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Name: People v. Thomas et al.
Case #: D057485
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/11/2012

Appellant, who was 15 years old at time of homicide offenses and sentenced to 196 years to life, is entitled to resentencing in light of Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. ___ [183 L.Ed.2d 407, 132 S.Ct. 2455]. Appellant Satterwhite and his half-brother Thomas were convicted of various gang-related offenses with enhancements, including two special-circumstance first degree murders and three attempted premeditated murders. The court sentenced Satterwhite, who was 15 years old at the time of the offenses, to 196 years to life. In a petition for rehearing, Satterwhite argued that his sentence should be reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings in light of Miller. The Court of Appeal granted the petition and agreed. Miller held that, in homicide cases, the Eighth Amendment prohibits imposition of a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole on a juvenile offender. Satterwhite’s sentence of 196 years to life was the functional equivalent of a life without parole sentence and the trial court incorrectly believed that it was not. (See People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, 267-268.) The trial court also incorrectly believed that a sentencing court in a homicide case involving a 15-year-old juvenile can never impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole. A court may impose such a sentence on the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption. The court sentenced Satterwhite in June 2010, before both the Miller and Caballero decisions. Based on these considerations, the court was persuaded to remand the case for resentencing and expressed no opinion regarding how the trial court should exercise its discretion.

Suspect’s statement to detectives that he “ain’t talking no more and we can leave it at that” was not an unambiguous invocation of his right to remain silent but was merely an expression of momentary frustration. Following his arrest, appellant Satterwhite was given Miranda warnings, indicated that he understood his rights, and agreed to answer detectives’ questions. He repeatedly denied involvement in the offenses at issue and claimed he was not present. The detectives accused him of lying and Satterwhite made the statement above about not talking anymore. The interrogation continued and Satterwhite eventually made various admissions. Prior to trial, he moved to suppress the statements that he made, arguing that he invoked his right to remain silent. After viewing a videotape of the interview, the court denied the motion. Affirmed. Once a suspect waives his Miranda rights, he must unambiguously and unequivocally indicate during the interrogation that he wishes to remain silent in order for the interrogation to stop. Statements that are merely expressions of passing frustration or animosity toward the interrogating officer, or amount only to a refusal to discuss a particular subject, are not unambiguous and unequivocal invocations of the right to remain silent. Here, the record showed that Satterwhite repeatedly expressed frustration throughout the interview. His statement that he “ain’t talking no more” was merely an expression of momentary frustration with the detectives’ failure to accept his story and one detective’s statement that he was hiding something. At most, Satterwhite ambiguously invoked his right to remain silent; he did not unambiguously and unequivocally make this invocation.

Appellants’ postarrest statements were voluntary based on a totality of the circumstances. Appellants Thomas and Satterwhite were interviewed separately after their arrests and made admissions to detectives. Detectives detained Thomas, who was 17 years old at the time of the interview, beyond the six-hour time limit set forth in Welfare and Institutions Code section 207.1 during the interrogation and lied to him. Satterwhite, who was 15 years old, was “mildly mentally retarded” and suffered from ADHD. Appellants moved to suppress their statements claiming that their confessions were involuntary and the trial court denied both motions. Affirmed. After independently reviewing the record and considering the various factors outlined in People v. Dykes (2009) 46 Cal.4th 731, 752, the court concluded that appellants had not established that their confessions were involuntary under the totality of the circumstances. Thomas’ detention beyond the six-hour statutory time limit did not automatically require exclusion of his statement. During the interrogation, Thomas was not handcuffed, was offered food and water, and was not threatened. The record supported the trial court’s finding that the tone of the interrogators was mellow, nonthreatening, and noncoercive. The detectives’ use of deceptive techniques was not the proximate cause of Thomas’ numerous admissions. As to Satterwhite, the court rejected his argument that he had repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent during the interrogation. Satterwhite initially denied being involved in the crimes and only made admissions after the detectives played a recording of Thomas’ statements, which implicated Satterwhite in the offenses. Although Satterwhite was young, he was “only mildly mentally retarded” and he earned his high school diploma while in custody. Like Thomas, he had effectively parried the detectives accusations and questions until he listened to his brother’s statement and realized that the detectives knew he was lying.