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Martinez v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso

October 31, 2019


          Appeal from the 210th District Court of El Paso County, Texas (TC# 20160D03012)

          Before Alley, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.



         After being charged with one count of capital murder and one count of tampering with physical evidence, Appellant Jesse Adrian Martinez filed a motion to suppress in which he sought suppression of his videotaped confession to the El Paso Police Department alleging it was obtained through a violation of his constitutional rights and resulted from an unlawful arrest. After holding a hearing, the trial court denied Martinez's motion. Pursuant to a plea bargain with the State in which he did not waive his right to appeal the trial court's suppression ruling, Martinez pleaded guilty to the lesser-included offense of murder, agreed to a deadly weapon finding, and further admitted his guilt to the charge of evidence tampering under section 12.45 of the Penal Code. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.45. In two issues on appeal, Martinez challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. We affirm.


         Factual Background

         On Friday, April 15, 2016, at about 1:16 a.m., Detectives Lara and Parsons, who were assigned to the Crimes Against Persons unit of the El Paso Police Department, met with Martinez at their unit's office. At about 12:30 a.m., plain-clothes officers had brought Martinez to the office in a regular, non-marked car, and his mother, who also had come to the office that morning, was elsewhere in the building. Detective Lara had been investigating Martinez's alleged involvement in the murder of Tristan Mina based on a statement given by Samuel Rico, an eventual co-defendant with Martinez and Jose Andrade. Detective Lara also had a statement from Abner Robles who had been identified as a witness to certain events occurring after the murder but who had not been identified as having participated in committing the murder.

         According to Detective Lara, Rico's statement corroborated the one he eventually obtained from Martinez with Rico implicating Martinez "in almost the same fashion that [Martinez] told us in his statement." Furthermore, the statements from Rico and Robles indicated that Martinez was present at the scene of Mina's murder and that Martinez had admitted to setting up the cocaine purchase that led to Mina's murder. Robles also told Detective Lara's partner Detective Parsons that Andrade admitted to his involvement in Mina's murder. Officers had been called out to the scene only a few days prior, on April 10, and Mina's body had not yet been discovered. Beginning on April 10, Detective Lara, Detective Parsons, and a few other officers had been assigned to investigate the case.

         When Detectives Lara and Parsons first approached Martinez in the CAP office, Martinez had been waiting in a separate family area that had a television and not in handcuffs. The detectives led Martinez into an interview room. Detective Lara began his interview by explaining that he and Detective Parsons were investigating a missing-person case that originated from a police dispatch to the west side of town on the afternoon of Sunday, April 10. After officers investigated, they found suspicious blood and property, and subsequently, the victim, Mina, was designated as a missing person. Detective Lara then advised Martinez of his Miranda rights, including his right to have an attorney present before and during any questioning.[1] Detective Lara also advised Martinez of his right to end the interview at any time. Martinez stated that he understood his rights, and he requested an attorney. Detective Lara then ended the interview without asking any further questions. This first interview lasted approximately three minutes and ended at 1:19 a.m.

         Detective Lara advised Martinez that he was under arrest, and Martinez was then escorted from the interview room to an adjoining holding cell at the office. Once inside the cell, Martinez was handcuffed to a restraining bar, and the cell door was locked.[2] Detective Lara believed that the arrest was proper under "Chapter 14, arrest without warrant" because, based on Rico's statement, he believed he had sufficient probable cause of Martinez having committed a murder, and he was concerned that Martinez might "take off" if released. Likewise, Detective Parsons believed that they had authority to arrest Martinez for Mina's murder based on the probable cause they developed by interviewing "a couple of other witnesses[.]" Neither detective asked Martinez any further questions once he was placed in the cell, and Detective Lara continued with his investigation and discussed with his supervisor the necessary steps to obtain an arrest warrant while Detective Parsons began typing a complaint affidavit for the warrant.

         About 15 minutes after placing Martinez in the holding cell, Martinez "flagged" Detective Lara down, without any prompting, as he walked past the cell while on his way to his sergeant's office stating that he wanted to talk and give a statement. Detective Lara told Martinez that he was going to need to re-read the Miranda warnings to Martinez. Detective Lara then restarted and prepared the recording system. At that time, neither Detective Lara nor Detective Parsons had yet had the opportunity to take any steps to obtain an attorney for Martinez. Detective Lara explained at the suppression hearing that if Martinez did not want to speak to him without an attorney present then he was not going to speak to Martinez at all, even about obtaining an attorney, in order to afford Martinez his right to have an attorney present. In addition, Detective Lara was unaware of any policies of the El Paso Police Department that required him to immediately locate an attorney for a suspect who had requested one. In his experience, a defendant would have an attorney appointed to them once they were formally taken to a magistrate after their arrest. Martinez could not have been taken to a magistrate without a completed complaint affidavit, and the detectives were still working on paperwork at the time Martinez interrupted the process by flagging down Detective Lara.

         After the recording system was ready, Detective Lara brought Martinez from the holding cell back into the interview room. Once again, only Martinez and Detectives Lara and Parsons were present for this second videotaped interview that began at 1:46 a.m. and ended at 2:41 a.m. At the start of this interview, Martinez affirmatively acknowledged that he flagged down Detective Lara and asked to give a statement. After Detective Lara informed Martinez of his Miranda rights, including the right to have an attorney, Martinez answered affirmatively that he understood his rights and wished to continue the interview. To Detective Lara, Martinez appeared to have understood his rights and freely and voluntarily waived them.

