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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Apr 19, 2013

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

C. Mark Donahoe and Andrea D. Sipes, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, David Hooper Climer, Jr.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Garry G. Brown, District Attorney General, Larry Hardister and Stephanie J. Hale, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): CLARK

We granted this appeal to determine whether the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress his statements to the police on the grounds that they were elicited in violation of his constitutional right to counsel and were involuntary. We have determined that the defendant did not unequivocally request counsel and therefore did not invoke his constitutional right to counsel. Nevertheless, we have also determined that the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant waived the rights enumerated in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Thus, we hold that the defendant’s statements were erroneously admitted into evidence, but the physical evidence discovered as a result of his statements was properly admitted because the totality of the circumstances shows that the defendant’s statements were voluntary and not coerced. We also hold that the State failed to establish that the erroneous admission of the defendant’s statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the defendant’s convictions of second degree murder and abuse of a corpse are vacated, and this case is remanded for further proceedings.