Davis v. State of North Carolina, No. 8453.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtHAYNSWORTH, Circuit (dissenting)
Citation310 F.2d 904
Docket NumberNo. 8453.
Decision Date07 November 1962
PartiesElmer DAVIS, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Appellee.

310 F.2d 904 (1962)

Elmer DAVIS, Jr., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Appellee.

No. 8453.

United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit.

Reargued June 7, 1962.

Decided November 7, 1962.


W. B. Nivens and Charles V. Bell, Charlotte, N. C., for appellant.

Harry W. McGalliard, Asst. Atty. Gen. of North Carolina (T. W. Bruton, Atty. Gen. of North Carolina, on brief), for appellee.

Before SOBELOFF, Chief Judge, and HAYNSWORTH, BOREMAN, BRYAN and J. SPENCER BELL, Circuit Judges, sitting en banc.

SOBELOFF, Chief Judge.

No task is more unwelcome to a federal court than that of determining whether a constitutional infirmity exists in a particular state criminal proceeding. However, when an issue of federal law is raised in a state trial, it may later become our duty to undertake such a review. The question in the present case is whether the District Court erred in dismissing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by a state prisoner without conducting a hearing.

On December 18, 1959, the Superior Court of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, sentenced Elmer Davis, Jr., to death in the gas chamber for the rapemurder of Mrs. Foy Bell Cooper. The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed. State v. Davis, 253 N.C. 86, 116 S.E.2d 365 (1960). Certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States, 365 U.S. 855, 81 S.Ct. 816, 5

310 F.2d 905
L.Ed.2d 819 (1961). The present proceedings were then begun by the filing of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2241 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. After the petition was denied without a hearing, an appeal in forma pauperis was permitted and a certificate of probable cause was issued by the District Court

The gist of the petitioner's complaint is that an illegally obtained confession was utilized by the State at his trial.1 Confining ourselves at this point to the undisputed evidence in the State record, the following appears:

Between 2:00 and 3:00 p. m., Sunday afternoon, September 20, 1959, Foy Bell Cooper, an elderly woman, left her home for a visit to her mother's grave two blocks away in the Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, North Carolina. About 4:30 that afternoon her lifeless body was discovered by a group of young boys playing at the cemetery. An autopsy disclosed that death had been by strangulation; also, that the victim may have been raped. A few hours later Elmer Davis, an escaped convict under sentence of seventeen to twenty-five years for robbery and assault with intent to rape, was arrested by the local authorities of Belmont, North Carolina, about twelve miles from Charlotte. The following day, Davis was taken to Charlotte and placed in the City Jail, customarily used for overnight detention only. A specific notation was made on the arrest sheet: "Do not allow anyone to see Davis, or allow him to us (sic) telephone." During the next sixteen days, Davis was questioned by an undetermined number of officers, (twenty-nine had been assigned to the Cooper case), about the murder and about other felonies thought possibly to have been committed by him since his escape. The primary purpose was to check out and break down, if possible, any alibi Davis might have for the afternoon of September 20.

Then on October 6 Davis was taken to police headquarters. What occurred there is in dispute. The police version is that after Davis and a police officer "prayed together,"2 he signed a paper confessing the rape and murder of Mrs. Cooper, and that he then took the officers to the cemetery and re-enacted the crime. In any event, on returning to headquarters from the cemetery Davis was formally charged with the offense and bound over. Later, in a conversation with his church pastor, Davis stated that he had been properly fed and well taken care of during his confinement. It is undisputed on the record, however, that Davis was fed two sandwiches twice a day — he says sometimes one — and was permitted to bathe once during that time.

At trial, Davis' counsel objected to the introduction of the confession into evidence. In accordance with the State practice, the trial judge excused the jury and took testimony on the voluntariness of the confession. See State v. Rogers, 233 N.C. 390, 64 S.E.2d 572, 28 A.L.R. 2d 1104 (1951). According to the transcript, which recites the testimony, not verbatim, but in narrative form, Davis denied making any admission of guilt to the officers or re-enacting the crime for them. He said he was told, "Davis, go

310 F.2d 906
in there and sign that paper so you can go to the county jail and get something to eat and get a hot bath," and that when he signed he "did not think he was confessing to any crime." He contended that he is illiterate and the whole document was not read to him before he signed it. He testified that he did sign some paper, which was read to him, after a police officer told him, "I determined to fram the hell out of you if you don't tell me something," and that he was in fear for his life. He insisted, however, that what was read to him was not represented to relate to any murder. Later, to substantiate this claim, it was pointed out on behalf of Davis that his signature was affixed only to the second page of the two page confession, and that this page contained no mention of the rape-murder

As to the treatment he received while at the City Jail Davis testified: "I told them I would like to get something to eat, and call my sister so she could bring me something to eat, and they put me way upstairs in a room off by myself where nobody could come up there and see me. * * * During the course of these three weeks, two more detectives talked to me. They would talk to me sometimes twice a day about the murder. * * * They talked to me every day from the time I got there until I signed this paper." Davis also testified that he lost 15 pounds on the food provided him at the jail. Also, he asserted that the police did not inform him of his constitutional rights.

