212 S.E.2d 92 (N.C. 1975), 30, State v. Pruitt

Docket Nº:30.
Citation:212 S.E.2d 92, 286 N.C. 442
Party Name:STATE of North Carolina v. Frank PRUITT, II.
Case Date:March 12, 1975
Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 92

212 S.E.2d 92 (N.C. 1975)

286 N.C. 442

STATE of North Carolina



No. 30.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

March 12, 1975

Page 93

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 94

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 95

[286 N.C. 446] Robert Morgan, Atty. Gen., by Asst. Attys. Gen. William W. Melvin and William B. Ray, Raleigh, for the State.

Donald W. Grimes, Fayetteville, for defendant.

BRANCH, Justice.

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in denying his motions to quash each bill of indictment on grounds that the North Carolina statutes imposing the death penalty for the crimes charged are unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This Court considered and rejected this identical argument in State v. Jerrette, 284 N.C. 625, 202 S.E.2d 721. Accord: State v. Sparks, 285 N.C. 631, 207 S.E.2d 712; State v. Honeycutt, 285 N.C. 174, 203 S.E.2d 844; State v. Fowler, 285 N.C. 90, 203 S.E.2d 803; State

Page 96

v. Dillard, 285 N.C. 72, 203 S.E.2d 6. This assignment of error is overruled on authority of these cases.

Defendant next assigns as error the overruling of his objection to the admission into evidence of defendant's response [286 N.C. 447] to questions asked him by Deputy Robert Hallisey at the scene of the fire. He relies upon a single paragraph from a written statement given by Fire Chief Goodman, which was offered into evidence solely to corroborate Goodman's testimony. The statement upon which defendant relies is a § follows:

'When I got the fire knocked down in the front, I turned and looked. The Rescue had arrived and the man that was standing in the street hollering was about a half block down the street. I called to the Rescue men to stop him, that I wanted to question him. Then the CID men arrived, and the Rescue men had him to take the man in custody and hold him. The next thing that I noticed was the Deputies had arrived on the scene and had this man in their car.'

Deputy Hallisey testified that he arrived at the scene of the fire at 7:00 a.m. and talked with Fire Chief Jimmy Goodman. Hallisey further testified:

'. . . Goodman told me the house was engulfed in flames and there might be people there. Chief Goodman said a subject who gave him some information was near a trailer and I went to the location and talked with him. I approached the man who was the defendant to get some information from him because I was actually the only deputy at the scene at that time.

I was concerned about the lives of the subjects still in the house. I recall asking him regarding any people being in the burning house.

Q. What, if anything, did not defendant say in response to your questions?

MR. GRIMES: Objection.

COURT: Overruled.

A. He said, that is the subject, 'there's a woman in the home, she's been raped and stabbed, and the house is burning.'


This constitutes


[286 N.C. 448] We recognize that procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination are necessary whenever law enforcement officers question a person who has been 'taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his (liberty) in any significant way.' Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694. When custodial interrogation begins is a question which has generated much judicial discussion. See Annotation, 31 A.L.R.3rd 565.

The holding in Miranda does not extend to normal investigative activities conducted prior to arrest, detention, or charge. Miranda v. Arizona, Supra; State v. Oxentine, 270 N.C. 412, 154 S.E.2d 529. Justice Bobbitt (later Chief Justice), writing for the Court in State v. Meadows,272 N.C. 327, 158 S.E.2d 638, aptly stated the rule distinguishing general police investigation from custodial interrogation:

'A general investigation by police officers, when called to the scene of a shooting, automobile collision, or other occurrence calling for police investigation, including the questioning of those present, is a far cry from the 'in-custody interrogation' condemned in Miranda. Here, nothing occurred that could be considered an 'incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere.' . . .'

Accord: State v. Sykes, 285 N.C. 202, 203 S.E.2d 849; State v. Gladden, 279 N.C. 566, 184 S.E.2d 249; State v. Shedd, 274 N.C. 95, 161 S.E.2d 477; State v. Hayes, 273 N.C. 712, 161 S.E.2d 185.

