Heideman v. United States

Decision Date25 September 1958
Docket NumberNo. 14414.,14414.
PartiesPaul J. HEIDEMAN, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Mr. Walter E. Gillcrist, Washington, D. C. (appointed by the District Court), for appellant.

Mr. Louis M. Kaplan, Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U. S. Atty., Carl W. Belcher and Joel D. Blackwell, Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before MADDEN, Judge, United States Court of Claims,* and BAZELON and BURGER, Circuit Judges.

Petition for Rehearing En Banc Denied November 17, 1958.

BURGER, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, convicted of robbery, challenges admission of a confession, and the trial court's instructions on the law of robbery. On the night of October 24, 1957, a taxicab driver was struck over the head by one of his two passengers and robbed. The following morning, Detective Conley, assigned to the case, learned that the passengers, identified as sailors, had boarded the cab about 11:00 p. m.; that they had directed the driver to take them to the 2200 block of T Place, Southeast; that in conversation the driver heard them mention the name "Skylark Restaurant"; Conley also learned that on the prior evening seven sailors had been at that restaurant and that during the evening one of them had been arrested by the Armed Services police; the arrestee was attached to the U.S.S. Tallahatche, then docked in Washington.

Detective Conley went to the ship, and from the arrested sailor learned the names of the six others who were at the Skylark on the previous evening. At that time he confronted five of the sailors and asked each of them if they knew anything about a taxi driver being held up the previous night. Each, including appellant and his codefendant Brennan, replied in the negative. He further learned that two of the seven sailors had left the restaurant at about 10:40 p. m., and that these two were appellant and co-defendant Brennan. Detective Conley further developed that the walking time from the restaurant to the intersection where the cab had been hailed was about 15 minutes. He also ascertained that appellant knew the sister of a sailor on the ship, and she lived in the 1900 block of T Place, Southeast.

On the basis of the above information, the Armed Services police on the same day (October 25) brought the appellant and Brennan from the ship to police head-quarters, and turned them over to Conley in the Robbery Squad office at about 3:00 p. m.

When the two defendants were brought into the Robbery Squad office, Detective Conley took Brennan back to a rear room (the Captain's office) for the purpose of interrogating him. Conley first asked Brennan what he knew about the robbery, and Brennan denied any knowledge of it. Conley presented what he had learned from his investigation; Brennan then admitted being present and riding in the front seat of the taxi, and that he had pulled on the emergency brake before fleeing after the driver had been struck by another person. Brennan's questioning began at about 3:05 and lasted 10 or 15 minutes. While Brennan was being interrogated, appellant remained out in the main section of the squad room, out of earshot, but in sight of Conley and Brennan. During this interval he was not questioned.

Conley then summoned appellant to his desk and asked him what he knew about the robbery. Appellant denied knowing anything. Conley told him what Brennan had said, but appellant denied knowledge. Conley asked appellant if he wanted to hear Brennan tell his own story, and he said he did. Brennan was then called in, and he repeated his story to appellant, but appellant still maintained he knew nothing of the robbery. Conley then commenced to type up papers for the arraignment of both suspects before a U. S. Commissioner. When he had almost completed the papers on appellant, he asked him whether he wished to make any further statement, at which point appellant confessed to the crime, saying he had sat in the back seat of the taxi and had struck the driver with a sock filled with gravel. The time was now between 3:30 and 3:45. Separate interrogation of the two suspects had covered a total of 25 to 30 minutes, allowing some time for preparation of arraignment papers by the detective. Appellant and Brennan were then booked, photographed and fingerprinted, and at about 4:10 or 4:15, barely one hour after arrest, as we have noted, they arrived at the U. S. Commissioner's office and were arraigned. The total elapsed time between arrest and confession was not less than 30 minutes nor more than 45 minutes. Within 30 minutes from the confession appellant was arraigned.

