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State v. Barrett

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

February 28, 2017

COREY D. BARRETT, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Joel P. Fahnestock, Judge

          Before Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and Thomas H. Newton and Lisa White Hardwick, Judges.

          Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.

         Mr. Corey D. Barrett ("Barrett") was convicted in the Circuit Court of Jackson County ("trial court") of one count second-degree felony murder, one count first-degree burglary, one count first-degree robbery, and two counts armed criminal action. On appeal, Barrett contends that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the statement he gave to police after his arrest because it was not voluntarily made. Barrett also contends that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions for robbery and related armed criminal action. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         In March 2013, Barrett was charged with one count second-degree felony murder, § 565.021; one count first-degree burglary, § 569.160; one count first-degree robbery, § 569.020; and two counts armed criminal action, § 571.015.[2] Barrett, a sixteen-year-old at the time of the crimes, had been primarily raised by his maternal grandmother, Marise Barrett ("Victim"), and her husband, Vernon C. Barrett ("Grandfather").[3] Barrett's biological mother is Tameka Barrett ("Mother"), who was largely absent for most of her son's life.

         Sometime around Christmas 2012, Victim kicked Barrett out of her house over a dispute about a phone bill. Barrett subsequently moved into a teen homeless shelter called "reStart." On March 16, 2013, Barrett told a fellow reStart resident named Kevin Brewer ("Brewer") that Victim had valuables in her home, and he proposed that the two break into her house to steal them. They left the shelter that evening around midnight and walked five miles to Victim's house in order to carry out their planned theft.

         Barrett led Brewer to Victim's house and broke a window in the attached garage so that they could access the main part of the house. A short time later, they left with Victim's iPhone. Barrett testified that Brewer had blood on his hands when they left the house. Barrett had a cut on his arm and blood on his jeans.

         Barrett and Brewer returned to reStart at 4:50 a.m. where they immediately went to the bathroom. Barrett was bleeding from the cut on his arm and asked the night worker for a Band-Aid. Shortly afterwards, both boys were discharged from reStart for leaving the shelter at night in violation of the rules.

         Barrett went to Psychiatric Research Center where he reported having thoughts of suicide. During his intake, a caseworker at the center washed Barrett's clothes and noticed the blood on his pants. When making inquiry with Barrett, Barrett told the caseworker that he was in trouble and that no one could help him. Mother called Barrett later in the morning to report that Victim had been brutally murdered. Barrett responded with little emotion and asked Mother to come pick him up at the psychiatric center.

         Around the same time Barrett presented to Psychiatric Research Center, Victim was found dead in her bed, the result of 32 stab wounds. The window to the attached garage was broken, her iPhone was missing, and a knife covered in blood was found below her on the floor. The missing iPhone was soon traced to Brewer, who had been using it after its disappearance from Victim's house. Subsequent testing revealed that Barrett's fingerprints were on the glass of the broken window.

         On March 18, the police tracked the missing iPhone to Brewer's high school; he was arrested when police found the stolen phone in his possession. On March 19, police found Barrett at the psychiatric center and also arrested him in connection with the crime.

         Police officers interviewed Barrett on March 20. Because Barrett was then a minor, police brought Mother to the interrogation. A deputy juvenile officer was also present. The interviewing officers informed Barrett of his Miranda rights and requested that he sign a related waiver form so that they could speak with him; in reply, Barrett indicated that he understood his rights and did not wish to speak with the police. After subsequent conversation between Mother and the officers in which they explained that they could not speak with Barrett absent his waiver, Mother indicated her desire to speak privately with Barrett; the officers permitted Mother to do so, after which Barrett indicated that he had changed his mind and agreed to sign the Miranda waiver and speak with the officers.

         During the following interview, Barrett did not confess to murdering Victim but admitted that he and Brewer had planned to break into Victim's house with the intent to steal from her. Barrett said that he had gone into the main part of the house briefly, but he then "chickened out" and returned to the garage while Brewer remained in the house. He expressed a belief that Brewer was the person who had killed Victim because Brewer had blood on his hands after coming out of the house.

         At some point, Barrett also had a separate conversation with Mother in which he admitted that he had fully entered the house. He also wrote a letter to Mother while he was awaiting trial in which he described a dream with a boy in a garage and another boy in a house and a woman screaming, "What is wrong with you!"

         Before his bench trial, Barrett moved to suppress the statements he made to police. In the motion, Barrett contended that all statements made after his initial refusal to speak with police were involuntary because he was improperly coerced into speaking and waiving his rights by Mother, who he claimed was acting as an agent of the police. At the hearing on his suppression motion, two of the officers who had participated in Barrett's interrogation testified regarding their interactions with Barrett and Mother. Both officers stated that-while they had certainly explained the interrogation process and Barrett's Miranda rights to Mother-at no point did they ask or coach her to solicit Barrett's participation in the interrogation. The trial court found the officers' testimony credible, denied Barrett's motion to suppress, and permitted his statements to police to be admitted at trial.

         Barrett testified in his own defense during his trial. His testimony was that he did break into Victim's garage with Brewer, but he did not intend to commit any crimes inside the house, and Brewer was the only person who went into Victim's house. He also testified that he did not commit any of the alleged crimes inside the home.

         Barrett was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the felony murder and related armed criminal action, fifteen years' imprisonment for first-degree burglary, and twenty-five years' imprisonment for the first-degree robbery and related armed criminal action (with all terms to be served concurrently).

         Barrett appeals.


         I. Voluntariness of Barrett's Statement to Police

         In Barrett's first point on appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in failing to suppress his statements to police because they were not made voluntarily. Specifically, Barrett argues that he unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent, but then Mother (who he claims was acting as an agent of the police) coerced him into waiving his rights, thereby rendering his waiver and subsequent statements involuntary.[4] For the reasons outlined below, we disagree.

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress, we are limited to determining "whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence, and it will be reversed only if clearly erroneous." State v. Lovelady, 432 S.W.3d 187, 190 (Mo. banc 2014); see also State v. Woodrome, 407 S.W.3d 702, 706 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013). The trial court's ruling is clearly erroneous if we are left with a definite and firm impression that a mistake was made. State v. Humble, 474 S.W.3d 210, 214 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). We view all evidence elicited at both the suppression hearing and trial, and the reasonable inferences rising therefrom, in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. State v. Edwards, 116 S.W.3d 511, 530 (Mo. banc 2003). "[C]ontrary evidence and inferences are disregarded." State v. ...

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