's findings of fact on the
voluntariness of a statement when the findings are supported
by adequate evidence in the record, but we review de novo a
trial court's ultimate determination of whether a
statement was voluntary. Effland v. People, 240 P.3d
868, 878 (Colo. 2010).
19 When reviewing a trial court's suppression ruling,
appellate courts must only consider evidence presented at the
suppression hearing. Moody v. People, 159 P.3d 611,
614 (Colo. 2007). We consider the "interrelationship
between the evidentiary facts of record, the findings of the
trial court, and the applicable legal standards."
People v. D.F., 933 P.2d 9, 13 (Colo. 1997). We also
examine a trial court's legal conclusions de novo under
the totality of the circumstances. People v.
Triplett, 2016 COA 87, ¶ 28.
20 When a defendant seeks to suppress a confession or
inculpatory statement, the prosecution must establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the confession or
statement was voluntary. People v. Gennings, 808
P.2d 839, 843 (Colo. 1991). Under the Due Process Clauses of
the United States and Colorado Constitutions, a
defendant's statements must be made voluntarily in order
to be admissible into evidence. U.S. Const. amends. V, XIV;
Colo. Const. art. II, § 25; Mincey v. Arizona,
437 U.S. 385, 397 (1978); People v. Raffaelli, 647
P.2d 230, 234 (Colo. 1982).
21 A statement is voluntary made if it is "not
'extracted by any sort of threats or violence, nor
obtained by any direct or implied promises, however
slight.'" People v. Mounts, 784 P.2d 792,
796 (Colo. 1990) (quoting People v. Pineda, 182
Colo. 385, 387, 513 P.2d 452, 453 (1973)). The statement must
be the product of an essentially free and unconstrained
choice by the maker. Id.
22 "Critical to any finding of involuntariness is the
existence of coercive governmental conduct, either physical
or mental, that plays a significant role in inducing a
confession or an inculpatory statement." People v.
Valdez, 969 P.2d 208, 211 (Colo. 1998). "While a
defendant's mental condition, by itself and apart from
its relationship to official coercion, does not resolve the
issue of constitutional voluntariness, 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
involuntary." Gennings, 808 P.2d at 844
23 "[I]ntoxication alone does not automatically render
statements involuntary . . . ." People v.
Martin, 30 P.3d 758, 760 (Colo.App. 2000). Rather,
coercive government conduct is the "necessary predicate
to the finding that a confession is not
'voluntary.'" Colorado v. Connelly, 479
U.S. 157, 167 (1986).
24 The voluntariness of a statement must be determined by a
consideration of the totality of the circumstances under
which the statement was made. Mounts, 784 P.2d at
796. Our supreme court has articulated several factors to
consider when evaluating the voluntariness of a statement in
light of the totality of the circumstances, including
whether the defendant was in custody or was free to leave and
was aware of his situation; whether Miranda warnings
were given prior to any interrogation and whether the
defendant understood and waived his Miranda rights;
whether the challenged statement was made during the course
of an interrogation or instead was volunteered; whether any
overt or implied threat or promise was directed to the
defendant; the method and style employed by the interrogator
in questioning the defendant and the length and place of the
interrogation; and the defendant's mental and physical
condition immediately prior to and during the interrogation,
as well as his educational background, employment status, and
prior experience with law enforcement and the criminal
Valdez, 969 P.2d at 211 (quoting Gennings,
808 P.2d at 844).
25 We reject Bryant's contention that his statements were
26 After hearing testimony at the suppression hearing, the
trial court made an extensive and thorough oral ruling as to
whether, under the totality of the circumstances,
Bryant's statements to the police had been the product of
any coercive government conduct. In doing so, the court
considered Officer Ortiz's and Officer Fink's
testimony and outlined a number of factors relevant to its
analysis. The trial court found that
[Bryant] was in custody at the time that he made the
statements at the station, that he was aware of his
situation. He'd asked why he was being taken to the
station and he was being booked. Miranda warnings
were given prior to the interrogation. Both officers
indicated that based on their observations of the defendant
he understood what they were saying and responded
appropriately to the questions, and in fact, I find that he
did understand and waive his rights. He at no time indicated
that he wanted to confer with counsel. The statements were
made during interrogation . . . . The length . . . of the
interrogation was short. No threats, either overt or implied,
were made or directed towards the defendant. The defendant
seemed to be coherent and calm and responding appropriately
to the questions of the police . . . . [U]nder the totality
of the circumstances, I find nothing that would render
[Bryant's] statements a product of undue influence,
coercion, threat or in any way involuntary, so I deny the
motion to suppress the statements as involuntary as well.
27 We conclude that the following evidence, elicited at the
suppression hearing, supports the trial court's findings
regarding the voluntariness of Bryant's statements to
police at the police station:
. Bryant was given Miranda warnings
prior to the interrogation, and he understood and waived his
. The interrogation lasted at most fifteen
. The interrogation occurred approximately
one hour after Officers Ortiz and Fink arrested Bryant, and
Bryant's demeanor had changed during that time. Once at
the jail, Bryant was calm, coherent, and cooperative. He was
less repetitive than when he was in the car, and he answered
. There was no evidence of promises,
threats, or physical or emotional coercion.
28 Accordingly, we agree with the trial court that there was
"nothing that would render [Bryant's] statements a
product of undue influence, coercion, threat or in any way
29 Bryant's reliance on People v. Humphrey, 132
P.3d 352 (Colo. 2006), is misplaced. In Humphrey,
the trial court ruled that some of the defendant's
statements were involuntary due to psychological coercion.
The defendant in Humphrey was a teenager suspected
of stabbing another teenager and who was found
"bleeding, incoherent, and in need of medical
attention." Id. at 354. She was transported to
the hospital, where her blood alcohol level was measured as
0.104 at 3:24 a.m., and 0.090 at 4:27 a.m. Id.
Nonetheless, her physician noted that she was
"clinically sober" at the time of her release, and
she was questioned by police at approximately 6 a.m.
30 The trial court in Humphrey "considered [the
defendant's] physical, emotional, and psychological state
at the time of the interrogation but recognized that, alone,
these circumstances did not render her statements
involuntary." Id. at 361. Rather, the trial
court's finding of psychological coercion "rested
upon the circumstances of a discrete portion of the
interview, " when she was informed that the victim had
died of his stab wounds and she proceeded to have an
emotional breakdown. Id.
31 The supreme court in Humphrey affirmed the trial
court's suppression of the defendant's statements
made after being informed of the victim's death,
but reversed as to the suppression of her statements made
before that disclosure. Id. The supreme court
concluded that it was only at the point that the defendant
experienced an emotional breakdown, when she "cried and
broke into uncontrollable sobbing" and "[h]er
answers to the questions thereafter were emotional reactions
that were only partially coherent, " that the continued
police questioning became coercive. Id.
32 By contrast, Bryant suffered no such emotional breakdown,
but was instead described by Officers Ortiz and Fink as being
calm, coherent, and cooperative. Moreover, the interview
lasted no more than fifteen minutes, and there was no
evidence in the record from the suppression hearing that
Bryant's demeanor changed at any point during the
interview itself, and no evidence of any psychological
coercion like that found in Humphrey.
33 In sum, we conclude that the trial court did not err by
finding that Bryant's statements to ...