from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Trial Court
Anchorage, No. 3AN-11-12129 CR Jack W. Smith, Judge.
Elizabeth D. Friedman, Law Office of Elizabeth D. Friedman,
Redding, California, under contract with the Office of Public
Advocacy, Anchorage, for the Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
Black, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal
Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General,
Juneau, for the Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
Before: Allard, Chief Judge, and Wollenberg and Harbison,
a jury trial, Yoder Austin Blalock was convicted of
second-degree murder for killing Nathan Tanape. Blalock was
sentenced to 60 years with 15 years suspended (45 years to
serve) and was placed on probation for a period of 10 years.
to trial, Blalock moved to suppress the statements he made to
the police, both at the scene of his arrest and later at the
police station. Blalock argued that, because he had requested
an attorney at the scene, any subsequent questioning by the
police in the absence of an attorney violated the United
States Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v.
Arizona. Under Edwards, the police are
precluded from initiating further interrogation of a suspect
who has invoked his right to counsel, until counsel has been
evidentiary hearing, the trial court agreed with Blalock and
precluded the prosecutor from introducing Blalock's
statements as part of the State's case-in-chief. But the
court later found that the officers' conduct was neither
intentional nor egregious. Accordingly, applying Alaska
Evidence Rule 412 (as interpreted by this Court in State
v. Batts), the trial court allowed the
prosecutor to impeach Blalock's testimony with his
statements to the police.
appeal, Blalock challenges the trial court's ruling
permitting the State to use his statements to impeach him
during cross-examination. The State cross-appeals, arguing
that the trial court erred in granting Blalock's motion
to suppress. In particular, the State argues that Blalock was
not subject to a custodial interrogation at the time he asked
for a lawyer and that he was not entitled to anticipatorily
invoke his Miranda rights. Because we conclude that
the trial court did not err in allowing the impeachment use
of Blalock's statements and because we otherwise affirm
Blalock's conviction, we need not decide the issues
raised in the State's cross-appeal.
trial, Blalock defended on the ground of self-defense, and
the trial court instructed the jury on this defense. Blalock
asked the trial court to instruct the jury on the "Stand
Your Ground" amendment - a 2013 statutory enactment that
narrowed a person's duty to retreat before using deadly
force in self-defense. Under this amendment, there is no duty
to retreat if the person is "in any... place where the
person has a right to be." The trial court concluded that
the "Stand Your Ground" law was not retroactively
applicable to Blalock's case, which was based on events
occurring in 2011, and the trial court declined to instruct
the jury on it.
now challenges the trial court's decision. For the
reasons explained here, we agree with the trial court that
the statutory amendment did not apply retroactively to
Blalock's case. We therefore uphold the trial court's
decision declining to instruct the jury on the 2013 law.
Blalock raises several challenges to his sentence. We have
reviewed his claims, and we find no merit to them.
night in October 2011, Blalock drove to Tanape's
apartment where Blalock's acquaintance, Charles Alexie,
and several other people were partying. Outside of the
apartment, Blalock encountered Tanape. When Blalock was
standing about ten feet away from Tanape, Tanape yelled at
him to leave.
began walking back to his truck, saying, "Just wait
right there, I got something for you." Blalock took
something out of his truck and walked back toward Tanape.
Blalock and Tanape faced off. Blalock sprayed Tanape with
pepper spray and slashed him with a knife. Tanape went to the
ground; he then grabbed Blalock by the legs, picked him up,
and slammed him to the ground.
ran toward Blalock and Tanape to intervene, but Blalock
sprayed Alexie with pepper spray, causing Alexie to fall to
the ground and have difficulty breathing. Tanape and Blalock
struggled, and then Blalock got up, ran back to his truck,
and drove away, leaving Tanape lying in the middle of the
ran back inside the apartment, covering his eyes, and yelling
for someone to call 911. Tanape came inside soon after
Alexie, covered in blood and unable to speak.
officers responded to the apartment. When they arrived, they
noticed an overwhelming smell of pepper spray and observed
Tanape sitting in a chair. He had wounds on his legs and
knees, a large laceration on his head, and what appeared to
be a stab wound to the back of his neck.
after the officers arrived, Tanape was transported to the
hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed
that his death was caused by over twenty stab wounds.
Blalock fled the scene, he called 911 several times to report
that he was involved in the incident. Officers located
Blalock and arrested him. They then took him to the Anchorage
Police Department where detectives read him
¶Miranda warning.Blalock agreed to be interviewed
by the detectives, and he made incriminating statements
during the interview.
was subsequently charged with second-degree murder for
stabbing Tanape to death. The case proceeded to trial, and
Blalock was convicted of second-degree murder.
of Blalock's motion to suppress and the use of his
statements as impeachment evidence
to trial, Blalock moved to suppress the statements he made
during his arrest and subsequent interview. Blalock asserted
that he had clearly invoked his right to counsel during his
arrest and that the on-scene police officers did not report
the invocation to the detectives who later interrogated him.
He contended that once he invoked his right to counsel, the
Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Arizona
precluded the police from initiating an interrogation with
him until an attorney was present. Although the detectives read
him his Miranda rights prior to interrogating him at
the station, Blalock asserted that his statements had to be
suppressed because they were obtained in violation of the
evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing on
Blalock's motion showed that when the officers first
confronted Blalock, he made statements about the incident. In
response, one of the officers activated his recorder.
recording captured the conversations between Blalock and the
officers as follows: Blalock initially made a variety of
spontaneous statements, including repeatedly asking, "Is
he okay?" At one point, an officer asked Blalock where
his truck was located. Blalock responded, "Oh, it's
safe. I want to talk to a lawyer." The officer replied,
"What's that?" Blalock did not repeat his
request for a lawyer.
