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United States v. Walker

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 3, 2017

MICHAEL WALKER (02), Defendant.


          Susan Oki Mollway, United States District Judge


         Defendant Michael Walker is accused of having arranged for his girlfriend, Ailsa Jackson, to kill his wife in their home on a military reservation, while he was working the night shift at an Army hospital.

         Before the court is a motion to suppress Walker's statements based on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). See Defendant's Motion to Suppress, ECF No. 147.

         Because the Government has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Walker was not detained for Fourth Amendment purposes and not subject to custodial interrogation for Fifth Amendment purposes until Agent Mitchell asked him about his extramarital relationships, the motion to suppress statements made before those questions is denied. That is, Walker's statements before the subject of extramarital relationships was raised at line 22 of page 49 of the transcript of the interview on November 15, 2014, are not suppressed.

         The motion to suppress is granted in all other respects. Specifically, the Government may not use Walker's statements after Agent Mitchell's question appearing at line 22 of page 49 of the transcript in its case in chief. This ruling excludes from trial only slightly more interview statements than the Government has itself conceded that it will not use in its case in chief in light of law enforcement's violation of Miranda. Nor may the Government use Walker's statements beginning at line 25 of page 49 of the transcript for impeachment purposes. The court suppresses these statements as involuntary. Similarly suppressed and not usable at trial for any purpose, including impeachment, are Walker's handwritten note and statements relating to the note.


         This court received oral testimony from Emily Partridge, Thomas Sides, Jr., Charles Baker, Ian Mitchell, and Mark Pezel during a hearing on July 28, 2017. The court finds all of them credible. The court also has before it all exhibits that were attached to the moving and opposing papers, which this court received in evidence for purposes of the present motion. The court heard argument on July 28 and 31, 2017.

         In an effort to rule promptly on the merits and to avoid the burden on the court's over-extended court reporters, and because Walker's motion to suppress was heard shortly before the trial date, the court did not request and therefore does not have final transcripts of the live testimony, although the court has “rough” unedited copies of those transcripts. Therefore, in referring to that testimony in these findings of fact, this court is unable to give exact page and line citations to the testimony.

         Based on the live testimony and the documentary and video record, the court finds that the following facts are supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The findings are identified by letters of the alphabet for ease of reference in future proceedings.

         A. Early on the morning of November 15, 2014, Sergeant Walker, a United States Army medic, called 911 to report that, having just returned home after working a night shift at Tripler Army Medical Center, he had discovered his wife, Catherine Walker, dead in the second-floor master bedroom. The home was located in the Aliamanu Military Reservation on Oahu. Military Police, emergency medical personnel, Honolulu Police Department (HPD) officers, and federal firefighters responded to the call.

         B. At about 6:40 a.m., Officer Emily Partridge of the United States Army Military Police[1] arrived at Walker's house without any sirens, mistakenly believing that she was responding to a DUI call. After ringing the doorbell multiple times and banging on the door, she heard someone running down some stairs, yelling, “I'm here, I'm here.” Walker then unlocked the front door. About ninety seconds had passed from the time Officer Partridge had started ringing the doorbell until Walker arrived at the door. While Officer Partridge was banging on the door, her partner, who had been patrolling the neighborhood, pulled up in the driveway but did not walk up to the front door of the house.

         C. Officer Partridge testified that Walker “was frantic, but calm at the same time” when he opened the door. He was on his cellphone, speaking to one of the command leaders from his unit. According to Officer Partridge, Walker told her, “She's up there. She's up there.” Walker then led Officer Partridge up the stairs. Officer Partridge pushed open the master bedroom door, which was already ajar. From the doorway, with Walker standing behind her, Officer Partridge saw a woman lying on her back on the floor with one arm above her head and one to the side. According to Officer Partridge, in the daylight, she saw blood, which “appeared to look dry, but still moist in some parts.”

