Cummings v. State, 1015

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation27 Md.App. 361,341 A.2d 294
Docket NumberNo. 1015,1015
PartiesWilliam Ralph CUMMINGS v. STATE of Maryland.
Decision Date01 July 1975

Alexander R. Martick, Assigned Public Defender, for appellant.

Bernard A. Raum, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom were Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., Milton B. Allen, State's Atty., for Baltimore City, and H. Gary Bass, Asst. State's Atty., for Baltimore City on the brief, for appellee.

Argued before MORTON, THOMPSON and MOYLAN, JJ.

MOYLAN, Judge.

Myriad cases have dealt with the issue of whether Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), has been complied with. The convictions now under review-those of William Ralph Cummings by a Baltimore City jury presided over by Judge Shirley B. Jones for automobile manslaughter and related traffic offenses-deal with the somewhat rarer threshold issue of whether Miranda is applicable.

A prefatory word is in order to keep the constitutional question straight. There is not-under the Fifth Amendment to the Federal Constitution 1 or under Article 22 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights 2-any such thing as a right against self-incrimination. There is only a right against compelled self-incrimination.

The distinction was elegantly made by former Chief Justice Weintraub for the Supreme Court of New Jersey in State v. McKnight, 52 N.J. 35, 52-53, 243 A.2d 240, 250 (1968):

'There is no right to escape detection. There is no right to commit a perfect crime or to an equal opportunity to that end. The Constitution is not at all offended when a guilty man stubs his toe. On the contrary, it is decent to hope that he will. Nor is it dirty business to use evidence a defendant himself may furnish n the detectional stage. . . . (A)s to the culprit who reveals his guilt unwittingly with no intent to shed his inner burden, it is no more unfair to use the evidence he thereby reveals than it is to turn against him clues at the scene of the crime which a brighter, better informed, or more gifted criminal would not have left. . . . It is consonant with good morals, and the Constitution, to exploit a criminal's ignorance or stupidity in the detectional process.'

Miranda, in precise terms, was aimed not at self-incrimination generally (even in response to police interrogation) but at compelled self-incrimination-the inherent coercion of the custodial, incommunicado, third-degree questioning process. Its holding was set out at 384 U.S. 444, 86 S.Ct. 1612:

'Our holding will be spelled out with some specificity in the pages which follow but briefly stated it is this: the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a persons has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.' (Emphasis supplied)

A scanning of Miranda makes its thrust preeminently clear. 'The constitutional issue we decide in each of these cases is the admissibility of statements obtained from a defendant questioned while in custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. In each, the defendant was questioned by police officers, detective, or a prosecuting attorney in a room in which he was cut off from the outside world.' Ibid., at 384 U.S. 445, at 86 S.Ct. 1612. Miranda pointed out that all of the four cases being dealt with in that umbrella opinion 'share salient features-incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere . . .' Ibid., at 445, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. It pointed out that the major danger of the 'in-custody interrogation' is that its incommunicado character obscures a later judicial determination of what really transpired. An understanding of the nature and setting of this in-custody interrogation is essential to our decisions today. The difficulty in depicting what transpires at such interrogations stems from the fact that in this country they have largely taken place incommunicado.' Ibid., at 445, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. 'Interrogation still takes place in privacy. Privacy results in secrecy and this in turn results in a gap in our knowledge as to what in fact goes on in the interrogation rooms.' Ibid., at 448, 86 S.Ct. at 1614. It speaks of "privacy-being alone with the person under interrogation," ibid., at 449, 86 S.Ct. at 1615, of the police tactic that the 'subject should be deprived of every psychological advantage,' ibid., at 449, 86 S.Ct. at 1615, of an 'atmosphere' that 'suggests the invincibility of the forces of the law,' ibid., at 450, 86 S.Ct. at 1615, and of the psychological ploy of the police '(t)o highlight the isolation and unfamiliar surroundings . . .' ibid., at 450, 86 S.Ct. at 1615. It speaks of the custodial interrogation as one where a suspect may be deprived of the moral support of family and friends, contrasting it with his home where 'his family and other friends are nearby, their presence lending moral support,' ibid., at 450, 86 S.Ct. at 1615.

