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State v. Nichols

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

August 30, 2016

STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant,
v.
JEFFREY J. NICHOLS, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County - Hannibal Cause No. 13MR-CR00533 Honorable Rachel L. Bringer-Shepherd

          Colleen Dolan, Judge.

         This is an interlocutory appeal in which the State of Missouri ("the State") appeals the trial court's order granting Jeffrey Nichols's ("Defendant's") motion to suppress his statements made during a police interview. In the underlying criminal case, Defendant was charged with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, four counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of second-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree tampering, one count of stealing, one count of knowing burning or exploding, and three counts of armed criminal action. We reverse the grant of Defendant's motion to suppress and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Jurisdiction

         Before we discuss the background and merits of the State's appeal, we will address Defendant's contention that jurisdiction lies in the Supreme Court of Missouri and this appeal should be dismissed. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court. "The court of appeals shall have general appellate jurisdiction in all cases except those within the exclusive jurisdiction of the supreme court." Mo. Const. art. V, § 3. Therefore, any appeal not reserved for the Supreme Court of Missouri lies properly in the Missouri Court of Appeals. Defendant argues that jurisdiction lies in the Supreme Court of Missouri under § 547.200.3, RSMo since this case "involve[s] first degree murder and capital murder." We disagree.

         Section 547.200.3 references two statutes (§§ 565.001 and 565.003) that were repealed and replaced, effective July 1, 1984. RSMo. Cum. Supp. 1983. The State argues that once these statutes were repealed their references in § 547.200.3 no longer intended to confer jurisdiction to the Supreme Court. We agree. Moreover, even if the statute intended to confer original appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of Missouri, it would not have authority to do so. Mo. Const. art. V, § 3 controls the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, and it cannot be enlarged or diminished by a statute. See Cochran v. State, 835 S.W.2d 954, 955 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992).

         Under Mo. Const. art. V, § 3, the Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over, inter alia, "all cases where the punishment imposed is death." Although, this case involves a charge of first-degree murder, "the punishment of death [has] not been imposed, and might never be imposed." Cochran, 835 S.W.2d at 956. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Missouri does not have exclusive jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal, and therefore, our Court has appellate jurisdiction. See Mo. Const. art. V, § 3. Based on the foregoing, Defendant's request for dismissal is denied.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 1, 2013, Detective Tracy Whearty and Detective Mark Arnsperger of the Moberly Police Department interviewed Defendant in an interview room at the Moberly Police Department about several crimes that occurred on or about March 31, 2013. The record contains a transcript and video of it. Before the interview began, the detectives read Miranda[1] warnings to Defendant, then Defendant signed and initialed a Rights of Persons form to confirm he understood the warnings. Shortly thereafter, Defendant began answering the detectives' questions about the series of crimes. Defendant admitted that he had stolen a knife, and he drew a picture of it for the detectives. Shortly after drawing the picture, the Defendant stated that he wanted a lawyer present before proceeding with the interview. Here is the pertinent part of the conversation between Detective Arnsperger and Defendant:

Det. Arnsperger: All right. Where did that knife come from?
Defendant: From Wal-Mart.
Det. Arnsperger: I mean what section out at Wal-Mart?
Defendant: The sporting goods aisle. Honestly, from this point on, I want a lawyer present.
Det. Arnsperger: Okay. Well, you're getting charged with murder.
Defendant: Who, me?
Det. Arnsperger: Yeah, you.
Defendant: Just me?
Det. Arnsperger: Yeah.
Defendant: That's crazy. ...

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