         D. At this point, about four or five emergency personnel arrived and went up the stairs past Officer Partridge and Walker to begin life-saving procedures. Officer Partridge asked Walker to go down the stairs and outside of the house, where she planned to ask him for personal information. Walker responded that he would be more comfortable sitting on the couch in the first-floor living room; Officer Partridge allowed him to sit there while she spent ten to fifteen minutes obtaining information from him. Officer Partridge testified that Walker rocked back and forth on the couch, repeating, “I don't know what I want to do. I don't know what I want to do.”[2] Although he told Officer Partridge that he had unsuccessfully performed CPR on his wife, Officer Partridge noticed that he was “clean” and that there was no blood on him or his clothing. At Officer Partridge's request, Walker got his wife's ID from her purse to help medical personnel identify her. While this was happening, Staff Sergeant Green, Officer Partridge's patrol supervisor, arrived.

         E. At about 7:00 a.m., Officer Thomas Sides, a United States Army Military Police investigator, arrived and began to “secure the scene and preserve evidence.” He stationed Officer Partridge at the front door to monitor who went in and out of the house, and he had another person do the same at the back door of the house.

         F. After she had gotten the information she needed from Walker, Officer Partridge again asked Walker if he would go outside so that law enforcement officers could process the crime scene. Walker went outside and waited on the front porch. Officer Partridge stood on the front porch as instructed and wrote down the time and identity of people going in and out of the house until about noon, when she was relieved of her duty. Officer Partridge says she did not order Walker to stay or remain on the porch and was not told to monitor his movements. She testified that, even after Walker had stepped onto the porch, she would later have allowed him to go back into the house to use the bathroom.

         G. At around 8:00 a.m., a chaplain arrived at the house to meet with Walker. Other members of Walker's chain of command and HPD officers also arrived. According to Officer Partridge, there were about three military police officers, two HPD officers, and a traffic investigator standing outside of the house in various areas of the street, sidewalk, front lawn, and back area of the house. Officer Partridge was the only one standing next to Walker on the porch. Officer Partridge overhead Walker telling HPD officers that he had had an argument over food with his wife the previous day before he left for work. She also overheard him telling the chaplain, who was speaking one-on-one with him on the front porch, that he and his wife had been unsuccessful in trying to have children, that this had made his wife very depressed, that his wife had had thoughts of suicide, and that she had been staring out of their bedroom window when he left for work the prior evening, which had seemed “very strange” to him.

         H. A little before 9:00 a.m., Special Agents Ian Mitchell and Charles Baker of the Army's Criminal Investigations Division (CID) arrived at Walker's house in an unmarked CID Chevy Impala. Agent Baker testified that, when he first arrived at the house, he saw Walker “being hugged by somebody in his chain of command” on the sidewalk or road. Agent Baker noticed that Walker was “tearful” and looked “very upset.”

         I. Agent Mitchell was part of the Special Victims Unit, which handles sex crimes, but had been instructed by the General Crimes Team Chief to help in the murder investigation at Walker's house. His task was to interview Walker about his discovery of his wife's body and to establish a timeline of events leading up to her death. Agent Mitchell began by going up to Walker on the front porch, shaking his hand, and introducing himself. He then told Walker that they needed to go to the CID office together to talk about what had happened. Although Agent Mitchell could not recall the exact words he used to convey this “need” to Walker, it appears he did use language conveying some necessity. He testified before the court, however, that if Walker had not wanted to leave his wife's body, that concern would have been accommodated. Agent Mitchell said he would have done his best to gather any physical evidence at the house and would have been content to schedule extensive questioning at the CID office for later. That turned out to be unnecessary. According to Agent Mitchell, Walker did not hesitate or object, replying, “Okay.” Agent Mitchell described Walker as appearing “concerned” but “cooperative, ” not “distraught to the point where he was inconsolable.”

         J. According to Agents Baker and Mitchell, Walker was not arrested or handcuffed, and no weapons were drawn. They heard no one imply or tell Walker that he was a suspect in his wife's death. In fact, neither agent suspected at the time that Walker had killed his wife.