I — Admissibility of Confession

At trial, appellant objected to Detective Conley's testimony as to the oral confession, and after a hearing, the trial court held it admissible. We find on this record there was no "unnecessary delay" between appellant's arrest and his arraignment,1 and hold that the voluntary statements made to Detective Conley were admissible. Obviously, in a short time interval, there is less likely to be "unnecessary delay" than if a longer period elapses, but judicial evaluation of whether the "delay" was necessary or "unnecessary" must be made on the basis of all the circumstances. Delay after a confession is less crucial than delay before a confession. Here the time elapsed between commencement of the interviews (3:15 or 3:20) and arrival at the arraigning authority (4:10 or 4:15) was so brief that we can fairly say that it was spent in ordinary and necessary police administrative procedures. The time lapse from the commencement of appellant's interrogation to his oral confession was between 10 and 20 minutes. Yet we need not rely on presumptions for the evidence affirmatively shows there was nothing more than appropriate inquiry to make sure that the police were not charging the wrong persons.2

At the outset, the police, assuming they have probable cause for arrest, are entitled to ask the arrested suspect what he knows about a crime.3 If he denies knowledge, they are entitled to state to him what evidence they have and ask whether he cares to comment upon it. A strong circumstantial case which would satisfy the U. S. Commissioner, prima facie, might well be explained away by a suspect who knew what information the police relied on — hence leading to no charge being made. If the suspect continues to deny knowledge, the police are entitled to conclude the interview by saying, in effect, "Do you have anything further to tell us, or do you just want to let it stand the way it is?" which was what Detective Conley asked appellant. Such questions as these the police may ask — indeed should ask; it is only when the questioning crosses into what can be termed "grilling," or is continued beyond the brief period allowed, that the resulting confession may be held inadmissible.

The record shows the time interval here was consumed only by the questions outlined above, and by the preparing of papers, booking, photographing, fingerprinting and transportation, all of which are not only proper activities but necessary.

II — Intoxication as Defense

The second question is whether the trial court should have instructed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty if it found that appellant was so intoxicated as to be incapable of forming the intent to rob. The appellant asked for such an instruction, but the trial court denied it.

Drunkenness is not per se an excuse for crime,4 but nevertheless it may in many instances be relevant to the issue of intent.5 One class of cases where drunkenness may be relevant on the issue of intent is the category of crimes where specific intent is required.6 Robbery falls into this category, and a defendant accused of robbery is entitled to an instruction on drunkenness as bearing on intent if the evidentiary groundwork has been adequately laid. Such an instruction is necessary, however, only if sufficient evidence on the intoxication issue has been introduced so that a reasonable man could possibly entertain a doubt therefrom that the accused was able to form the necessary intent.7 The record before us does not reveal such a case.8 Drunkenness, while efficient to reduce or remove inhibitions,9 does not readily negate intent.10

Appellant's careful advance preparation for the crime, before boarding the cab, by filling a sock with gravel to use as an efficient but silent weapon with which to render the cab driver helpless, the rifling of his pockets and taking of his wallet show that appellant's mind was working logically, rationally and efficiently to the execution of his criminal purpose. We might add to that the not insignificant fact that the seating arrangement, with Brennan in the front seat ready to apply the brake, and appellant in the rear seat where he could more readily use his "sandbag" on the victim, like the other carefully calculated steps, including prompt flight, is not the work of a man so intoxicated as to be unable to form the intent to rob. We hold that the evidence in this case could not create a reasonable doubt in the mind of any reasonable man as to whether appellant possessed the requisite intent as to each element of the crime of robbery.11


BAZELON, Circuit Judge (dissenting).

I agree with the majority that "a defendant accused of robbery is entitled to an instruction on drunkenness as bearing on intent if the evidentiary groundwork has been adequately laid." I cannot, however, agree with the majority that the evidentiary groundwork was lacking in the instant case.

In Brenan v. Commonwealth, 1945, 183 Va. 846, 33 S.E.2d 639, 640, cited by the majority in support of its holding, the evidence showed that the defendant had drunk "some beer" and had with him nearly four quarts of whiskey and, in the opinion of a policeman, "had been...

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