The Wicked Flee Where No Man Pursueth

United States v. Medearis, 2023 WL 3049339 (8th Cir. 2023)

Officers went to a residence to arrest Patrick Medearis for allegedly following the mother of his child in her vehicle and shooting at her and the other occupants in the car, which included her children and her sister. The day after the incident, the woman sent a text message to an officer stating Medearis was at her residence and attempting to break in. When officers arrived at the home, Medearis fled, first on an ATV, then in a car. Medearis crashed the car into a ditch. Once stopped, Medearis was airlifted to the hospital to receive medical attention and officers searched his vehicle, finding guns, marijuana and ammunition.

Four days later, after Medearis was released from the hospital, an officer thought he saw Medearis’s car. When the officer tried to pull him over, Medearis fled again, leading police on a lengthy high-speed chase. During the chase, Medearis tossed items out of the vehicle; he stopped only when his tires hit spike strips. Medearis was arrested. He waived his Miranda rights, then made statements about being an addict and touching the guns found in the car after the first chase. Medearis was charged with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

Medearis asked the court to suppress his statements, arguing his Miranda waiver was invalid. He also asked the court to suppress evidence of his second flight from police, as evidence that suggested guilt.

The court held that, considering the totality of the circumstances, Medearis “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently” waived his rights. He was “not intimidated, coerced, or deceived.”

Following Medearis’ arrest, the officer presented him with a Miranda rights waiver form and read it to him. The trial judge listened to the recording of the interrogation and noted the officer was not coercive and did not pressure Medearis (talk nice, think mean!). The officer then explained further as follows:

Officer: “If you agree to talk to us, if you do, then, without a lawyer present, just go ahead and sign it right there.”

Medearis: “Probably sign it, and if that gets out in the free world, I’m . I know that. Kick his again, it still looks all up, eh?”

Officer: “Did you want to talk to us later on today? You want us to come back later on today?  It’s up to you.”

Medearis: “Let’s just talk, let’s go.”

The trial court found Medearis knowingly and voluntarily (and colorfully) waived his Miranda rights. The appellate court agreed. The court held that, considering the totality of the circumstances, Medearis “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently” waived his rights. He was “not intimidated, coerced, or deceived.” In fact, the officer told Medearis it was his decision to talk, informing him he could end the interview at any time.

Medearis also argued any probative value in evidence of the second flight was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to him. The court made short work of Medearis’s argument: “When chased the second time, Medearis raced away at over 100 miles an hour, threw objects out of his window, and surrendered only after his car ran over spike strips…True, this inference doesn’t mean Medearis couldn’t have fled for other reasons. While it is possible Medearis fled for other reasons, the flight’s probative value wasn’t substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

Medearis further argued the trial court had improperly considered his prior record in sentencing him to eight years in prison. The appellate court disagreed. He’ll have plenty of time to read the Bible verse, Proverbs 28:1, often quoted by the late Justice Scalia: “The wicked flee where no man pursueth” (California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621 (1991)).

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over four decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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