         K. Agent Mitchell pointed out the unmarked CID Chevy Impala and walked with Walker to the car. The car had a police radio in its front panel, but no cage separating the front and back seats. Agent Mitchell sat in the back with Walker, behind Agent Baker, who was driving. Walker opened the car door himself and got into the car on his own. He was not patted down for weapons.

         L. The drive to the Schofield Army Barracks CID office took about thirty minutes. During the car ride, Agent Mitchell engaged in small talk with Walker but did not discuss anything related to his wife's death. At the CID office, the agents entered through the front doors with Walker, not through the back door that a CID agent would normally have used with a suspect. In fact, according to Agent Baker, a suspect would typically have been transported by Military Police officers, not CID agents, and would have been handcuffed. CID procedures required visitors to leave their cellphones in a lockbox before heading into interview rooms. Walker left his cellphone, which was not searched until later, after he had consented to a search.

         M. According to Agent Mitchell, Walker was led to an interview room that was about six feet by ten feet and did not have any windows. There were two chairs and a table, and an adjoining restroom. One of the walls had what appeared to be an ordinary mirror, behind which audio-visual equipment was set up to record the interview. According to Agent Mitchell, Special Agent Paul McNally and Captain Mahoney from the staff judge advocate's office watched parts of the interview through the mirror, unseen by Walker. Although Walker was not expressly told that the entry door to the interview room was unlocked, he saw Agents Mitchell and Baker freely going in and out of the room without locking or unlocking the door several times that morning. Only one agent remained with Walker at a time, and there were periods in which Walker was in the room alone.

         N. Arrangements were made to get a change of clothing for Walker and to provide Walker with housing pending the investigation and processing of the crime scene.

         O. At approximately 11:00 a.m., Agent Mitchell began a videotaped interview of Walker, the transcript of which is at Government's Exhibit 6, ECF No. 157-6 (referred to hereafter as “Interview Transcript” with page references being to the typed page numbers in the upper right-hand corner).[3] Agent Mitchell told Walker that he was being videotaped.

         P. Agent Mitchell began the interview by asking Walker if he was willing to consent to a search of his on-post residence, his person, his cars, and his cellphone. Agent Mitchell showed and explained a consent-to-search form to Walker, who acknowledged that he understood the form. See Government's Exhibit 4, ECF No. 157-4, PageID # 943.

         Q. The consent to search form states,

3. I have been informed by the undersigned USACIDC Special Agent that an inquiry is being conducted in connection with the following possible violation(s) of law: Undetermined Death of Catherine Walker///
4. I have been requested by the undersigned USACIDC Special Agent to give my consent to a search of my person, premises, or property as indicated below. I have been advised of my right to refuse a search of my person, premises, or property. (If you do not give your consent, do not sign this form.).

Id. Walker consented to the search requests and signed the form. Id. Agent Mitchell then asked Walker for the passcode to his cellphone, which Walker provided. Agent Mitchell noted the passcode on the form, id., then left the interview room.

         R. Agent Baker entered the room to collect the clothing Walker was wearing to test it for any trace evidence it might have from Walker's reported performance of CPR on his wife before Officer Partridge arrived. The agents had clearly anticipated getting Walker's consent to collect physical evidence from his person because a large brown sheet of paper was already on the floor of the interview room for Walker to place his clothes on. In a respectful and sympathetic voice, Agent Baker directed Walker to remove every piece of clothing he was wearing and to place each item on the brown paper. On the video of the interview, Walker is shown completely naked for a brief time until he put on other clothes.

         S. Walker asked to use the restroom, which was connected to the interview room such that he did not need to go out the door of the interview room. Walker asked whether he should wash his hands, and Agent Baker told him to “hold off” on doing that until he had been completely processed. Agent Baker collected Walker's clothing, took scrapings from his hands and fingernails, and took his fingerprints. Walker asked him, “Do we know how much longer?” Interview Transcript at 13. Agent Baker responded, “Well, here's the good. There's about a million and a half people right now doing everything that they can for you.” Id. Agent Baker then left the room, where Walker remained alone for about thirty minutes.

