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State v. Armour

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 17, 2015

State
v.
Joseph Armour

Page 1196

Providence County Superior Court. (P2/11-779A). Associate Justice Kristin E. Rodgers.

For State: Lauren S. Zurier, Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: Kara J. Maguire, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1197

Goldberg, Justice

This case came before the Supreme Court on February 3, 2015, on appeal by the defendant, Joseph Armour (defendant), from a Superior Court judgment of conviction following a jury verdict of guilty of one count of second-degree child molestation. The defendant contends that the trial justice erred in: (1) denying his motion to suppress an incriminating confession he gave to the police; (2) permitting Dr. Amy Goldberg (Dr. Goldberg) to testify regarding the explanation of a normal examination over defense counsel's objection; and (3) denying the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

Facts and Travel

In 2010, six-year-old Sarah[1] lived with her mother and defendant in a multifamily home in East Providence, Rhode Island. The defendant had been renting a bedroom on the second floor, while the child and her mother lived on the first floor.[2] On January 29, 2011, at approximately one o'clock in the morning, Sarah awakened to defendant touching her vagina. After Sarah's mother saw defendant run out of Sarah's room, she went into her daughter's room, turned on the light, and noticed that the blankets covered her daughter's head. When Sarah's mother moved the blankets,

Page 1198

she saw that her daughter's jeans and underwear had been pulled down below her waist. Sarah's mother immediately took the child into her own bedroom, locked the door, and asked her " Did he touch your cookie?" [3] Sarah answered " yes[,]" and her mother subsequently called the East Providence police. When the police arrived, Sarah's mother explained what had happened, and Sarah was taken to Hasbro Children's Hospital (Hasbro) for an examination, which was performed by Dr. Goldberg. The following day the police arrested defendant.

On March 18, 2011, a criminal information was filed against defendant in Providence County Superior Court, alleging one count of second-degree child molestation in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-37-8.3 and § 11-37-8.4. A jury trial was held in September 2012. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the trial justice sentenced defendant to thirty years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with ninety months to serve and two hundred and seventy months suspended with probation. The defendant timely appealed.

Motion to Suppress

On appeal, defendant argues that the trial justice erred when she denied defendant's motion to suppress an incriminating statement he gave to the East Providence police while in custody. It was defendant's contention that the confession was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights against self-incrimination and his right to counsel. A pretrial hearing on the motion was held, which featured the testimony of two East Providence police officers, defendant, defendant's mother, defendant's cousin, and an attorney who had been contacted by defendant's cousin.

Detective Mark Jones (Det. Jones) of the East Providence police department was the first witness. Detective Jones was on duty on January 29, 2011 and spoke with defendant the following day, after defendant's arrest. According to Det. Jones, he and another officer, Det. Michael Spremulli (Det. Spremulli), first spoke to defendant while in the department cellblock and, after he agreed to speak with them, defendant was moved to an interview room. Detective Jones stated that he " asked [defendant] if he understood, if he could read English, if he could read period, and [defendant] said yes." Detective Jones testified that he provided defendant with a rights form and advised ...


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