A careful contextual reading of the testimony of Deputy Sheriff Hallisey discloses that when defendant made the statement to Hallisey, the Deputy was engaged

Page 97

in a general on-the-scene investigation which was obviously directed to whether there were persons in the burning dwelling. There was nothing to suggest an in-custody interrogation or that the investigation had been focused upon defendant as the perpetrator of a crime.

Further, Chief Goodman had already testified without objection to substantially the same facts. It is well established that when evidence is admitted over objection and the same evidence has theretofore or thereafter been admitted without objection, the benefit of the objection is lost. State v. Jarrette, Supra; State v. Perry, 275 N.C. 565, 169 S.E.2d 839; 1 D. Stansbury, North Carolina Evidence § 30 (Brandis Rev.).

[286 N.C. 449] We find no merit in this assignment of error.

Defendant next contends that the trial judge erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress the oral and written confessions allegedly made by defendant.

When Lt. Smith testified that defendant was carried to the Sheriff's Department and warned of his constitutional rights by Sgt. Conerly, counsel for defendant requested a Voir dire to determine the admissibility of any statements made by defendant in the form of a confession. Thereupon, the trial judge excused the jury, and Sgt. Conerly, in summary, testified as follows: After Pruitt was placed under arrest, he was carried to a seven-by-seven fluorescent lighted room at the rear of the Sheriff's Department for interrogation. This room was used because its location insured privacy. Lt. Smith, Sgt. Conerly, Officer Martin, and defendant were in the room during the interrogation. All of the officers participated in the questioning. Before questioning commenced, Sgt. Conerly read the following material from a plastic card:

'Warning as to your rights. You are under arrest. Before we ask you any questions, you must understand what your rights are. You have the right to remain silent. You are not required to say anything to us at any time or to answer any questions. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we question you and have him with your during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer and want one, a lawyer will be provided for you. If you want to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time. You also have the right to stop answering any time until you talk to a lawyer.'

Defendant indicated that he understood his rights and did not indicate that he wanted a lawyer. He then gave defendant a 'Voluntary Statement' form (Exhibit 44), which defendant read and signed. The form reads as follows:


DATE 9 Oct 73

PLACE Fayetteville, N.C.


I, Frank Pruitt, II, am 21 years old. My date of birth is 28 Dec 51. I live at 5105 Patton St, Lot 103, Fayetteville, N.C.

[286 N.C. 450] The person to whom I give the following voluntary statement, Lt C. D. Smith, Sgt. Bob Conerly Sgt. Danny Martin, having identified and made himself known as a Deputy Sheriff, Cumberland County, N.C., DULY WARNED AND ADVISED ME, AND I KNOW:

  1. That I have the right to remain silent and not make any statement at all, nor incriminate myself in any manner whatsoever.

  2. That anything I say can and will be used against me in a courr or courts of law for the offense or offenses concerning which this statement is herein made.

  3. That I can hire a lawyer of my own choice to be present and advise me before and during this statement.

  4. That if I am unable to hire a lawyer I can request and receive appointment

    Page 98

    of a lawyer by the proper authority, without cost or charge to me, to be present and advise me before and during this statement.

  5. That I can refuse to answer any questions or stop giving this statement any time I want to.

  6. That no law enforcement officer can prompt me what to say in this statement nor write it out for me unless I choose for him to do so.

    A. No one denied me any of my rights, threatened or mistreated me, either by word or act, to force me to make known the facts in this statement. No one gave, offered or promised me anything whatsoever to make known the facts in this statement, which I give voluntarily of my own free will and accord.

    B. I do not want to talk to a lawyer before or during the time I give the following true facts, and I knowingly and purposely waive my right to the advice and presence of a lawyer before and during this statement.

    C. I certify that no attempt was made by any law enforcement officer to prompt me what to say, nor was I refused any request that the statement be stopped, nor at anytime during this statement did I request for the presence or advice of a lawyer.

    [286 N.C. 451] I have read each page of this statement consisting of 1 pages, each page of which bears my signature, and corrections, if any, bear my initials, and I certify that the facts contained herein are true and correct.

    This statement was completed at 5:30 P.M. on the 9th day of October, 1973.




    Signature of person giving voluntary statement'

    Defendant then made an oral statement which was reduced to writing.

    On cross-examination Sgt. Conerly stated that the interrogation began immediately after defendant signed Exhibit 44. He further...

To continue reading