         During this second interview of approximately one hour in length, Martinez did not request an attorney, and he did not ask for the interview to cease. Both detectives testified at the suppression hearing that they did not use coercive or threatening tactics, did not promise Martinez anything in exchange for the statement, and did not deny Martinez basic necessities, such as food or use of the restroom, during the interview. Both detectives also testified that Martinez did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or any narcotic drug.

         In his second videotaped statement, Martinez divulged that he, Robles, Rico, and Andrade were drinking together at Andrade's home when they decided to buy some cocaine. At about midnight, Martinez called Mina to set up a purchase. Mina told Martinez that he could get an eight ball of cocaine for the group, Martinez and Mina agreed to split the cost, and though Robles left the group, the three accomplices drove over to Mina's address in Rico's car. When the three arrived, they met with Mina outside, they all began drinking inside Rico's car, and Mina told them that he had about $200 to spend that night. Eventually the cocaine supplier arrived, and Mina alone went over to the supplier's car to get the cocaine. The group then proceeded to use the cocaine and drink some more, and after about 30 minutes, they agreed to purchase another eight ball. Mina called his supplier again, and when the supplier arrived, Mina again went to the supplier's car alone. While Mina was making this second trip over to the supplier's car, Martinez, Rico, and Andrade agreed they would rob Mina. [3]

         Martinez denied knowing that Andrade would badly hurt or even kill Mina, and Martinez told Andrade, "[y]ou oughta just punch him, dude, like you're bigger than him," during a conversation in which Andrade said he was going to hit Mina with something or stab him with a knife. An aluminum bat was on the car floorboard, and Martinez stated, "I guess he saw the bat like on the floor and shit and he grabbed it." Martinez knew that Andrade was going to assault Mina in order to accomplish the robbery, but Martinez thought that a punch "would knock him out" to achieve that goal.

         When Mina returned to Rico's car, the group drove down the block and began using the cocaine. After some time, Andrade and Mina exited the vehicle leaving Martinez and Rico inside. Martinez then heard a thud, went to check on what made the sound, and saw Mina knocked out cold and lying on the ground. In his statement, Martinez denied seeing Andrade holding the aluminum bat. Martinez then approached Mina to check on his pulse and saw that Mina was still breathing, but Martinez then panicked and went back inside the car. Andrade and Rico then put Mina in the car trunk.

         Although Andrade told Martinez that they were all "in this already," Martinez responded that he did not want any part of it and that he wanted to go home. Before Martinez got home, the group stopped at Robles's house so that Martinez could check on whether he had any evidence of the robbery on him and to change his clothes if necessary. After Martinez changed some of his clothes, the other two accomplices drove him home. Martinez then fell asleep. A day or two later, Martinez went to a car wash with Rico and Robles in the early morning hours between 2 and 4 a.m., and the three were "taking off the plastic, tearing the plastic" from the wheels of Rico's car "[j]ust for it could be not -- like not on the radar of the cops." Later that same day after Martinez's work ended, he, Andrade, and Robles went to an area in Santa Teresa off the roadway, and Andrade began burning what appeared to be clothes. While Andrade did this, he described what happened during the assault on Mina to the others. On another occasion, Rico described the assault to Martinez, as well. Both Andrade and Rico told Martinez that they buried Mina. Andrade had also previously told Robles about what they had done to Mina. In the interview, Martinez acknowledged that Andrade was simply following through with their previously discussed plan to rob Mina. Martinez also stated that, after the robbery, he was at Rico's house, saw the same bat that was in Rico's car, and told the others, "you guys need to get rid of that shit."

         Procedural Background

         At the suppression hearing, Martinez also testified to his account of events. Martinez testified that he was nineteen years' old at the time of his videotaped statements and that he had never before been arrested or questioned by police. He testified that four "detectives" picked him up from his home and took him to the police station in an unmarked "cruiser." They did not handcuff him, but informed him that they were taking him to the station to ask him "some questions." His mother came with him to the station, as well.

         Once at the station, Martinez testified that he was taken "straight into" an interrogation room. Before he entered the room, his mother told him that she was in the process of getting him an attorney. Once Martinez requested an attorney and the detectives ended the first interview, the detectives handcuffed Martinez and informed him that he was going to be charged with murder. Before entering the holding cell, Martinez testified that he told Detective Lara that he did not kill anybody. Detective Lara responded that he could not talk to Martinez unless Martinez waived his rights. Once Martinez was handcuffed to a bench inside the cell, he became "scared" and "terrified." Martinez testified that he flagged down Detective Lara because he was scared and, in his mind, he "wanted to get the situation handled."

         Martinez admitted that he understood his Miranda rights, including his right to an attorney, and that he waived those rights prior to giving his statement in a second videotaped interview. He also admitted that his statement was freely and voluntarily given. While he testified that he was on cocaine at the time he gave his statement, he acknowledged that his cocaine use did not have any impact on his understanding of his rights.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied Martinez's motion to suppress. The trial court stated its findings on the record and expressly found that Martinez understood his rights and freely and voluntarily made his confession after initiating contact with Detective Lara. The trial court also found that he was not under the influence of alcohol or any drug at the time of his confession.

         Martinez timely filed his notice of appeal from the trial court's ruling.


         Martinez advances two issues. In Issue One, Martinez asserts his right to counsel was violated and his statement was given involuntarily. In Issue Two, Martinez asserts the trial court erred when it failed to suppress Martinez's confession as fruit of an unlawful arrest.

         Standard of Review for a Ruling on ...

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