State v. Gwinn

In State v. Gwinn, 169 W.Va. 456, 288 S.E.2d 533 (1982), the Court permitted use of a statement made after a defendant had refused to sign a waiver of rights form. The Court explained: "Trooper R. E. Haynes testified that he orally advised the appellant of his rights and that the appellant appeared to understand them, but that the appellant refused to sign a waiver of rights form. Trooper R. V. Watkins testified that after the appellant was advised of his rights, he asked the appellant where the weapon was, and the appellant responded voluntarily that he had thrown the weapon in the river. Trooper Watkins asked this question knowing that the appellant had refused to sign the waiver of rights form." (169 W.Va. at 462, 288 S.E.2d at 537.) The Gwinn Court found that admission of the statement was proper despite the defendant's failure to sign the waiver form and his subsequent assertion that he had not understood the rights explained to him. "In the instant case there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's conclusion that the statement sought to be introduced was voluntarily made without threat or coercion. Although the trial court made no specific findings on the question of whether the appellant understood his rights, which would be the preferable procedure, there was no evidence introduced that the appellant was incapable of understanding his rights, and the appellant's claim that he did not understand his rights was countered by the testimony of Trooper Watkins. From the evidence presented we cannot say that the decision of the trial court on the issue of voluntariness is plainly wrong." (Id. at 463, 288 S.E.2d 538.)