COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellant v. Samuel TERRELL, Appellee.
Decided: August 03, 2012
Before COMBS and THOMPSON, Judges; LAMBERT,1 Senior Judge.
Jack Conway, Attorney General, Heather M. Fryman, Assistant Attorney General, Frankfort, KY, for Appellant. Thomas M. Ransdell, Assistant Public Advocate, Frankfort, KY, for Appellee.
The Nicholas Circuit Court entered an order halting police questioning of the appellee, Samuel Terrell, until he could consult with counsel. The Commonwealth has appealed the order. After our review, we affirm.
A very sparse record is before us, but it shows that on May 13, 2011, the Carlisle Police Department obtained a search warrant for the apartment shared by Samuel Terrell and his mother. Terrell's mother was found dead from a gunshot wound, and he was taken into custody. On the same day, the Nicholas Circuit Court entered an order which directed police offers to cease questioning of Terrell until he was granted access to an attorney. The record then indicates that Terrell was arraigned on May 16, 2011, represented by the late Gatewood Galbraith.
The Commonwealth claims that the order to cease questioning was obtained in an ex parte meeting between the court and Terrell's father. The Commonwealth contends that it was not given an opportunity to argue against entry of the order. However, nothing in the record supports these claims. On appeal, the Commonwealth urges us to hold that it was improper for the court to enter the order.
The order of the circuit court relied on Kentucky Rule[s] of Criminal Procedure (RCr) 2.14(2), which provides that “[a]ny attorney at law entitled to practice in the courts of this Commonwealth shall be permitted, at the request of the person in custody or of some one2 acting in that person's behalf, to visit the person in custody.”
Our Supreme Court has already addressed a highly similar factual scenario in West v. Commonwealth, 887 S.W.2d 338 (Ky.1994). The facts of West are virtually congruent. West was taken into custody, and he signed a waiver of his right to an attorney. However, West's family contacted the office of the public defender. When the police did not allow him to visit West, the public defender tendered an order to the court that all questioning cease and that West be given access to counsel. The trial court granted the order. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the order was appropriate. The language of the trial court's order in West is identical to the order that is at issue in this case.
The Commonwealth suggests either that we overrule West or that we distinguish it from the case before us. West is a Supreme Court case; therefore, we are not permitted to overrule it. Kentucky Supreme Court Rule[s] (SCR) 1.030(8)(a); Special Fund v. Francis, 708 S.W.2d 641, 642 (Ky.1986). The Commonwealth seeks to distinguish the cases by pointing out that West was adjudicated to be indigent while Terrell was represented by private counsel.
We cannot agree that this distinction is relevant. In its opinion, the Supreme Court pointed out that RCr 2.14 pertains to any lawyer. West v. Commonwealth, 887 S.W.2d at 341. It further elaborated that if a public defender were erroneously provided for a defendant who was not indigent, there is a statutory mechanism for the state agency to recoup funds that were spent. Id . (citing Kentucky Revised Statute[s] (KRS) 31.150). We also note that while Terrell was represented by private counsel at his arraignment, he is currently being represented by the Department of Public Advocacy. The record does not reflect whether his private representation continued at the trial level. However, we believe that it is immaterial whether private counsel or a public defender is involved.
Therefore, in light of precedent set by our Supreme Court, we affirm the order of the Nicholas Circuit Court.
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