The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today that while Randall Tremblay might have been intoxicated when a police detective questioned him about the death of his girlfriend in their Hyde Park apartment, he was not so incapacitated that he didn't understand what he was doing when he agreed to be questioned.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge had ruled that Tremblay was too far gone to understand he was waiving his Miranda rights after he was picked up and questioned for the death of Stephanie McMahon in their 1037 River St. apartment on Nov. 17, 2014 and threw out both transcripts showing him apparently admitting he killed her as well as clothing that police seized to test for evidence of McMahon's blood.
But after watching the same interrogation video as the judge, the appellate justices ruled Tremblay - against whom his girlfriend had taken out a restraining order - didn't look too drunk to them and so reinstated his confession as evidence:
The judge found that the defendant was not paying attention when Sergeant Detective Stratton went over his Miranda rights again prior to the second interview. When asked if he understood each right, the defendant responded, "Yes" or "Obviously." While the defendant does appear to be more interested in explaining why the arrest warrant was incorrect, we do not regard that as evidence that he did not understand what the warnings meant. The defendant was not a stranger to police. He had had numerous interactions with the police in the past, had been arrested on at least one prior occasion, and demonstrated knowledge of police procedures and the criminal justice system. ...
The judge also found that the defendant had "great difficulty walking" to his seat, and that he stumbled several times before sitting down. While the defendant does appear to stumble when he first enters the room with handcuffs on, at several points during the interview, the defendant stands up, and each time he appears quite steady on his feet. At one point, he stands to demonstrate how he hit the victim, and raises his knee while standing steady on one foot. When the defendant is led out of the room at the end of the interview, he shows no signs of unsteadiness or difficulty walking.
The judge also found that the defendant "sounds drunk and seems to have trouble speaking clearly." To the contrary, the videotape demonstrates that the defendant is alert and his answers to questions are responsive, coherent, and often "quite self-serving." ... The defendant's speech is clear and he appears alert and awake, not groggy or drowsy. He recounts a relatively complex series of facts replete with specific details, such as bus numbers, the name and location of a liquor store, the victim's home telephone number, and the location of specific items in the victim's apartment. The defendant corrects Sergeant Detective Stratton at one point when he asked, "so what happened tonight?" The defendant replies, "actually, wait a minute, it didn't happen tonight."
The judge's conclusion was also based on his finding that the defendant did not appear to understand that he had incriminated himself with his statements during the interview. The judge reasoned that, because the defendant continuously asked when he was going to be released, he did not understand the consequences of waiving his Miranda rights and speaking with the police. However, the videotape shows that the defendant is aware that his statements were incriminating. Throughout the interview, he is very animated and forceful when talking about why he believes he should not have been arrested on a warrant that should have been recalled, but when asked about what happened to the victim, he becomes very quiet and subdued. He pauses, drums his fingers on the table, breaks eye contact with Sergeant Detective Stratton, and mumbles. The defendant also demonstrates that he is conscious of the consequence of his actions when he states many times during the interview, "I fucked up." In addition, several times during the interview, he makes statements indicating that he knows criminal charges could come from his statements. For example, at one point, the defendant opines that the victim "died in her own blood," then raises his hands and says, "charge me with something." Later, he states, "Yeah I did whack her, and I'm sorry I did that. It sucks. But whatever you guys want to do." When asked if there was anything else he wanted to talk about, the defendant states, "I had a restraining order. I wasn't supposed to be there in the first place. So I'm, it's jail-bound regardless, right?" The defendant also stated, "I've never done that to her before, either." Finally, toward the end of the interview, the defendant asks if he can see the victim. When Sergeant Detective Stratton says no, the defendant says, "I'm going to jail aren't I?" These statements demonstrate that the defendant was aware of the consequences of waiving his right to remain silent and speaking with the police. The Commonwealth's burden of proof with respect to the waiver of Miranda rights does not require it to establish that the defendant understood and appreciated the tactical or strategic consequences of waiving his Miranda rights.