145 F.3d 405 (1st Cir. 1998), 97-2273, United States v. Byram

Docket Nº:97-2273.
Citation:145 F.3d 405
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellant, v. Herman Joseph BYRAM, Jr., Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:May 20, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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145 F.3d 405 (1st Cir. 1998)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellant,


Herman Joseph BYRAM, Jr., Defendant, Appellee.

No. 97-2273.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 20, 1998

Heard March 4, 1998.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jay P. McCloskey, United States Attorney, and James L. McCarthy, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief for the United States.

Jeffrey M. Silverstein, by appointment of the court, with whom Billings & Silverstein was on brief for appellee.

Before BOUDIN, Circuit Judge, COFFIN and CYR, Senior Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.

In June, 1997, Herman Byram, Jr., was indicted by a federal grand jury as a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(e). In the district court, Byram moved to suppress two statements

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he had made: one while in police custody and the other comprising his later trial testimony in a state criminal case involving a different defendant. The district court granted the motion, and the government brought this interlocutory appeal under 18 U.S.C. § 3231.

The background facts, testified to at the suppression hearing, are virtually undisputed. On the evening of June 12, 1996, and into the early morning of the next day, Byram was at the house of his friend Donald Boyce. In the early morning of June 13, Sean Bither, another friend of Boyce, was fatally shot during a game of Russian Roulette. Boyce--who allegedly had helped hold the gun to Bither's head--was later indicted and convicted of murder in Maine state court.

On June 13th, 1996, Detective Sergeant Dennis Appleton was assigned to supervise the case, and he learned that someone named "Frenchie" had been a witness to the shooting. Some time later, Appleton discovered that "Frenchie" was Herman Byram and that at some point during the evening, Byram had loaded Boyce's gun. Byram was on probation at the time. After the shooting Byram did not report to his parole officer for several months, and could not be found by the police.

At some point in the months following the shooting, Appleton contacted Special Agent Kenneth MacMaster of the Maine State Police. MacMaster had been assigned to a federal task force. Appleton told MacMaster that the police were looking for Byram as a witness, and that Byram might be charged under federal law as a felon in possession of a weapon, based on Byram's loading of the gun on the night of Bither's murder. (Byram's explanation was that he had reloaded the gun twice in the hope that Boyce would use the ammunition harmlessly.)

On February 19, 1997, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Byram turned himself in to his parole officer. Byram was immediately jailed and, the next day, was taken to Caribou Superior Court for arraignment. Learning of Byram's arrest, Appleton sent Detective James Madore to the courthouse to interview Byram and serve him with a subpoena for Boyce's trial. Appleton told Madore to ask not only about the murder, but also about Byram's handling of the gun; it is not clear whether Appleton told Madore about the possibility of a possession charge against Byram.

Madore interviewed Byram in a small conference room in the courthouse with no one else present, directing his main questioning to Bither's death. Byram explained that he was in the courthouse for a parole violation; Madore knew that this meant that Byram was a felon. At first, Byram was reluctant to talk, but he spoke readily after Madore told him that he was not "implicated in any of this." Madore did not read Byram his Miranda rights at any point in the interview.

After discussing Byram's presence in the Boyce house on the night of the murder, Madore turned to Byram's handling of the gun. Byram discussed the details, apparently with no reluctance. At the end of the interview, Madore handed Byram the subpoena, and Byram returned to the courthouse holding cell. Later that day, Byram was arraigned, pled guilty to a violation of the terms of his probation, and was sentenced to six months in prison. Madore reported on his interview to Appleton and filed a written report.

On March 4, 1997, Agent MacMaster reviewed that report, and around that time he again discussed the matter with Appleton. Knowing that Byram was to testify at Boyce's murder trial, the two men agreed to take no further action until then. Appleton also spoke to William Stokes, who was to prosecute Boyce in state court, about Byram's prospective testimony. They discussed whether to advise Byram of his rights, but Appleton left the final decision up to the prosecutor.

On March 25, 1997, Byram, still in jail, was brought under subpoena to testify at the Boyce trial in state court. Neither Stokes nor anyone else advised him of his right not to incriminate himself or suggested that he consult an attorney. Byram testified in detail not only to the events surrounding the murder, but also to his having twice loaded Boyce's gun earlier in the day. After the testimony Appleton once again contacted

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MacMaster to report that Byram had incriminated himself on the stand.

A couple of months later MacMaster received the transcript of Byram's testimony, and reviewed it. On May 30, 1997, MacMaster himself...

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