         T. At about 11:49 a.m., Agent Mitchell came back to take a “general statement.” According to Agent Mitchell, the purpose of interviewing Walker was to establish a timeline of events leading up to the discovery of Walker's wife, to determine the last time Walker had seen his wife alive, and to figure out the last time someone other than Walker had seen her alive before Walker came home to find her dead.

         U. In the course of being questioned, Walker mentioned that his wife had cleaned the car, which had been broken into earlier in the week. Walker said his wallet had been stolen then.

         V. After about thirty-five minutes of questioning, right after asking about Catherine Walker's activities, Agent Mitchell switched subjects and said, “Okay. So, again, I've got to ask the question. Were you having any type of relationship outside of your marriage?” Interview Transcript at 49. Walker responded, “Oh, I was correlating with (inaudible) people.” Id. Agent Mitchell said, “So -- so when you say correlating, what does that mean?” Id. at 50. Walker answered, “Talking back and forth. I did meet a couple of people.” Id. Walker further explained that he had started meeting random males and females through Craigslist beginning in June 2013. Id. He told Agent Mitchell that a couple of these people had come over to his house when his wife was out of town. Id. Agent Mitchell asked, “And these were sexual relationships?” Id. Walker said, “A couple of ‘em.” Id.

         W. Agent Mitchell continued questioning Walker about these relationships and his relationship with his wife. At one point during this line of questioning, Walker stopped and said, “I'm sorry, this is really hard” and “Sorry. I'm having a hard time.” Id. at 52. Agent Mitchell said, “I'm also a Christian, you know. I judge not, lest ye be judged, you know what I'm saying?” Id. Walker repeated that he was “having a hard time.” Id. Agent Mitchell stated, “Yeah. I understand. Absolutely. So we -- we will -- we will get through this together.” Id. He then told Walker, “We got to -- we got to talk about these particular details because, unfortunately, you've been put in the position now that we have to -- we have to examine all this stuff, okay? You know the deal. You've gone through those classes.” Id. at 53. Agent Mitchell was apparently referring to criminal justice classes that Walker had taken. Agent Mitchell probed Walker about his relationships and later asked if Walker knew someone who could have killed his wife. Id. at 53-63. Walker responded, “No idea.” Id. at 63.

         X. At about 12:40 p.m., Agent Mitchell proposed breaking for lunch and offered to get some fast food for Walker. Walker told him that he thought his “body's hungry” but that he did not have an appetite and had not eaten since the night before. Id. at 65. Agent Mitchell noted that Walker could use the restroom. Agent Mitchell left, then returned with some lunch for Walker and left him alone for about forty minutes to eat his lunch.

         Y. At about 1:54 p.m., Agent Mitchell came back to question Walker and observed that Walker had not eaten much of his lunch. Agent Mitchell again questioned Walker about the events leading up Walker's arrival at home when he found his wife dead. Several minutes later, Agent Mitchell noted, “Okay. All right. Now, I've -- I've talked to my -- my computer guys over here so we've got some questions that we've got to really kind of flush out here.” Id. at 74. He said that, based on evidence found on Walker's cellphone, he had to advise Walker of his Miranda rights. Agent Mitchell said, “I'm willing to ask you questions specifically, and the Army requires me to . . . have you sign this form before we . . . ask those questions.” Id.

         Z. Agent Mitchell then presented Walker with a Rights Warning Procedure/Waiver Certificate and advised him of his rights. See Government's Exhibit 7, ECF No. 157-7, PageID # 1053. Walker said that he understood his rights, and Agent Mitchell asked him if he wanted a lawyer. Walker responded, “Yes.” Interview Transcript at 78. Although this “yes” was not said loudly, it was said clearly. There is no evidence that Agent Mitchell did not hear Walker's response, either from the videotape of the interview or from Agent Mitchell's live testimony before this court, when he could have told the court about any problem with hearing Walker's response.

