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Sykes v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

February 19, 2015

STEPHEN SYKES, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, APPELLEE

Released for Publication March 12, 2015.

Page 723

ON APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE CHARLES LOUIS CUNNINGHAM, JR., JUDGE. NO. 10-CR-001553.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Daniel T. Goyette, Joshua Michael Reho, Office of the Louisville Metro Public Defender.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky; Leilani K.M. Martin, Assistant Attorney General.

OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM. Minton, C.J.; Abramson, Cunningham, Keller, Noble and Venters, JJ., sitting. All concur.

OPINION

Page 724

CUNNINGHAM, JUSTICE.

Around 10:30 p.m. on May 10, 2010, Appellant, Stephen Ricardo Sykes robbed the China Wok--a take-out restaurant located in the Hazelwood strip mall in Louisville. The. China Wok was operated by Xiang Lin and his wife Nana Xiao. Both were present at the restaurant when Sykes robbed them of approximately 80 dollars. During the robbery, Sykes shot Lin multiple times in the chest and abdomen with a .22 caliber pistol, causing severe wounds. Eric Underwood served as Sykes' lookout but did not enter the restaurant. After the shooting, Sykes and Underwood fled the scene and split the money. The two were eventually apprehended and arrested several days later.

Sykes was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury for criminal attempt to commit murder, first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree burglary, possession of a hand gun by a convicted felon, wanton endangerment, and tampering with physical evidence. A Jefferson Circuit Court jury convicted Sykes on all counts with the exception of first-degree assault and burglary. The jury recommended a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment for attempted murder, ten years for each robbery conviction, five years for the possession conviction, one year for wanton endangerment, and one year for the tampering conviction.

The court ordered that the attempted murder sentence run consecutively with all the other sentences, which were to run concurrently with each other for a total sentence of 30 years' imprisonment. Sykes now appeals his judgment and sentence as a matter of right pursuant to § 110(2)(b) of the Kentucky Constitution. Three issues are raised and addressed as follows.

Suppression

Sykes contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his confession, which he argues was coerced and involuntary. This issue is briefed as Sykes' second argument. His primary argument is that the portion of his confession that was presented to the jury was improperly redacted. However, we address the suppression issue first because a determination that the trial court erred in suppressing the confession would render Sykes' redaction argument moot. " When reviewing a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress, we utilize a clear error standard of review for factual findings and a de novo standard of review for conclusions of law." Jackson v. Commonwealth, 187 S.W.3d 300, 305 (Ky. 2006).

When determining if a confession is the result of coercion, we look at the totality of the circumstances to determine the voluntariness of a statement. Henson v. Commonwealth, 20 S.W.3d 466, 469, 46 11 Ky. L. Summary 28 (Ky.1999) ( citing Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 286-88, 111 S.Ct. ...


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