'Even without employing brutality, the 'third degree' or the specific stratagems described above, the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals.' Ibid., at 455-456, 86 S.Ct. at 1617. 'In the cases before us today, given this background, we concern ourselves primarily with this interrogation atmosphere and the evils it can being.' Ibid., at 456, 86 S.Ct. at 1618. Miranda pointed out that the environment of the custodial interrogation was frequently designed to produce a confession. 'It is obvious that such an interrogation environment is created for no purpose other than to subjugate the individual to the will of his examiner. This atmosphere carries its own badge of intimidation.' Ibid., at 457, 86 S.Ct. at 1619.

Miranda made it very clear that the warnings it mandated and the waiver it required were 'employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings.' Ibid., at 458, 86 S.Ct. at 1619. The evil at which the prophylactic devices of Miranda were aimed was made very clear. 'An individual swept from familiar surroundings into police custody, surrounded by antagonistic forces, and subjected to the techniques of persuasion described above cannot be otherwise than under compulsion to speak. As a practical matter, the compulsion to speak in the isolated setting of the police station may well be greater than in courts or other official investigations, where there are often impartial observers to guard against intimidation or trickery.' Ibid., at 461, 86 S.Ct. at 1621.

The Supreme Court decisions, post-Miranda, have not deflected its initial thrust. In Mathis v. United States, 391 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1503, 20 L.Ed.2d 381 (1968), the warning and waiver requirements of Miranda were held to apply to a custodial interrogation by the police, where the questioned suspect was in custody (literally in jail) for another offense not connected with the subject of the interrogation. It was held that this latter fact did not alter the inherently coercive character of the custodial surroundings. In Orozco v. Texas, 394 U.S. 324, 89 S.Ct. 1095, 22 L.Ed.2d 311 (1969), the warning and waiver requirements of Miranda were held applicable to a police interrogation conducted at the defendant's home. In that case, four police officers burst into the suspect's boarding house bedroom while he was asleep at 4 o'clock in the morning. One officer made it clear that the suspect 'was not free to go where he pleased but was 'under arrest'.' 394 U.S at 325, 89 S.Ct. at 1096. The Supreme Court found that the interrogation there was custodial in nature because '(a)ccording to the officer's testimony, petitioner was under arrest and not free to leave when he was questioned in his bedroom in the early hours of the morning.' Ibid., at 327, 89 S.Ct. at 1097.

The constitutional distillate of Miranda is that self-incrimination flowing from a custodial interrogation is, ipso facto, compelled self-incrimination because of the inherent coercion-the inherent compulsion-of the custodial interrogation environment. In the custodial interrogation situation, therefore, the constitutionally damning element of compulsion can only be extripated by the elaborate prophylactic process of warning and waiver prescribed by Miranda as the required compulsion antidote. Absent the compulsion, there is no need for the antidote.

In addressing a Miranda problem a court has before it four potential issues: the questions of 1) custody, 2) interrogation, 3) warnings and 4) waiver. The first two questions deal with the applicability of Miranda; the second two deal with compliance with Miranda. A court must ask:

1. Was there CUSTODY?

2. Was the statement under scrutiny made in response to INTERROGATION?

The answer to both of the foregoing questions must be in the affirmative before Miranda is even applicable. Only in the event that Custody and Interrogation are found to have been present does a court move on to consider the two questions determining whether there has been compliance with Miranda:

3. Were there adequate WARNINGS?

4. Was there an adequate WAIVER?

As we approach the analysis of the instant case, it may be helpful to make explicit the focus of our review:

1) The appellant and the appellee have commendably narrowed the issue before us. In looking at the admissibility of several admissions in this case, we are concerning ourselves exclusively with the question of whether there was a Miranda violation. We are not dealing with the broader issue of voluntariness.

2) We are concerned exclusively with the correctness of Judge Jones's decision in admitting the several admissions into evidence. At the very outset of the...

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