Blalock continued making rambling statements. For example, he
said, "Well... is (indiscernible) going to be okay or
not? Fuck, when I - And when I first got away, the last time
I hit him, I - something happened to his eye."
the evidentiary hearing, the officer who made the recording
testified that he did not hear Blalock state that he wanted
to talk to a lawyer. The officer was aware that Blalock said
something, which is why he asked Blalock to repeat himself.
But the officer did not hear Blalock say anything in
officer testified that during his contact with Blalock, his
radio was active, so he was hearing radio traffic as well as
trying to talk to Blalock. Additionally, he reported that he
had significant hearing loss in certain frequencies, likely
due to his experience as a firefighter and a police officer.
the other officers who initially contacted Blalock also
testified at the hearing. He explained that, as the cover
officer, he was responsible for making sure that the scene
was safe until other officers arrived to help take Blalock
into custody. His main concern was safety, and he was
concentrating on watching Blalock's behavior to ensure
there was no threat.
detective who later interviewed Blalock testified that he did
not speak with the arresting officers or listen to the
recordings of their contact with Blalock before the
on this evidence, the trial court granted Blalock's
motion to suppress and excluded Blalock's statements from
being used during the State's case-in-chief. The trial
court found that Blalock clearly and audibly invoked his
right to counsel. The trial court concluded that a reasonable
officer should have heard Blalock's clear invocation
because "a reasonable officer would be paying attention
to statements made by the defendant, especially when he had a
recording device going and was asking questions of the
defendant." The trial court therefore suppressed all
statements Blalock made to the on-scene officers after he
invoked his right to counsel.
court also suppressed Blalock's later statements to the
detectives at the police station. The trial court found that
Blalock's waiver of his Miranda rights at the
police station was invalid under Edwards because the
police, not Blalock, initiated the questioning.
written order granting Blalock's motion to suppress, the
trial court ruled that Blalock's statements could not be
used for any purpose during the trial "except to impeach
the Defendant's contradictory testimony at trial."
Blalock did not object to this ruling at that time.
case proceeded to trial. After the State rested and the
defense had begun to present its case, Blalock's attorney
indicated that Blalock would testify. Blalock's attorney
then asserted for the first time that the Miranda
violation was "egregious" and
"intentional" and was therefore inadmissible even
for impeachment purposes under Alaska Evidence Rule 412 and
this Court's decision in State v.
reviewing its original order and the Batts decision,
but without hearing any additional evidence, the trial court
concluded that the violation was egregious and that
Blalock's statements in response to police questioning
could not be used for any purpose.
State petitioned for review, and this Court granted the
State's petition. Because the Batts issue had
not been litigated as part of the original suppression
proceedings, this Court vacated the trial court's ruling
that the Miranda violation in Blalock's case was
egregious. We held that "the State was entitled to
notice and a proper opportunity to litigate the
[Batts\ issue before the [superior] court made new
findings that affected the admissibility of this
on this ruling, the trial court conducted a second
evidentiary hearing in order to address the Batts
the evidence presented at this second evidentiary hearing
mirrored the evidence that had been presented to the trial
court at the first evidentiary hearing. The trial court again
heard that Blalock clearly announced that he wanted to talk
to a lawyer. The trial court again heard officers testify
that they did not hear this statement.
State also presented new evidence from a clinical
neuropsychologist. The neuropsychologist, Paul Craig,
testified about how the brain processes auditory information,
and specifically how the brain suppresses some input in order
to focus on relevant stimuli. Based on his review of the
recording which documented Blalock's arrest, Craig
concluded that what could be heard on the recording was not
necessarily the equivalent of what ended up in the
listeners' minds. Craig explained that other input (such
as the radio traffic) would have been competing with
Blalock's voice, and this impacted the ability of at
least some of the officers to hear what Blalock was saying.
also noted that when Blalock invoked his right to counsel,
the officer closest to him had just asked him about the
location of his vehicle and he was listening for an answer to
that question. According to Craig, Blalock's response,
asking for a lawyer, "conceptually didn't fit
in" and therefore an officer might not process, hear,
and comprehend that answer.
trial court also heard from a police lieutenant who had not
testified at the first hearing. The lieutenant explained that
during high-risk arrests, officers are experiencing sensory
overload, and their attention is consistently divided. A
cover officer's primary focus is generally on the
suspect's actions, specifically the hands; cover officers
are watching for threatening movements or attempts to reach
for weapons. Arresting officers are generally focused on the
arrest itself, to make sure there is no struggle during the
handcuffing process and to ensure that the suspect is secured
in the patrol vehicle.
hearing this additional evidence, the trial court issued a
new ruling, this time concluding that the Miranda
violation was neither intentional nor egregious.
trial court found that the officers were credible when they
testified that they did not hear or comprehend Blalock's
request for an attorney, and it accordingly found that the
officers did not act intentionally when they questioned him
after he asked for an attorney.
that an egregious violation is one that would be apparent to
any reasonable officer, the trial court found that the
violation by the officers in this case was not egregious
because it was caused by natural psychological reactions and
tunnel vision caused by the anxiety of a high-stress
situation. The trial court also observed that this was not
the type of situation where application of the exclusionary
rule could have an influence on police behavior and policies.
trial court similarly found that the detectives'
interrogation of Blalock at the police station was not an
egregious violation of Miranda. In order for the
detectives to have discovered that Blalock had previously
invoked his right to counsel, they would have had to listen
carefully to the audio and any video recording prior to
conducting the interrogation. The trial court found that
requiring detectives to listen carefully to audio and video
recordings of the arrest ...