Heard: April 14, 2017.
Law, Admissions and confessions, Voluntariness of
statement, Waiver of constitutional rights, Search and
seizure. Evidence, Admissions and confessions,
Voluntariness of statement, Videotape, Intoxication.
Practice, Criminal, Motion to suppress, Admissions
and confessions, Voluntariness of statement, Waiver, Findings
by judge. Waiver. Intoxication. Search
and Seizure, Clothing.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on March
10, 2015. A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by
Kenneth W. Salinger, J.
for leave to prosecute interlocutory appeals were allowed by
Geraldine S. Hines, J., and Robert J.
Cordy, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county
of Suffolk, and the appeals were reported by them to the
Zachary Hillman, Assistant District Attorney (Amy J. Galatis,
Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
Patrick Levin, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for the
Present: Trainor, Agnes, & Neyman, JJ.
defendant, Randall Tremblay, was arrested and subsequently
indicted for the murder of Stephanie McMahon, based on
statements he made to the police both at the scene and in two
subsequent custodial interrogations, and blood discovered on
his clothing, which the police seized when they arrested him.
The defendant moved to suppress all statements he made to the
police and all evidence seized from him. The judge conducted
an evidentiary hearing, during which he heard testimony from
three police officers and viewed a videotape recording of the
second custodial interrogation of the defendant following his
arrest on a warrant for an unrelated offense. Based on the
contents of that videotape recording, the judge concluded
that the defendant was so intoxicated when he was questioned
at the police station that he was incapable of making a
knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights. As a
result, the judge ruled that all of the statements made by
the defendant at the police station must be suppressed. The
judge also ruled that while the police lawfully seized the
defendant's clothing in order to preserve evidence of an
apparent homicide, they acted unlawfully in subjecting the
clothing to forensic testing without first obtaining a search
warrant. Therefore, the judge made a further ruling that all
forensic testing results from the defendant's clothing
must be suppressed.
reasons more fully explained in the discussion that follows,
our independent review of the judge's ultimate finding
that the defendant was too intoxicated to waive his rights
leads us to conclude that it is erroneous. See
Commonwealth v. Jones-Pannell, 472 Mass. 429, 431
(2015). In addition, our independent review of the
judge's ruling of law that the Commonwealth failed to
meet its burden to prove a valid waiver of the
defendant's Miranda rights leads us to conclude that it
too is erroneous. Finally, mindful of the limits on appellate
fact finding, see Id. at 438, we conclude that the
unusual circumstances of this case brings it within the rule
applied in Commonwealth v. Novo,
442 Mass. 262, 266 (2004), Commonwealth v. Hoyt, 461
Mass. 143, 148-151 (2011), and Commonwealth
v. Newson, 471 Mass. 222, 231-232 (2015).
In those cases, the Supreme
Court declined to defer to the factual findings made by the
motion judge, conducted an independent review of a videotaped
interrogation session, and determined whether there was
compliance with the Miranda rights doctrine (Hoyt)
and whether the statements were voluntary (Newson
and Novo), without the need for a remand. In the
present case, the judge relied on the videotaped
interrogation session to find the facts that led him to
conclude that the defendant was too intoxicated to waive his
Miranda rights. However, based on our independent review
of the same documentary evidence, we conclude that there is
ample evidence to support the conclusion that the
Commonwealth met its "heavy burden, "
Commonwealth v. Hoyt,
supra at 152, to establish that the defendant made a
valid waiver of his Miranda rights, and that his statements
following facts are drawn from the findings made by the
judge, and testimonial evidence presented at the motion to
suppress hearing that is consistent with those findings. See
Commonwealth v. Isaiah I., 448
Mass. 334, 337 (2007). We reserve certain details for our
analysis of the issues raised on appeal.
At the crime scene.
after 2:00 A.M. on November 18, 2014, Boston police Sergeant
Scott Yanovitch arrived at an apartment in the Hyde Park area
of Boston shortly after the victim, Stephanie McMahon, had
been pronounced dead. Another officer and two emergency
medical personnel were already on scene, after responding to
a 911 call reporting that a woman had died in the apartment.
