Patrick Broom v. United States, No. 13-CF-1423 (decided June 18, 2015)
Players: Associate Judges Blackburne-Rigsby and McLeese, and Senior Judge Ferren. Opinion by Judge McLeese. Ian A. Williams for Mr. Broom. Trial Judge: Stuart Nash.
Facts: After a building manager discovered a bullet hole in the wall between two apartments and called the police, officers decided that the bullet had come from the apartment occupied by Shawnta Hagans. After asking to enter her apartment, the police “immediately” saw a bullet hole in the wall and placed Ms. Hagans and defendant Patrick Broom, who was present but said he did not live in the apartment, in handcuffs. The officers told Mr. Broom and Ms. Hagans that they were not under arrest, but also that they believed a firearm was present in the apartment; an allegation that Mr. Broom and Ms. Hagans denied.
After Ms. Hagans’s small child, who was also present, began to cry, the officers unhandcuffed Ms. Hagans, but then said that if there was a firearm in the apartment, both Mr. Broom and Ms. Hagans could be arrested and that the child would be sent to Child and Family Services. At this point, Ms. Hagans started crying and pleaded that Mr. Broom tell the officers where the gun was. Mr. Broom, still handcuffed, then led the officers to the kitchen where the police recovered a firearm in a cabinet. Ms. Hagans then led the officers to the bedroom and showed them the magazine for the gun, as well as ammunition. Only at this point did officers tell Mr. Broom that he was under arrest, but at no point did they inform Mr. Broom or Ms. Hagans of their Miranda rights.
The trial court found that the officers’ statement regarding Ms. Hagans's child was not intended to coerce Mr. Broom and Ms. Hagans to cooperate, but rather was “just stating the facts of life.”
Issue: Was Mr. Broom “in custody” at the time he told the police where the gun was such that the officers’ failure to give him Miranda warnings required suppression of his statements?
Holding: Yes. The Court finds that three facts rendered Mr. Broom “in custody:” (1) he was handcuffed; (2) the officers made a statement that would reasonably be understood as a highly coercive threat to take Ms. Hagans’s child into state custody, which predictably led Ms. Hagans to cry and beg Mr. Broom to cooperate with the officer; and (3) Ms. Hagans’s plea that Mr. Broom cooperate would reasonably have seemed to strengthen the evidence against Mr. Broom. Even when balanced against the facts that the police told Mr. Broom that he was not under arrest, did not draw their weapons or act aggressively, and removed Ms. Hagans’s handcuffs to allow her to see to her child, these did not outweigh the circumstances supporting a finding of custody.
- The Court makes clear the officers’ intent in making the statement about Child and Family Services does not matter—objectively, a reasonable person would have viewed the statement as “highly coercive.”
- The Court rejects the government’s argument that Ms. Hagans’s plea to Mr. Broom was irrelevant to the custody determination because she acted independently of the police, finding that, under these facts, her conduct was attributable to the officers’ threat about her child. CP