511 U.S. 79 (1994), 92-8841, Powell v. Nevada

Docket Nº:No. 92-8841
Citation:511 U.S. 79, 114 S.Ct. 1280, 128 L.Ed.2d 1, 62 U.S.L.W. 4203
Party Name:POWELL v. NEVADA
Case Date:March 30, 1994
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 79

511 U.S. 79 (1994)

114 S.Ct. 1280, 128 L.Ed.2d 1, 62 U.S.L.W. 4203

POWELL

v.

NEVADA

No. 92-8841

United States Supreme Court

March 30, 1994

Argued February 22, 1994

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF NEVADA

Syllabus

Petitioner Powell was arrested on November 3, 1989, for felony child abuse. Not until November 7, however, did a Magistrate find probable cause to hold him for a preliminary hearing. The child in question subsequently died of her injuries, and Powell was charged additionally with her murder. At the trial, the state prosecutor presented prejudicial statements Powell had made to the police on November 7. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court, sua sponte, raised the question whether the 4-day delay in judicial confirmation of probable cause violated the Fourth Amendment, in view of County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44, which held that a judicial probable-cause determination must generally be made within 48 hours of a warrantless arrest, and that, absent extraordinary circumstances, a longer delay is unconstitutional. The state court decided that McLaughlin was inapplicable to Powell's case, because his prosecution commenced prior to the rendition of that decision.

Held:

The Nevada Supreme Court erred in failing to recognize that McLaughlin's 48-hour rule must be applied retroactively, for under Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 328, "a . . . rule for the conduct of criminal prosecutions is to be applied retroactively to all cases, state or federal, . . . not yet final" when the rule is announced. Although the 4-day delay here was presumptively unreasonable under McLaughlin, it does not necessarily follow that Powell must be set free or gain other relief. Several questions remain open for decision on remand, including the appropriate remedy for a delay in determining probable cause (an issue not resolved by McLaughlin), the consequence of Powell's failure to raise the federal question, and whether introduction at trial of what Powell said on November 7 was "harmless" in view of a similar, albeit shorter, statement he made prior to his arrest. Pp. 83-85.

108 Nev. 700, 838 P.2d 921, vacated and remanded.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Souter, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., joined, post, p. 85.

Michael Pescetta argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

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Dan M. Seaton argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

Miguel A. Estrada argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Harris, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson. [*]

Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975), we held that the Fourth Amendment's shield against unreasonable seizures requires a prompt judicial determination of probable cause following an arrest made without a warrant and ensuing detention. County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991), established that "prompt" generally means within 48 hours of the warrantless arrest; absent extraordinary circumstances, a longer delay violates the Fourth Amendment. In the case now before us, the Supreme Court of Nevada stated that McLaughlin does not apply to a prosecution commenced prior to the rendition of that decision. We hold that the Nevada Supreme Court misread this Court's precedent: "[A] . . . rule for the conduct of criminal prosecutions is to be applied retroactively to all cases, state or federal, . . . not yet final" when the rule is announced. Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 328 (1987).

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I

Petitioner Kitrich Powell was arrested on Friday, November 3, 1989, for felony child abuse of his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.508 (1991). That afternoon, the arresting officer prepared a sworn declaration describing the cause for and circumstances of the arrest. Not until November 7, 1989, however, did a Magistrate find probable cause to hold Powell for a preliminary hearing. That same day, November 7, Powell made statements to the police, prejudicial to him, which the prosecutor later presented at Powell's trial. Powell was not personally brought before a Magistrate until November 13, 1989. By that time, the child had died of her injuries, and Powell was charged additionally with her murder.

A jury found Powell guilty of first-degree murder and, following a penalty hearing, sentenced him to death. On appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, Powell argued that the State had violated Nevada's "initial appearance" statute by failing to bring him before a magistrate within 72 hours, and that his conviction should therefore be reversed.

The Nevada statute governing appearances before a magistrate provides:

"If an arrested person is not brought before a magistrate within 72 hours after arrest, excluding nonjudicial days, the magistrate:

"(a) Shall give the prosecuting attorney an opportunity to explain the circumstances leading to the delay; and

"(b) May release the arrested person if he determines that the person was not brought before a magistrate without unnecessary delay." Nev. Rev. Stat. § 171.178(3) (1991).

Powell emphasized that 10 days had elapsed between his arrest on November 3, 1989, and his November 13 initial appearance before a Magistrate. In view of the incriminating

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statements he made on November 7, Powell contended, the unlawful delay was prejudicial to him. Under Nevada law, Powell asserted, vindication of his right to a speedy first appearance required that his conviction be reversed, and that he be set free. Appellant's Opening Brief in No. 22348 (Nev.), p. 85.

The district attorney maintained before the Nevada Supreme Court that there had been no fatal violation of Nevada's initial appearance statute. First, the district attorney urged, the confirmation of probable-cause by a Magistrate on November 7 occurred within 72 hours of the November 3 arrest (excluding the intervening weekend). This probable-cause finding, the district attorney contended, satisfied the 72-hour prescription of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 171.178. In any event, the district attorney continued, under Nevada law, an accused waives his right to a speedy arraignment when he voluntarily waives his right to remain silent and his right to counsel. Powell did so, the district attorney said, when he made his November 7 statements, after he was read his Miranda rights and waived those rights. See Respondent's Answering Brief in No. 22348 (Nev.), pp. 56-60. In reply, Powell vigorously contested the district attorney's portrayal of the probable-cause determination as tantamount to an initial appearance sufficient to satisfy Nev. Rev. Stat. § 171.178's 72-hour prescription. Powell pointed out that he "was neither present [n]or advised of the magistrate's finding." Appellant's Reply Brief in No. 22348...

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