Sergeant Yanovitch requested that the police dispatcher issue
a "full notification" for a crime scene team and
homicide detective to come to the scene. He then interviewed
two witnesses who were present at the apartment when the
police arrived, Michael Doucette and Gay
Finley. At one point, Sergeant Yanovitch stepped
outside for some fresh air. He observed a man, later
identified as the defendant, walk past the apartment while
talking and mumbling to himself. Sergeant Yanovitch had no
interaction with the defendant at that time. Later, Doucette
asked to go outside and smoke a cigarette. Sergeant Yanovitch
accompanied him. While outside, Sergeant Yanovitch again
observed the defendant walk by the apartment while talking to
himself. The defendant stopped and asked Doucette for a
cigarette. Sergeant Yanovitch told the defendant to move
along, but otherwise had no interaction with him.
time of dispatch to the victim's apartment, Boston police
Officer Shawn Roberts was on patrol with his partner in a
marked police cruiser. Officer Roberts recognized the address
as one that he had previously responded to some months
earlier for a report of a broken window. He was also aware of
a number of incident reports related to that address, most of
which were for domestic violence incidents between the victim
and a man named Randall Tremblay. When Officer Roberts
received the full notification from Sergeant Yanovitch, he
looked up Tremblay and discovered that there was an active
restraining order against Tremblay requiring him to stay away
from the victim's apartment, as well as an active arrest
warrant against Tremblay for failing to register as a sex
offender. He also obtained a photograph of Tremblay. Officer
Roberts contacted Sergeant Yanovitch and informed him of the
previous domestic violence incidents between the victim and
Tremblay and the active restraining order. Shortly
thereafter, Sergeant Yanovitch radioed Officer Roberts and
asked him to come to the scene to determine if Doucette, who
did not have identification, was the person whom Officer
Roberts had radioed him about. Officer Roberts arrived on
scene and told Sergeant Yanovitch that Doucette was not
Tremblay; Officer Roberts then left.
around 3:40 A.M., Sergeant Yanovitch was inside the apartment
when he heard loud yelling coming from the street outside. He
went outside and discovered the defendant, who was yelling
things like, "What's going on in there? I know what
happened, " and "She was my friend." The
defendant approached Sergeant Yanovitch and asked him what
was happening in the apartment and repeated that "she
was [his] friend." Sergeant Yanovitch asked for the
defendant's name, who replied, "What, are you going
to run me?" Because the defendant had just suggested
that he knew the victim and may have information about her
death, Sergeant Yanovitch radioed Officer Roberts to return
to the scene. Officer Roberts returned and informed Sergeant
Yanovitch that the defendant was Randall Tremblay, and that
he had an active arrest warrant. Officer Roberts placed the
defendant under arrest and advised him of his Miranda
Unrecorded custodial interrogation.
Roberts and his partner brought the defendant to police
headquarters to be interviewed. Beginning at around 4:00
A.M., Sergeant Detective Michael Stratton interviewed the
defendant in an interview room. Sergeant Detective Stratton
believed that the interview was being recorded, but the
recording equipment was inadvertently turned on for a
different interview room. As a result, the interview was not
recorded. However, Officer Roberts was able to
observe and listen to the interview on the recording
system's monitor outside the interview room.
Detective Stratton began the interview by explaining that the
interview would be recorded and advising the defendant of his
Miranda rights. The defendant was shown a form with each
right listed, and the detective went over each right with the
defendant. The defendant signed his initials next to each
right, and indicated that he understood it. He also signed
and printed his name at the bottom of the form.
the course of the interview, the defendant made statements
implicating himself in the victim's death. He stated that
two days previously he had been with the victim at her
apartment when they got into an argument around 9:00 P..M.
The defendant stated that he struck the victim in the head
twelve to fifteen times, that "she got it good, "
and that "I think I killed her." After he struck
the victim, she lay on the couch, not moving, with blood on
her face. The defendant fell asleep, and woke up early the
next morning to find the victim had not moved. He believed he
had killed her.
defendant told Sergeant Detective Stratton that he then left
the apartment and took a train to meet his friend, Doucette.
He told Doucette, "I think I killed [the victim], "
and asked Doucette to return with him to the victim's
apartment to check. Before they did so, they purchased beer,
drank some together, and met with Finley. The three returned
to the victim's apartment, where Doucette confirmed that
the victim was deceased. They remained in the apartment and
drank another beer while the defendant cleaned up. The
defendant stated that he "mopped up some big puddles of
blood in the apartment and took out some trash." Finley
then called 911 to report that the victim was deceased.
Doucette told the defendant that he should leave the
apartment because the victim had an active restraining order
against him, so he left the apartment and waited around the
he concluded the interview and left the room, Sergeant
Detective Stratton learned of the error with the recording
equipment. He returned to the interview room and explained to
the defendant that the interview had accidently not been
recorded, and asked the defendant if he was willing to do
another interview. The defendant agreed, asking if he could
have a cigarette first.