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Meskimen v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

February 20, 2014

TIMOTHY SCOTT MESKIMEN APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

RENDERED: APRIL 25, 2013

ON APPEAL FROM FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JAMES D. ISHMAEL, JR., JUDGE NO. 10-CR-07703

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Thomas More Ransdell Assistant Public Advocate Department of Public Advocacy

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway Attorney General of Kentucky Jason Bradley Moore Assistant Attorney General Office of Criminal Appeals Office of the Attorney General

OPINION

SCOTT JUSTICE

A Fayette Circuit Court jury found Appellant, Timothy Meskimen, guilty of first-degree manslaughter, first-degree tampering with physical evidence, third-degree alcohol intoxication, and third-degree criminal trespass. For these crimes, Appellant received a twenty-five-year prison sentence. He now appeals as a matter of right, Ky. Const. §110(2)(b), alleging that the trial court erred by: (1) allowing the use of Appellant's coerced statements in violation of his constitutional rights, (2) failing to suppress the evidence of subsequent statements made during his hospitalization, (3) denying his motion to suppress evidence of hair comparisons, and (4) summarily imposing a consecutive six-month sentence for indirect contempt. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Appellant's conviction and sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

Edgar Hurst was a homeless man who lived on the streets of Lexington prior to his murder in 2010. Appellant was also homeless and living in Lexington at the time of Hurst's murder. About a year and a half prior to Hurst's death, Appellant met Donna Franklin. Despite their dysfunctional relationship, they began living together on the streets. They traveled around quite a bit, but eventually set up camp in the median at the intersection of 1-75 and North Broadway. Appellant worked what odd jobs he could, but he and Franklin drank up all his earnings.

On the day of Hurst's death, Appellant and Franklin cleaned a Lexington office building and bought some whiskey. The first bottle went quickly, and then they sat around the campsite sharing the second bottle. When it began to run low, Appellant decided he needed to get more. Around midnight, he walked to a liquor store and bought some more whiskey. On his way back, he saw Hurst sitting in the median of the Interstate. It was raining, so Appellant invited Hurst back to their campsite where he and Franklin kept a fire.

When the two men returned to the campsite, they sat around drinking whiskey with Franklin. After Franklin went to bed, however, Hurst, allegedly, asked Appellant: "How about when I, if I kill you when I done kill, when you pass out and have my way with your woman." The two men then got into a fight. When it was over, Appellant testified that he believed he had knocked Hurst out.

The following morning Appellant discovered Hurst was dead. He then dug a hole and covered the body with dirt, brush, rocks, and a door. Shortly thereafter, he and Franklin moved to a nearby motel where they spent the next three or four days drunk. Eventually they got into an argument, and Franklin called the police. Appellant was then forced to leave the motel.

A short time later, Franklin called the police again and told them Appellant had murdered Hurst. Later, she took the police to Hurst's body. An hour or so later, Appellant showed up at the motel highly intoxicated and was arrested and charged with alcohol intoxication (AI) and criminal trespass in the third degree.

Appellant was then taken to police headquarters for an interview. The interview lasted for approximately an hour. Several times during the interview, he asked to go to the hospital as he said he was in excruciating pain as a result of a visible head injury. Appellant, however, denied killing Hurst during this interview.

Later, when he was taken to the hospital, it was determined that Appellant had a skull fracture and brain injury that had likely occurred at least five days prior to his hospital admission. During the course of his hospital stay, however, he provided the police with two statements in which he admitted killing Hurst.

He was then indicted by a Fayette County Grand Jury and charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence, alcohol intoxication third or greater offense, and criminal trespass in the third degree.

Prior to trial, Appellant moved to exclude evidence of all three statements made to the police following his arrest.[1] After a hearing, the motion was denied. Appellant also filed a motion to exclude evidence of hair comparisons because they were unreliable, which the trial court also denied.

A Fayette Circuit Court jury eventually found Appellant guilty of first-degree manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, alcohol intoxication, and third-degree criminal trespass. The jury then recommended Appellant receive the maximum sentence for each of the felonies, twenty years for manslaughter in the first degree and five years for tampering with physical evidence. The jury also recommended that the two sentences be served concurrently for a total of twenty years' imprisonment.[2] However, at the final sentencing, the trial judge disregarded the jury's recommendation that the felony sentences be served concurrently and ordered that they be served consecutively for a total sentence of twenty-five years.

After Appellant left the courtroom following sentencing, the trial judge began another hearing. During that hearing the bailiff approached the bench, and the trial judge directed that Appellant be kept in a holdover cell after the bailiff informed the trial judge that Appellant had "flipped off the news media on his way out of the courtroom. Later, the trial judge summarily held Appellant in contempt ...


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