342 F.2d 679 (5th Cir. 1965), 21557, Edwards v. Holman

Docket Nº:21557.
Citation:342 F.2d 679
Party Name:Charles EDWARDS, Appellant, v. William C. HOLMAN, Acting Warden of Kilby Prison, State of Alabama, Appellee.
Case Date:February 09, 1965
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 679

342 F.2d 679 (5th Cir. 1965)

Charles EDWARDS, Appellant,

v.

William C. HOLMAN, Acting Warden of Kilby Prison, State of Alabama, Appellee.

No. 21557.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

February 9, 1965

Rehearing Denied March 17, 1965.

Charles R. Crowder, Birmingham, Ala., for appellant.

Richmond M. Flowers, Atty. Gen., John C. Tyson, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for appellee.

Before RIVES, WISDOM and BELL, Circuit Judges.

Page 680

RIVES, Circuit Judge:

Edwards was tried in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama, on April 27, 1957, convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He did not appeal from the judgment of conviction. After serving nearly five years, Edwards filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the court in which he was convicted. The court appointed counsel to represent the petitioner and ordered Edwards brought to the Shelby County Jail in order that he and his court-appointed counsel might have an opportunity to confer and prepare for the hearing. Thereafter the court denied the application, stating:

'On this hearing only testimony was submitted to the court by witnesses who testified at the main trial of this case. No facts were brought to the knowledge of the Court, which were not previously known, nor in the trial of this case which would have prevented the rendition of the judgment as rendered in the case-- no facts were presented such as would have prevented a conviction on the trial of the case.

'It is, therefore, the judgment of the Court that the application for writ of error coram nobis is not well taken.'

Twenty days after that order, Edwards filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. There was another full hearing following which the court denied the petition for habeas corpus. That judgment and the judgment denying coram nobis were both affirmed by the Supreme Court of Alabama on the same day, February 28, 1963. 1 In the coram nobis proceeding certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States. 2 Edwards then filed the present petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court.

The court appointed able counsel to represent Edwards. Since findings of fact and conclusions of law had not been made in the State coram nobis proceeding, the federal district court granted a full evidentiary hearing. 3 The issues as framed in a formal pretrial order and as decided by the court were:

'1. Whether or not petitioner Edwards was denied the right and opportunity to secure and have counsel of his own choosing during each essential stage of the proceeding in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama, in criminal case No. 8693, which proceeding terminated in his being found guilty of murder in the first degree, with punishment fixed at life imprisonment in the penitentiary of the State of Alabama;

'2. Whether or not the State of Alabama, during the course of the prosecution in Shelby County, Alabama, in said criminal case, 8693, acting through any of its officers or agents, coerced from petitioner Edwards a confession through the use of cruel and inhuman treatment or threats;

'3. Whether or not the State authorities, acting through the officials of Shelby County, Alabama, denied to petitioner Edwards the right and opportunity to subpoena and secure witnesses in criminal case No. 8693; and

'4. Whether or not the State authorities, acting through the officials of Shelby County, Alabama, denied petitioner Edwards an adequate time and opportunity to prepare his defense in criminal case 8693.'

Page 681

Upon the hearing, the petitioner Edwards testified in his own behalf, and the respondent introduced the deposition of the State judge who presided at Edwards' trial for murder and the testimony of eight witnesses ore tenus. The district court entered full findings of fact and conclusions of law comprising some five pages of the typed record, and denied the petition for habeas corpus.

Upon appeal, this Court appointed different counsel to whom we are indebted for an unusually vigorous and able presentation of the issues in behalf of Edwards. Each of the questions decided in the district court against Edwards was based upon the court's findings of fact which cannot be set aside as clearly erroneous. 4 Indeed after a careful study of the record, we are in full agreement with those findings.

Resourceful counsel, however, by putting a different gloss upon the first issue, present as a question of law-- the contention that under Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 1964, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, Edwards should have been provided 'the assistance of counsel' as soon as he became a suspect in the murder case. The state court had appointed counsel after the indictment was returned but prior to arraignment. Understanding and consideration of this issue require a brief statement of some of the essential facts.

Edwards had previous convictions for 'violation of prohibition law' and for 'white slavery.' He was arrested in Jefferson County, Alabama, in October 1956 on a warrant charging him with burglary. He was held in the jail at Birmingham for two weeks, during which time he was questioned about various burglaries of which he was suspected. The interrogation was extensive. Tom Ellison, a criminal investigator for the sheriff's office, testified that he was with Edwards as much as sixteen hours a day 'for a purpose.' However, Edwards himself testified:

'Q. What type of treatment did you receive while you were in the Birmingham jail?

'A. Good treatment.'

Edwards further testified:

'We stayed in jail a week before they ever commenced to question about a murder in Birmingham.'

As to the reason for Edwards removal from Jefferson County to adjacent Shelby County, Tom Ellison testified:

'THE COURT: What prompted you to take him from Jefferson County to Shelby County?

'WITNESS: Well, most of the burglaries that he had admitted that he was involved in was-- were in Shelby County.

'THE COURT: I take it, then, that he admitted being involved in the murders prior to the time he was transported to Shelby County?

'WITNESS: He hadn't admitted it; no, sir.

'THE COURT: All right. Had you interrogated him about them--

'WITNESS: Yes, sir.

'THE COURT:-- Before you transported him to Shelby coUnty?

'WITNESS: Yes, sir.

'THE COURT: Did you take him to the cemetery where the victim or victims were buried on the way from Birmingham to Columbiana?

'WITNESS: Not that I recall, but I wouldn't-- wouldn't say, it has been so long, we-- we could-- it could have been possible, but I don't recall.

'THE COURT: Did you or anyone in your presence threaten to chain him out in the cemetery?

'WITNESS: Threaten to chain him in--

Page 682

'THE COURT: Or handcuff him?

'WITNESS: No, sir; no, sir. And it is my opinion that we-- we didn't-- well, we may have passed by the cemetery, but I don't-- don't believe we carried him in the cemetery, but we could have. I just don't have any memory of it at the time, but I certainly deny that, we didn't threaten to chain him in any cemetery.'

Edwards had testified:

'Well, they brought me-- they took me out of Birmingham jail at twelve o'clock one day, took me to the City jail and locked me up to dark, when they left, Tom Ellison and another deputy left the City jail with me a little after dark, they brought me over there to that graveyard where that woman had been buried, they said it was a graveyard there, anyhow, they stopped there and was going to handcuff me out there. And a car pulled up behind them, they carried me on down to the Columbiana jail and jumped on me.'

Tom Ellison testified (and his testimony was not disputed) that while Edwards was in Birmingham jail he was advised of his rights to remain silent, to consult an attorney, and that any statement he made could be used against him. 5

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