Wednesday, August 1, 2001
Confession by Cooperative Suspect Not Product of Illegal Arrest—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A defendant who anxiously submitted to police interrogation in an attempt to clear himself of a murder charge, but ultimately admitted the killing, is not entitled to have his confession suppressed as the fruit of an illegal arrest, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Four denied a writ of mandate that would have thrown out Royce Ford Jr.’s confession to the murder of April Matlock, as well as all evidence subsequently obtained as a result of the confession.
“The record establishes that petitioner was unfailingly cooperative and remained eager to prove his veracity even after the interrogation began,” Justice Laurence Kay wrote. “In these circumstances the police could reasonably rely on petitioner’s apparent consent.”
Matlock’s body was found in a bedroom of her family’s Oakland home, badly beaten and bloodied and amid signs of sexual abuse.
Police said that Ford, the victim’s uncle, called 911 and met them at the house when they came to investigate. He said he was anxious to cooperate with their investigation and voluntarily accompanied them to the Homicide Section office at the police station.
The police said they became suspicious of Ford after observing his demeanor and learning that he had been convicted of welfare fraud and was on probation, and that their suspicions were heightened by the fact Ford never asked for help for Matlock on the 911 tapes. Ford, they said, at first adamantly denied having been in Matlock’s room or seen her that day, or having had sexual contact with her.
Ford agreed to waive his Miranda rights, and to give a blood sample. After a quick trip to a fast-food restaurant where he and two investigators got dinner, the blood was drawn at a hospital and Ford and the two officers went back to the station.
After resorting to “advanced interviewing techniques,” one of the investigators explained, he and his colleague were able to elicit inconsistent statements from Ford. When confronted with those inconsistencies, the officer said, Ford admitted having been in the house that day and getting into an argument with the deceased.
Eventually, he admitted killing her with a hammer.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara denied the motion to suppress. While the defendant was under “de facto arrest” at the time of the confession, the judge ruled, the Miranda waiver and the lack of flagrant police misconduct rendered the statement admissible.
Kay, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the trial judge was wrong about Ford being under arrest, but reached the correct conclusion.
There was no “seizure” of the defendant, the justice said, because Ford was cooperative. He noted that Ford was never restrained “by any physical force or show of authority” before confessing, traveling from the home to the police station to the hospital and back to the station without handcuffs.
The case is Ford v. Superior Court, People RPI, A094667.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company