In rebuttal, police officers asserted that the whole confession had been read to Davis, and that no one told Davis he would "fram" him if he did not sign. Also, State's witnesses offered to refute the arrest sheet directive to hold the prisoner incommunicado. One related that Davis had asked to see his sister, and that he (the witness) had tracked her down and conveyed the message. The witness did not recall, however, whether she actually visited the prisoner before he confessed. Four officers admitted interrogating him several times between September 21 and October 2. They did not specify the length and manner of the questioning. The officers did not dispute the entry on the arrest sheet that Davis was being held as a suspect in the Cooper case, but they denied asking him questions about the murder at any time between September 21 and October 2. In addition, they stated that no other person had ever been kept for as long as sixteen days in their overnight jail which lacked kitchen and other facilities usually considered necessary for long detentions. No explanation was offered for confining him there instead of the regular jail located just across the street, which is customarily used when an arrested person is to be held more than a few hours.

At the close of the testimony, the trial judge ruled: "Let the record show that the Court at this time rules that the statement made by the defendant to Lieutenant C. L. Sykes in the City of Charlotte police department, was made voluntarily and such statement is admitted in evidence, as shown by the written record." The judge made no other findings of fact.

In affirming the trial court's ruling, the Supreme Court of North Carolina said: "According to our practice the question whether a confession is voluntary is determined in a preliminary inquiry before the trial judge. He hears the evidence, observes the demeanor of the witnesses, and resolves the question. The appellate court must accept the determination if it is supported by competent evidence." 116 S.E.2d at 370. To show such support, the court recited: "The officers testified the prisoner had not been mistreated in any way; that he had the same food as other prisoners in the overnight jail; that he did not ask to see or communicate with any person except his sister. This request was granted. On the day after the confession the prisoner told Dr. Tross, his former pastor — a member of his own race — that he had been well treated by the officers." 116 S.E.2d 370. The appellate court did not undertake to make

310 F.2d 907
independent findings of basic facts, but pointed to evidence that would support findings by the trial judge

The question in the present case is whether the above furnishes a sufficient basis upon which the District Court could decide without a hearing whether the confession in question was obtained within the bounds of due process. This appeal brings us to the inquiry, in what circumstances may federal district courts rely upon the State record and adjudicate the constitutional claim presented without conducting a hearing.3

The guideline is laid down by the Court in Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 463, 73 S.Ct. 397, 97 L.Ed. 469 (1953), where it is said that the writ may be refused without a hearing only "* * * if the court is satisfied, by the record, that the state process has given fair consideration to the issues and the offered evidence, and has resulted in a satisfactory conclusion." Mr. Justice Frankfurter, in his concurring opinion, amplified this portion of the majority opinion. According to his exposition, concurred in by a majority of the justices,4 if the State court has held a hearing and rendered a decision based upon "specific findings of fact" the federal judge need not rehear the facts. 344 U.S. at 504, 73 S.Ct. at 444. But, "* * * if the record * * * is found inadequate to show how the State court decided the relevant historical facts, the District Court...

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17 practice notes
  • Davis v. State of North Carolina, No. 9256.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 8, 1964
    ...U.S. 855, 81 S.Ct. 816, 5 L.Ed.2d 819. 3 Davis v. North Carolina, E.D.N.C., 196 F.Supp. 488. 4 Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904. 5 Davis v. North Carolina, E.D.N.C., 221 F.Supp. 6 The District Court found that the request of prayer originated with Davis. The prayer int......
  • Hall v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary, No. 8592.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • January 17, 1963
    ...F.2d 875 (4th Cir., 1962). 1 Mason v. Mathiasen Tanker Industries, Inc., 4 Cir., 298 F.2d 28; Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904; Gardner, as Adm'x, v. National Bulk Carriers, Inc., etc. et al., 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 2 Hall v. Warden, 201 F.Supp. 639. --------...
  • Davis v. State of North Carolina, No. 815
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 20, 1966
    ...reversed and remanded the case to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of the voluntariness of Davis' confessions. 310 F.2d 904. A hearing was held in the District Court, following which the District Judge again held that the confessions were voluntary. 221 F.Supp. 494......
  • Kirk v. State, No. 3423
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 15, 1966
    ...the confession. 7 This procedure was followed by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904, 908. Davis' conviction was ultimately reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. State of North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 86 S.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Davis v. State of North Carolina, No. 9256.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 8, 1964
    ...U.S. 855, 81 S.Ct. 816, 5 L.Ed.2d 819. 3 Davis v. North Carolina, E.D.N.C., 196 F.Supp. 488. 4 Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904. 5 Davis v. North Carolina, E.D.N.C., 221 F.Supp. 6 The District Court found that the request of prayer originated with Davis. The prayer int......
  • Hall v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary, No. 8592.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • January 17, 1963
    ...F.2d 875 (4th Cir., 1962). 1 Mason v. Mathiasen Tanker Industries, Inc., 4 Cir., 298 F.2d 28; Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904; Gardner, as Adm'x, v. National Bulk Carriers, Inc., etc. et al., 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 2 Hall v. Warden, 201 F.Supp. 639. --------...
  • Davis v. State of North Carolina, No. 815
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 20, 1966
    ...reversed and remanded the case to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of the voluntariness of Davis' confessions. 310 F.2d 904. A hearing was held in the District Court, following which the District Judge again held that the confessions were voluntary. 221 F.Supp. 494......
  • Kirk v. State, No. 3423
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 15, 1966
    ...the confession. 7 This procedure was followed by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Davis v. State of North Carolina, 4 Cir., 310 F.2d 904, 908. Davis' conviction was ultimately reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. State of North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 86 S.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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