413 F.2d 467 (5th Cir. 1969), 25626, Bradford v. United States

Docket Nº:25626, 25634.
Citation:413 F.2d 467
Party Name:Luther James BRADFORD, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee. Johnny Paul WASHAM, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:June 13, 1969
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 467

413 F.2d 467 (5th Cir. 1969)

Luther James BRADFORD, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

Johnny Paul WASHAM, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

Nos. 25626, 25634.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

June 13, 1969

Rehearing Denied July 11, 1969.

Page 468

Edward Ellington, Jackson, Miss., Ney M. Gore, Jr., Marks, Miss., for appellant Bradford.

Semmes Luckett, Clarksdale, Miss., for appellant Washam.

H. M. Ray, U.S. Atty., Roger M. Flynt, Jr., Asst. U.S. Atty., Oxford, Miss., for appellee.

Before WISDOM and GODBOLD, Circuit Judges, and HUGHES, District Judge.

HUGHES, District Judge:

Two post-office robberies on September 3, 1965, led to an indictment in January, 1966, of Luther James Bradford, Johnny Paul Washam and others in the Northern District of Mississippi. The first count alleged a conspiracy among all the defendants in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 371 'to pass, utter, and publish forged and altered United States Postal money orders with intent to defraud, knowing material signatures thereon to have been false and forged and knowing material alterations to have been fraudulently made thereon, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. 500.' This was the only count in which Bradford was charged.

The second count accused Washam and others of breaking into the Nesbit, Mississippi Post Office with intent to commit larceny in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 2115. In the third count Washam and others were charged with stealing from the Nesbit Post Office property belonging to the United States and including certain blank postal money orders of a value in excess of $100.00.

The third and fourth counts made the same charges as counts two and three in connection with the post office at Red Banks, Mississippi.

The jury found Bradford guilty on count one, the conspiracy charge, and found Washam guilty on counts one, two and three. Both defendants appealed.

Eight others besides Bradford and Washam had been named in the conspiracy count and previously tried. There

Page 469

was ample testimony in this case to prove the conspiracy.

Bradford has been represented by two attorneys in these proceedings. The first filed a brief contending that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Bradford was a member of the conspiracy and that the Government failed to show any agreement on his part to enter into a conspiracy to pass, utter or publish forged money orders with intent to defraud.

While this brief was stricken a few days before the hearing on appeal we have considered these contentions and find no merit in them.

The testimony is uncontradicted that on the night of September 3, 1965, the post office at Nesbit, Mississippi was broken into and 995 money orders were taken. Also stolen were a validating stamp, a limitation control stamp, and a print punch machine used in filling out money orders. The evidence relating to Bradford is limited to events following the theft. Both he and Washam were identified as having been in Huntsville, Alabama, between the ninth and fifteenth of September 1965. Washam registered at the Sands Motel on September 12, 1965, and on September 15, 1965, at the Southland Motel, both of said motels being in Huntsville. Bradford registered on September 9, 1965, at the Southland Motel.

A shoe salesman in Huntsville testified that Bradford bought a pair of shoes from him with a $100.00 money order, which previously had been identified as one stolen from the Nesbit Post Office.

A handwriting expert testified that from comparing the known handwriting of Bradford with the writing on various money orders it was his opinion that the writing of Bradford appeared either on the face or as the endorsement on the back of fourteen of the stolen money orders. He also testified that from a comparison of Washam's signature with questioned signatures on various stolen money orders it was his opinion that twenty eight money orders had the writing of Washam on them. One of these contained the writings of Bradford on the back and Washam on the front.

A fingerprint expert testified that Washam's fingerprints appeared on three of the stolen money orders examined by him, one of which being the one containing the writing of both Bradford and Washam.

It is true that 'the gist of the offense of conspiracy * * * is agreement among the conspirators * * *.' 1 But there is no doubt that in this case a conspiracy existed. Under such circumstances only slight additional evidence is required to connect a defendant with it. 2

This Court has held that circumstantial evidence alone, if believed by the jury, is sufficient to convict a defendant and must be sustained unless there is no substantial evidence to support it. 3

It is our opinion that there is ample circumstantial evidence to connect Bradford with the conspiracy.

In the brief filed by Bradford's second attorney his conviction is attacked on the following grounds, (1) Bradford was denied a 'speedy trial' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, (2) the taking of the handwriting examples violated Bradford's Fourth Amendment rights and (3) if the jury had followed the court's instructions it could not have found Bradford guilty.

With respect to Bradford's first contention the record reveals that twenty-two months and twenty-five days elapsed between the indictment and the trial. The mere lapse of time, however,

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is not sufficient to show denial of any right. 4

The case was set for trial March 16, 1966, at which time Bradford moved for a continuance due to the absence of a witness. At that time his co-defendant, Washam, was an escapee from jail. On March 25, 1966, Bradford was released on his own recognizance. On October 12, 1966, Bradford moved the court that he be furnished the transcript of the testimony of co-defendants who were tried on March 16th. This motion was granted.

The case was again set for trial on November 28, 1966, and on this occasion Bradford failed to appear. A warrant was issued for his arrest and bond set at $5000.00. On January 24, 1967, he was arrested by the United States Marshal in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Postponement at the next setting on March 13, 1967, was due to numerous pending motions filed by Bradford's co-defendant, Washam.

It was not until June 16, 1967, that Bradford filed a motion to quash the indictment and for dismissal due to his being deprived of a speedy trial.

This motion was heard on December 4, 1967, the day the case went to trial. In overruling the motion the trial judge stated the contention that he was deprived of a speedy trial 'was not well taken inasmuch as it was impossible to have a trial of these two defendants because of the absence through no fault of...

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