605 F.Supp. 890 (E.D.Wis. 1985), 84-C-1377, Woods v. Clusen

Docket Nº:84-C-1377.
Citation:605 F.Supp. 890
Party Name:Burdette WOODS, Petitioner, v. Donald CLUSEN, Respondent.
Case Date:March 13, 1985
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Eastern District of Wisconsin

Page 890

605 F.Supp. 890 (E.D.Wis. 1985)

Burdette WOODS, Petitioner,


Donald CLUSEN, Respondent.

No. 84-C-1377.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin.

March 13, 1985

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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William J. Tyroler, Asst. Public Defender, Milwaukee, Wis., for petitioner.

Marguerite Moeller, Madison, Wis., for respondent.


MYRON L. GORDON, Senior District Judge.

"The fundamental import of the privilege while an individual is in custody is not whether he is allowed to talk to the police without the benefit of warnings and counsel, but whether he can be interrogated."

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1630, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1976)

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Following his plea of guilty, the petitioner, Burdette Woods, was convicted on charges of second degree murder and manslaughter in the Shawano county circuit court on August 20, 1981. The petitioner appealed his conviction on the ground that the trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress a confession given to state investigators. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed on March 27, 1984. State v. Woods, 117 Wis.2d 701, 345 N.W.2d 457 (1984). Mr. Woods now petitions for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Relief will be granted.

The facts are not seriously disputed. On September 10, 1979, Henry and Beryl Schwab were beaten to death in their Shawano county home. Mr. Woods, 16 years 9 months old at the time, had been seen near the Schwab home on the day or the day after the murders. Observers later noticed Mr. Woods watching the police investigation at the scene of the murders. By September 19, 1979, Mr. Woods was the prime suspect.

In the course of their investigation, police received reliable information indicating that Mr. Woods may have stolen a chain saw. Lacking probable cause to arrest Mr. Woods for the murders, sheriff's deputies decided to arrest him on the theft charge with the intention of questioning him about the Schwab case. By this time, Shawano county authorities had obtained the assistance of Wendell Harker and Robert Ankenbrandt, agents of the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation.

On September 23, 1979, Mr. Woods and his brother were living with their grandparents in a trailer. On that date at about 7:30 a.m., Shawano deputies Trombi and Thorpe went to the trailer and were admitted by Mr. Woods' brother. The brother led the deputies to a bedroom where they found Mr. Woods asleep. One of the deputies woke the petitioner and placed him under arrest. Mr. Woods was handcuffed and put in the deputies' squad car.

On the way to sheriff's headquarters, Officer Trombi read Mr. Woods his Miranda rights and asked whether he understood them. Mr. Woods indicated that he did. Asked by Officer Trombi whether he wished to consult with an attorney, Mr. Woods nodded negatively. Officer Trombi then asked the petitioner whether he wished to answer questions or to make a statement. Mr. Woods did not respond.

After arriving at sheriff's headquarters, Mr. Woods was fingerprinted, photographed, and asked to provide background information. The petitioner was also required to remove his clothes and put on jail coveralls. He was not issued shoes and socks to replace his own, which he had taken off. At the end of the booking procedure, David Gage, a juvenile intake worker, asked the petitioner whether he had been read his rights. The petitioner responded affirmatively. Mr. Gage then asked whether the petitioner wished to consult with an attorney. The petitioner answered "No." The booking process lasted about 45 minutes.

When the booking process was completed, Officers Thorpe and Trombi took Mr. Woods into an "interrogation room." Mr. Woods was seated at a table without handcuffs, dressed in jail coveralls, barefoot. On the table one or two feet from Mr. Woods and clearly visible were gruesome photographs of the murder victims. Officers Thorpe and Trombi did not issue Miranda warnings before beginning to ask Mr. Woods questions. Nor did they inquire whether Mr. Woods was willing to submit to interrogation.

Officers Trombi and Thorpe interrogated the petitioner for 15 to 20 minutes. Officer Trombi told the petitioner that he knew that the petitioner had committed the murders and that things would be "better" or "go easier" if he talked. Officer Thorpe told Mr. Woods that police had evidence sufficient to prove his guilt, although Officer Thorpe later admitted that such evidence was lacking. At one point during the interrogation, Officer Trombi asked why the petitioner had gone into the woods near the victims' home the day after the murders. The petitioner responded, "I never went in the Woods the next day." The

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petitioner was otherwise mute throughout the interrogation, despite pleas of "Don't you want to talk about it now?" and "Do you want to talk to us?" Officer Thorpe testified that "all [the petitioner] would do is stare down at the wall." Although unresponsive, the petitioner was not unaffected by the interrogation; Officer Trombi testified that he became "quite emotional."

After Officers Trombi and Thorpe had completed their interrogation, they...

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