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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

October 15, 2013

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Daion J. Williams, appellant

NOT DESIGNATED FOR PERMANENT PUBLICATION

Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: W. Russell Bowie III, Judge.

Thomas C. Riley, Douglas County Public Defender, for appellant.

Jon Bruning, Attorney General, and Kimberly A. Klein for appellee.

Inbody, Chief Judge, and Irwin and Riedmann, Judges.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT ON APPEAL

Riedmann, Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Daion J. Williams appeals his conviction of second degree murder on the grounds that his confession was involuntary and improperly admitted at trial. He raises two issues with his confession. The first issue is that he did not knowingly waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when the interrogating officer did not specifically inform him that the court would appoint him an attorney prior to police questioning. The second issue is that the police rendered his confession involuntary by threatening and/or promising leniency in exchange for his confession. We hold that Williams voluntarily waived his right against self-incrimination and that the police did not promise him leniency in exchange for his confession. Accordingly, we affirm Williams' conviction of second degree murder.

BACKGROUND

The night before he was murdered, Bryant T. Morgan spent the night at Alea Douglas' home in her bedroom. The next day, Morgan went to his job as a bellringer for the Salvation Army. While he was away, Douglas invited over Williams, with whom she had maintained an "on-again, off-again" relationship for years. Douglas and Williams went upstairs to her bedroom and were in her bed when Morgan unexpectedly came home from work early and walked into the bedroom. The two men exchanged some words about the situation.

Around this time, Williams' friend showed up at the Douglas residence and left with Williams. Morgan walked outside to the porch and sat down in a chair. Williams and his friend went to Williams' stepmother's home, where Williams called Douglas and asked her if Morgan wanted to fight. Williams later returned to Douglas' house with two friends. They went inside for a brief period. As the three were leaving, gunshots were fired at Morgan and he was shot. Douglas' mother and aunt tried to stop Morgan's bleeding while Douglas called the police. Morgan was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The next month, Williams was arrested on the charge of first degree murder, taken into custody, and transported to the Omaha Police Department headquarters. He was placed in a homicide interview room and questioned by Officers Daryl Krause and Candace Phillips and Sgt. Donald Ficenic.

The officers then read Williams his Miranda rights from their standard Omaha Police Department's rights advisory form. As part of the standard advisement, Officer Krause informed him that he had a right to an attorney during questioning and that the court would appoint an attorney if he could not afford one. Officers Krause and Phillips questioned Williams for a few hours. Williams initially denied involvement in Morgan's death. Williams ultimately confessed to the murder, however, after Sergeant Ficenic began questioning him and explained to him the various charges he could face and their associated penalties. He also explained to Williams that the difference between the various charges was the justification for the killing and suggested that Morgan might have taken an aggressive action that provoked Williams' response. Williams then confessed to the murder. As he was being arrested, he asked whether he continued to face the charge of first degree murder. Sergeant Ficenic informed him that he would continue to face the same charges "for now, " but that his ultimate charges would depend on "how things shake out down the road."

Williams subsequently filed a motion to suppress and exclude the statements he gave to the police from use against him in court. Williams argued that he was not properly advised of his right to counsel and his right against compulsory self-incrimination, that the statements were obtained without a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel and his right against self-incrimination, and that the statement was the ...


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