Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex
Heard: February 6, 2018.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on April
24, 2014. Pretrial motions to suppress evidence were heard by
Kenneth W. Salinger, J., and a motion for reconsideration was
considered by him.
application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal
was allowed by Botsford, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court
for the county of Suffolk, and the appeal was reported by her
to the Appeals Court. After review by the Appeals Court, the
Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further
Timothy Ferriter, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Lindsay Kanter, Committee for Public Counsel Services (Daniel
E. Callahan, Committee for Public Counsel Services, also
present) for Craig Flodstrom.
M. Glynn for Keith M. Cawthron.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.
case, we consider whether police officers were required to
provide Miranda warnings prior to questioning two individuals
who had been detained in a restaurant parking lot as part of
a threshold inquiry into a street-level drug transaction. A
Middlesex County grand jury indicted the defendants, Keith
Cawthron and Craig Flodstrom, on charges of trafficking in
Oxycodone, in violation of G. L. c. 94C, § 32E (c) (1),
and conspiracy to traffic Oxycodone, in violation of G. L. c.
94C, § 40. The defendants filed motions to suppress
statements made to detectives and pills found in one of the
defendants' vehicles, arguing that they had been subject
to custodial interrogation without adequate Miranda warnings,
and the seizure of the pills was a result of custodial
statements given absent such warnings. A Superior Court judge
concluded that the defendants had been subject to custodial
interrogation without, in Cawthron's case, any warnings
and, in Flodstrom's case, an inadequate warning, and
allowed the motions to suppress.
Commonwealth filed a timely notice of appeal. A single
justice of this court allowed the Commonwealth's
application for leave to pursue an interlocutory appeal and
reported the matter to the Appeals Court. The Appeals Court
issued an opinion reversing the judgment of the Superior
Court. See Commonwealth v. Cawthron, 90 Mass.App.Ct.
828 (2017). We allowed the defendants' petitions for
further appellate review.
the factors set out in Commonwealth v.
Groome, 435 Mass. 201, 211-212 (2001), we conclude
that the defendants were not subject to custodial
interrogation. Therefore, the Superior Court judge's
decision allowing the motions to suppress must be reversed.
summarize the facts as found by the motion judge following an
evidentiary hearing. We indicate explicitly those few facts
the judge found that are not supported by the record.
April 12, 2013, Detective Michael Donovan of the Tewksbury
police department stopped at a convenience store on Route 133
in Tewksbury. Donovan was dressed in plain clothes and was
driving an unmarked vehicle. As he was walking across the
parking lot toward the store, Donovan overheard a man, later
identified as Cawthron, speaking on a cellular telephone
outside the store. Cawthron said that he was "going to
pick them up now, " and asked, "How many do you
want" and, "Do you want ten?" Donovan
suspected that Cawthron was arranging a narcotics
transaction. After purchasing a beverage in the store,
Donovan returned to his vehicle and waited for Cawthron to
leave the store. Donovan then followed Cawthron's vehicle
as it left the parking lot.
traveled a short distance on Route 133, and then turned into
the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. After briefly
losing sight of the defendant's vehicle, Donovan located
it in a nearby steakhouse parking lot; Cawthron was standing
outside his vehicle, speaking on his cellular telephone.
Donovan parked his vehicle fifteen or twenty yards from
contacted Detective Lieutenant Ryan Columbus of the Tewksbury
police department and informed him of the investigation.
Columbus arrived, also in an unmarked vehicle, and
established surveillance from a nearby parking lot.
five minutes later, a black vehicle entered the steakhouse
parking lot and parked next to Cawthron's vehicle.
Flodstrom got out of this vehicle and approached Cawthron;
the men shook hands and exchanged items that Donovan could
not see. Based on these actions, the statement he had
overheard in the convenience store parking lot, and his
knowledge that the parking lots along Route 133 were often
used for illegal drug transactions, Donovan believed this to
be a hand-to-hand drug transaction.
got out of his unmarked vehicle, walked quickly to where the
two men were standing, and identified himself as a police
officer. He ordered the men not to move. At that point,
Flodstrom said, "[T]his is how I feed my family."
Columbus arrived at the scene shortly after Donovan had
reached the defendants. He and Donovan decided to separate
the two men and question them individually, before they had
an opportunity to construct a shared response. Donovan
directed Flodstrom to the far side of Flodstrom's
vehicle; Cawthron was directed to go with Columbus on the far
side of Cawthron's vehicle. Each man moved approximately
five yards from where he stood before the detectives arrived.
Donovan and Flodstrom were separated from Cawthron and
Columbus, Donovan gave Flodstrom an oral Miranda
warning.Donovan then asked Flodstrom what had
happened. Flodstrom responded that he had sold 300 Oxycodone
pills to his uncle, Cawthron, for two dollars per pill.
Flodstrom reiterated that this was how he fed his children,
and pulled $600 from his pocket. After Flodstrom produced the
money, Donovan placed him in handcuffs and told him that he
was under arrest.
this interaction was taking place, Columbus spoke with
Cawthron in front of Cawthron's vehicle. Columbus
identified himself as a police officer and asked Cawthron
what he had purchased. Cawthron said that he had purchased
pills for two dollars each. Columbus asked where the pills
were, and Cawthron told him the pills were under the seat in
his vehicle. Columbus looked under the driver's seat and
found a full pill bottle. After retrieving the bottle,
Columbus handcuffed Cawthron, placed him under arrest, and