818 F.2d 354 (5th Cir. 1987), 86-3469, United States v. Causey

Docket Nº:86-3469.
Citation:818 F.2d 354
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reginald James CAUSEY, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:May 22, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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818 F.2d 354 (5th Cir. 1987)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Reginald James CAUSEY, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 86-3469.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

May 22, 1987

Rehearing En Banc Granted July 9, 1987.[*]

Burton P. Guidry, Baton Rouge, La., for defendant-appellant.

Richard B. Launey, Asst. U.S. Atty., Stanford O. Bardwell, Jr., U.S. Atty., Baton Rouge, La., for plaintiff-appellee.

Page 355

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Before GOLDBERG, RUBIN, and POLITZ, Circuit Judges.

ALVIN B. RUBIN, Circuit Judge:

City police officers wished to question a suspect about a bank robbery, but lacked probable cause to arrest him. The officers therefore unearthed a seven-year-old warrant charging the suspect with contempt of court by virtue of his failure to appear for trial on a misdemeanor theft charge. They then arrested him, using that charge as a pretext to question him about the robbery. Following their interrogation, the suspect, who had a prior criminal record, decided that he would confess the robbery to federal authorities, to avoid being charged as a multiple offender by state authorities. He then confessed to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The government introduced the confession at trial to obtain his conviction on a federal bank-robbery charge.

In 1968, a panel of this circuit held that a confession obtained as a result of a pretextual arrest is inadmissible. In a later opinion, however, another panel of this circuit reached a contrary conclusion. That later opinion is in conflict with the earlier Fifth Circuit authority; the relevant Supreme Court authority also impugns its validity. Adhering to the earlier decision and its more persuasive logic, we hold that the confession is inadmissible. Accordingly, we REVERSE the conviction and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

A man wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap robbed the Capital-Union Savings Bank in Baton Rouge, Louisiana of $1,800 on December 19, 1985. Officer Bart Thompson of the Baton Rouge Police Department and Special Agent James Watson of the F.B.I. began to investigate the crime. The next day, Police Sergeant Sid Newman telephoned Thompson to advise him that the local "CRIME-STOPPERS" had received a telephone call from a female whom Newman described as a reliable source of information. This informant reported that Reginald Causey had committed the bank robbery, provided an address for Causey, and gave a description of Causey's vehicle. Newman did not give Thompson the name of the confidential informant or any information that would support her reliability.

By checking the records of the State Motor Vehicle Registration Bureau, Thompson learned that the described vehicle was not registered as belonging to Reginald Causey but to another person named Causey. The address provided by the informant was that of Reginald Causey's parents. Thompson also obtained an arrest history for Causey. Causey's physical description in the history corresponded with a description provided by a bank teller, and the arrest history indicated that Causey previously had been convicted of bank robbery. Thompson then staked out Causey's parents' house, but neither the vehicle nor Causey appeared.

The next day, Saturday, December 21, Thompson and his partner, Officer Michael Morris, decided that they would "[p]ick [Causey] up for questioning on the bank robbery." They did not plan to arrest him because they did not believe that they had probable cause to do so; the government does not contend that they had probable cause for an arrest. If Causey refused to talk or to accompany the officers to the station, they "were not going to force him into going, at that particular time." FBI Agent Watson did not participate in this plan.

Later that day, Thompson and Morris "started thinking about Reginald Causey and someone thought of looking in" the city court warrant book. They found that a warrant had been issued for Causey's arrest in 1978 for failure to appear in court on a misdemeanor theft charge. The prescriptive period (statute of limitations) for the theft charge had expired, but no such period limited the time within which the failure-to-appear charge might be prosecuted. Because the warrant was for failure

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to appear, the defendant would not be able to obtain bail if arrested. Thompson then communicated with the city court judge who had issued the warrant to verify it and to inform the judge that he would arrest Causey sometime during the next week.

