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State v. Lammers

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

March 31, 2015




Blaec Lammers, age 20, had a history of self-harm, assault on others, and psychiatric hospitalizations. After he bought two knock-off assault rifles, his mother contacted law enforcement. Police interviewed Lammers, which led to charges that he purchased weapons, practiced with them, and planned to shoot unknown persons at the Bolivar Walmart. He waived a jury and was found guilty of first-degree assault (attempt) and armed criminal action.[1]

On appeal, Lammers (1) charges error in not suppressing his police interview, and (2) claims there was insufficient evidence that he intended to shoot anyone or took a substantial step toward doing so. Per our standard of review and deference to the factfinder, we deny both points and affirm the convictions.

Principles of Review

In reviewing sufficiency of evidence, we credit all evidence and inferences favorable to the state and reject all others. State v. Porter, 439 S.W.3d 208, 211 (Mo. banc 2014). We do not re-assess Lammers' guilt ourselves, but decide only "whether, in light of the evidence most favorable to the State, any rational fact-finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Similarly, we consider only evidence and inferences that support a trial court's suppression ruling, disregarding all other evidence or inferences. State v. Gaw, 285 S.W.3d 318, 319 (Mo. banc 2009). We review issues of law de novo. Id. at 320.

Accordingly, we frame facts and inferences throughout this opinion as we must view them – one-sided, so to speak, in favor of the state.

Police Interview

Lammers' mother learned by phone call that a man was storing rifles for her son. Worried, she called Lammers to remind him he should not have firearms. He replied, "I know." Mrs. Lammers then found a rifle-purchase receipt while doing her son's laundry that night.

She went to the sheriff's office the next day, showed the receipt, discussed her son's mental illness, and expressed her concerns. She suspected Lammers had been "cheeking" his medication; he was becoming increasingly violent. The sheriff's office contacted the police department and requested a wellbeing check.

Officers found Lammers and his girlfriend at a Sonic drive-in and relayed Mrs. Lammers' concern. Lammers said he was taking his medication and confirmed his purchase of two rifles. When asked if he would come to the police station to talk, Lammers agreed, walked to the police car, and sat in the front passenger seat. He was not restrained or placed under arrest at Sonic or while riding to the police station.

At the station, officers walked Lammers to the interview room and checked him for weapons, but did not handcuff or restrain him or take any of his personal items. An officer told Lammers he was not under arrest, but verbally gave Miranda warnings[2] that Lammers said he understood. A recorded interview followed which Lammers sought to suppress before trial. The court denied that motion and admitted the interview at trial over Lammers' objection.[3]

Lammers charges that his interview was "tainted by his unlawful, de facto arrest, " citing Supreme Court cases holding that unlawful arrest or detention for interrogation may require suppression of statements despite Miranda warnings.[4] We find these cases inapposite because Lammers fails to convince us he was unlawfully arrested or detained.

"A custodial interrogation occurs only when the suspect is formally arrested or is subjected to arrest-like restraints. A person who voluntarily accompanies officers to the police station for questioning is not subject to arrest-like restraints." State v. Glass, 136 S.W.3d 496, 508-09 (Mo. banc 2004) (citation omitted). See also State v. Hill, 247 S.W.3d 34, 48 (Mo.App. 2008).

Lammers rode un-cuffed in the police car's front seat and kept his phone and personal items during the interview, none of which would have occurred had he been under arrest. "Treatment with the consideration due one who has volunteered to be interviewed is the kind of latitude [that] is clearly inconsistent with custodial interrogation." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

That the interview occurred at a police station does not demonstrate custody. Id. at 49. Lammers was told he was not under arrest at the outset of the interview, throughout which his freedom of movement was not restrained by handcuffs or otherwise. See id.

Further, the record does not indicate Lammers was prevented from stopping the interview at any time. See State v. Seibert, 103 S.W.3d 295, 301 (Mo.App. 2003). "Even if a person is a suspect in a crime, there is no custodial interrogation when he is not under arrest or ...

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