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United States v. Ward

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 10, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DEJUAN WARD.

          RULING ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS STATEMENTS

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         On August 3, 2017, following an investigation into several shootings in New Haven throughout 2016, a grand jury returned a multi-count indictment charging six individuals with various offenses, including RICO conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering (“VCAR”), offenses related to possession, transfer, and use of firearms, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics. (ECF No. 1.) One of the defendants, DeJuan Ward, is charged with, among other counts, VCAR assault with a dangerous weapon and VCAR attempted murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1959(a)(3) and (a)(5), and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 2.

         Ward now moves to suppress any statements he made during a custodial interview that took place on January 6, 2017. He also requests an evidentiary hearing on the motion. (ECF No. 153.) Ward argues that law enforcement failed to adequately apprise him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1996), and that, to the extent he was informed of his Miranda rights, he did not fully understand them or the significance of waiving those rights. Ward also argues that he never voluntarily waived his rights, and that he asserted his constitutional right to remain silent multiple times during the interview, but that the agents ignored his requests.

         I find that (1) the video recording of Ward's interview is sufficient to determine whether he was informed of his rights under Miranda and knowingly and voluntarily waived those rights without an evidentiary hearing; (2) the video shows that Ward was properly apprised of his rights and that he waived them knowingly and voluntarily; and (3) although the Government's representation that it will not use any of Ward's statements after he asserted his right to end the interview likely moots the remainder of his motion, I will nonetheless grant that portion of his motion seeking to suppress statements he made after he asserted his right to end the interview.

         I therefore DENY Ward's request for an evidentiary hearing and GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART his motion to suppress.

         II. Factual Background

         Defendant DeJaun Ward was arrested on January 6, 2017 on a complaint for possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Law enforcement officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”) interviewed Ward at around 6:00 PM that day. The Court reviewed a video recording and transcript of the interview, the relevant portions of which are described below.

         The video begins with one individual, identified as “Special Agent” in the transcript, announcing the time and date, and indicating that the video will show “an ATF interview with De[J]uan Ward.” (Transcript 1 at 1.) After roughly four minutes, two agents bring Ward into the interview room where he sits alone until they return six minutes later. (Transcript 1 at 1; Video 1 at 9:54.) The agents are identified in the transcript as “Special Agent 3” and “Special Agent 4.” Id. They give Ward a soda and a pack of cigarettes with a lighter before unlocking his handcuffs. (Transcript 1 at 2; Video 1 at 12:45.)

         Special Agent 3 (“the agent”) conducts the relevant portions of the interview. He begins by asking Ward his name, his date of birth, whether he knows where he is, and that day's date. (Transcript 1 at 4-6; Video 1 at 13:23-14:44.) Ward provides this information and confirms he knows where he is. (Transcript 1 at 6.) The agent asks about Ward's educational background, and Ward indicates that he received a high school diploma. (Transcript 1 at 7; Video 1 at 15:07-15:34.) Ward confirms that he can read, write, and understand English. (Transcript 1 at 8; Video 1 at 15:35-15:49.) The agent asks whether Ward has “a clear mind, ” knows where he is, and whether he is high or drunk. (Transcript 1 at 9; Video 1 at 16:13-16:15.) Ward admits that he had been drinking “a little bit, ” but agrees that he is “not fucked up, ” and that he knows where he is. (Transcript 1 at 9-10; 16:16-16:20.) The agent asks two more times whether Ward is “clear minded, ” and Ward replies that he is. (Transcript 1 at 10; Video 1 at 16:24-16:26.)

         The agent then tells Ward he is going to read him his Miranda rights and takes out a form. He asks if Ward has ever gone over such a form with police officers previously and been advised of his Miranda rights before. (Transcript at 10-11; Video at 16:37-16:40.) Ward replies “yeah” to both questions. (Id.). The agent asks Ward to sit “[a] little closer, so you can read that . . . . I have to advise you of your rights.” (Transcript 1 at 11; Video 1 at 16:48-16:50.) He asks Ward to read the first line “out loud, ” and Ward shouts, “I have been advised and I understand that-” causing the two agents to laugh. (Transcript 1 at 11; Video 1 at 16:52.) The agent asks, “Why are you screaming?” and Ward responds calmly, “You said out loud, bro.” (Transcript 1 at 11; Video 1 at 16:59-170:01.) The agent then takes over reading the form. He points to each line as he reads:

Special Agent 3: You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand that?
Ward: Mhm.
Special Agent 3: Anything you say can be used in a court of law. Do you understand that?
Ward: Yep.
Special Agent 3: You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you answer the questions, and to have a lawyer during further questioning.
Ward: Yep.
Special Agent 3: Do you understand that? You have the right to have a lawyer [U/I].[1] If you can't afford one-to answer any questions. If you have any questions, you have the right to stop answering anytime for any reason. Do you understand all that?
Ward: Yep.
Special Agent 3: All right. You may stop answering questions anytime. Talk to a lawyer, have a lawyer with you during further questions. Do you understand that?
Ward: Yep.
Special Agent 3: All ...

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