         AA. Notwithstanding Walker's clear request for an attorney, Agent Mitchell did not stop questioning Walker. The following exchange then occurred, with Walker covering his face with his hand and crying:

Special Agent Mitchell: Okay. You -- you want a lawyer?
Walker: I'm sorry. If this --
Special Agent Mitchell: Yeah, okay. So here's the deal. I've got to ask the question --
Walker: No. You know (inaudible).
Special Agent Mitchell: Right. Your -- your --your -- your wife was stabbed, all right, and I need to ask whether -- whether or not you know anything about it, okay? In order for me to do that, I have to -- I have to advise you okay? So do you want to talk now, or do you want a lawyer now?
Walker: I don't want to talk now.

Id. at 78-79. Once again, Agent Mitchell was undeterred by Walker's invocation of his rights. Agent Mitchell said, “I've got to ask the question, ” indicating that he needed Walker to complete the waiver of rights form so that he could do his job. Id. at 79.

         BB. Although indicated as “inaudible” in the transcript, at one point, the videotape shows that Walker asked Agent Mitchell, “So you think that I did this to her?” Id. Agent Mitchell responded that “it's possible but we don't know” and explained “[t]hat's why I've got to ask the question.” Id. The use of words like “I need to ask” and “I've got to ask” echoes the references to necessity that Agent Mitchell used in asking Walker to go to the CID station. Questioning continued with Agent Mitchell asking Walker again if he wanted a lawyer and if he would be willing to make a statement without having a lawyer present. At this point, Walker asked, “I can stop at any time?” Id. at 80. Agent Mitchell told him, “That's correct.” Id. Agent Mitchell then told Walker that he needed to sign the form indicating that he wanted to talk to Agent Mitchell.

         CC. The interview continued until Walker again asked for a lawyer at about 2:39 p.m. In the course of the forty or so minutes of questioning between when Walker first asked for a lawyer and when Agent Mitchell ended his questioning, Walker repeated his earlier statement, see Id. at 79, that he did not want to talk with Agent Mitchell, saying, “I don't want to talk about this any more.” Id. at 93. The questioning continued.

         DD. Agent Mitchell asked Walker more about his extramarital relationships. He also asked him why his “bloody fingerprint” would be on the knife found on the floor next to his wife's body. Id. at 86. This court has before it no evidence that such a fingerprint had indeed been found. In response to Agent Mitchell's questions, Walker suggested that his wife might have committed suicide. Id. at 87.

         EE. Agent Mitchell then cautioned Walker at considerable length:

Right. There are certain points in our life that we look at and when I look back, I say, okay, this was a crossroads in my life; that had I made this decision differently, I might have ended up somewhere different. Very rare -- it's very rare in our lifetimes to know that you're at a certain point in your life that can go either way, okay?
I'm a firm believer in being able to admit mistakes when they happen, okay? Because what happens is if it doesn't get admitted, then what -- it just bury -- you just bury yourself in guilt, self-doubt, and reasons why you couldn't say the truth, okay?
I don't personally understand sometimes why people will simply take the easier way of not talking than when if they can get it off their chest, there's some type of relief there. I've seen it. I've talked to literally hundreds of people every -- every year that I've been doing this job, and I've been doing this job for over ten years, okay?
You're at -- you're at a point here that you need to understand that there are going to be some real hard questions asked; and if you're not truthful about them right now, then later on you're going to look back and wish you were at least able to get your story and what really happened in those scenarios out because once this train starts rolling, it's -- it's very hard to stop and try to come back around. It's kind of on a one-way street and that's what we're heading right now.
So you get -- you get very few opportunities to tell the truth right away. And I think you know what the truth is, and sometimes it's difficult to talk about the truth. But here in this room right now, I think you know more than what you're telling me, okay? I've been doing it for a long time, Mike. This is my job. This is my profession, you know?
I know that you've probably had a lot of self-doubt and issues throughout your entire life, both between -- between religion and finding yourself. A lot of guys go in the military to try to get that discipline and that way -- way ahead and to get that feeling of being out of ...

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