The officers' sole reason to make the arrest was to gain the opportunity for custodial interrogation of Causey regarding the bank robbery. This is undisputed. Officer Morris categorically so testified:

Q. Officer Morris, the only thing I wanted to clear is--is that the only reason y'all took [Causey] into custody was to take him downtown and continue your investigation of this bank robbery, is that correct?

A. Yes, sir; our objective is not to serve city court warrants.

Q. I understand that.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And generally, you don't even fool with those city court warrants?

A. In general; no sir.

Q. So your only purpose in taking Mr. Causey into custody on this bench warrant was an investigatory one?

A. Yes, sir.

On Monday December 23, at 10:30 a.m., the officers located Causey, informed him that he was under arrest on the basis of the failure-to-appear warrant, placed him in their car, read the Miranda warnings to him, asked him whether he understood his rights, obtained a statement from Causey that he did, and proceeded towards the police station. The testimony concerning what happened thereafter is conflicting.

Causey contends that, while he was in the car, one of the officers told him " '[Y]ou know that what we picked you up on isn't going to stick.... Well, you know it's not going to stick but you can come off of that. And besides, I want to talk to you about something else.' " The officers, however, denied that they ever thought the warrant was invalid, and denied telling Causey, either at the time of arrest or subsequently, that the warrant " 'wouldn't stand' or that 'there may be some problems with the warrant.' "

At the police station, the police again read the Miranda warnings to Causey. They testified that they obtained an oral waiver of his right to counsel. Causey, however, testified that they asked him to authorize them to search his possessions at his parents' house. He testified that he then asked Thompson "could I have--would I be allowed a chance to have an attorney in my presence to help me answer these type of questions which he was asking me." Causey testified that Thompson responded, " 'well, that wouldn't matter because whether [you] gave [me] consent or not, [I] could go through a judge, which would just take a couple of hours longer, get a warrant and [I] would be able to go out and search the house anyway.' "

Causey also testified that Thompson "began to use blackjack statements like, 'The district attorney is going to bring'--'prosecute you and bring forth [the] Habitual Criminal Act, ask for the Habitual Criminal Act, which is'--'which means that'--'an automatic life sentence....' " Causey testified that he denied involvement in the bank robbery, but was pressured to comment on it by statements such as " '[w]ell, we know you did it,' " and " '[w]e feel you did it.' " He added that Lieutenant Ronnie Alford, the supervisor at the station house, later came in and told him,

"From what I hear, they have an armed robbery case against you and it looks bad.... It'll be your third felony conviction and ... the D.A.'s office is definitely going to prosecute and ask for the Habitual Criminal Act.... [Y]ou're going to be found guilty because of your background.... What I recommend to you is that you ... let me call the F.B.I. ... in and you give them a confession and take the matter into federal court. That way, you would only face twenty years instead of [the] Habitual Criminal Act, a life sentence."

According to Causey, Alford promised that, if Causey confessed to the F.B.I., Alford would " 'personally call the D.A.'s office and get them to drop charges of one count of armed bank robbery....' "

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Thompson and Morris, however, denied that Causey ever indicated a wish to terminate any interview or questioning, either in the car or in the office; ever asked to speak to a lawyer or to have a lawyer present; ever received any promises or threats; and ever was subjected to coercion. Thompson also denied that he had ever heard the term "habitual offender" used in Causey's presence.

Alford testified that he had discussed only Causey's background, a matter that he routinely discussed with suspects at the station, and had never discussed the bank robbery with Causey. He said that he telephoned the F.B.I. only on Causey's suggestion. Thompson, however, testified that Alford had questioned Causey about the robbery.

Q. But you were talking to him about [the bank robbery]?

A. Correct.

Q. And both you and Officer Morris and Lieutenant Alford and Agent Watson were talking to him about bank robbery?

A. Correct.

In addition, Alford later contradicted his testimony, by stating that he, not Causey, initially suggested calling the F.B.I. The government's memorandum in opposition to the suppression motion admitted this to be true.

At any rate, Alford telephoned F.B.I. Agent Watson, who came to the police station. Watson testified that Alford informed him that Causey wanted to confess to the bank robbery, and that Causey had not yet made any admissions. Watson...

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