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Mendez v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

January 3, 2018

JUAN MENDEZ, APPELLANT
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE 349TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT HOUSTON COUNTY, TEXAS (Tr.Ct.No. 16CR-153)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James T. Worthen Chief Justice

         Juan Mendez appeals his conviction for possession of a prohibited item in a state correctional facility. In one issue, Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to suppress his oral statement. We affirm.

         Background

         Appellant is a forty-four year old inmate, who is incarcerated at the Allen B. Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He has been incarcerated in TDCJ since he was thirty years old. He previously was incarcerated in TDCJ at age twenty-two.

         On July 17, 2015, guards discovered a cellular telephone and a cellular telephone charger in Appellant's cell. Twelve days later, Benjamin Gardner, an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General for TDCJ, met with Appellant. Gardner recorded their conversation. Gardner first read Appellant his rights, [1] and Appellant acknowledged receiving and understanding these warnings. Thereafter, Appellant confessed to having the cellular telephone and the charger in his cell.

          Appellant was charged by indictment with possession of a prohibited item in a state correctional facility.[2] Prior to trial, Appellant filed a motion to suppress the recorded statement he made to Gardner. In support of his motion, Appellant argued that the warnings were read to him too quickly in light of the fact that he had only an eighth grade education, had been a special education student, and has an IQ of 80. Appellant was the sole testifying witness during the hearing on his motion. The only evidence he presented to the court in support of his contention that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right against self-incrimination was that he did not understand the meaning of the word "evidence."

         The trial court denied Appellant's motion to suppress. Thereafter, Appellant pleaded "guilty" as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to imprisonment for four years. This appeal followed.

         Motion to Suppress

         In his sole issue, Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to suppress because he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right against self-incrimination.

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims concerning the admission of statements made as the result of custodial interrogation, we conduct the bifurcated review articulated in Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 89 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). See Pecina v. State, 361 S.W.3d 68, 78-79 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012). We measure the propriety of the trial court's ruling with respect to alleged violations under the totality of the circumstances, almost wholly deferring to the trial court on questions of historical fact and credibility, but reviewing de novo all questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact that do not turn on credibility determinations. See Leza v. State, 351 S.W.3d 344, 349 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). We afford almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts and mixed questions of law and fact that turn on the evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Guzman, 955 S.W.2d at 89. Questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact not turning on credibility are reviewed de novo. Id. When the trial court does not make express findings of fact, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's rulings, assuming that it made implicit findings of fact that are supported by the record. See Arguellez v. State, 409 S.W.3d 657, 662-63 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). We will sustain the trial court's decision if it is correct on any applicable theory of law. Id.

         Governin ...


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