451 F.2d 164 (3rd Cir. 1971), 71-1490, United States ex rel. Smith v. Yeager

Docket Nº:71-1490.
Citation:451 F.2d 164
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Edgar H. SMITH, v. Howard YEAGER, Warden, New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, Appellant.
Case Date:August 02, 1971
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 164

451 F.2d 164 (3rd Cir. 1971)

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Edgar H. SMITH,


Howard YEAGER, Warden, New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, Appellant.

No. 71-1490.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

Aug. 2, 1971

         Argued July 14, 1971.

         Certiorari Denied Oct. 12, 1971.

         See 92 S.Ct. 112.

         Edward N. Fitzpatrick, Asst. Prosecutor, Hackensack, N. J., for appellant.

         Stephen M. Umin, Williams & Connolly, Washington, D. C., for appellee.

         Before GANEY, VAN DUSEN and ALDISERT, Circuit Judges.


         PER CURIAM:

         This appeal by the state of New Jersey from the grant of a writ of habeas corpus presents a pre- Miranda question whether inculpatory statements of Edgar H. Smith were the voluntary product of a free and unconstrained will.

          Following an evidentiary hearing after remand by the United States Supreme Court, 1 the district court concluded that "the admissions made to Detectives Spahr and DeLisle on the morning of March 6, 1957, were the results of a culmination of coercive circumstances which made those admissions involuntary under federal constitutional standards. * * * The Ehrenbeck transcript * * * [and] [t]he admissions made by Smith on the afternoon of March 6, 1957, at the Prosecutor's office, at the murder scene, and at the trailer, were all the result of coercion, and their admission at the trial violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," 336 F.Supp. 1287, 1304 (D.N.J.1971). We agree.

         We hold that there was sufficient evidence adduced at the hearing to support the district court's ultimate findings,

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considering "the totality of circumstances" under the contemporary case law of 1957 elaborating the due process standard of voluntariness. Fikes v. Alabama, 352 U.S. 191, 77 S.Ct. 281, 1 L.Ed.2d 246 (1957); Turner v. Pennsylvania, 338 U.S. 62, 69 S.Ct. 1352, 93 L.Ed. 1810 (1949); Haley v. Ohio, 332 U.S. 596, 68 S.Ct. 302, 92 L.Ed. 224 (1948); Malinski v. New York, 324 U.S. 401, 65 S.Ct. 781, 89 L.Ed. 1029 (1945).

          Additionally, upon review of the record, including the testimony of the psychiatrists, referred to in the district court's opinion, 336 F.Supp. at 1299-1301, 1304-1305, we have concluded that the court did not err in ruling that relator's statements to these physicians were inadmissible as substantive evidence of guilt.

         We have considered all of the contentions presented by able counsel for appellant by brief and oral argument. Our own independent review of the evidence does not persuade us that the district court made findings of historical facts which were clearly erroneous or erred in its ultimate conclusions.

         For the foregoing reasons, and for the reasons set forth by the district court supporting its conclusion of coercion, 336 F.Supp. at 1287-1299, 1302-1304, the judgment of the district court 2 will be affirmed, subject however to the previous order of this Court, filed June 9, 1971, which vacated paragraphs 2 through 5 inclusive of the June 8, 1971 District Court order. This action is without prejudice to relator's right to apply for...

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