Hicks v. United States, 20240.

Citation127 US App. DC 209,382 F.2d 158
Decision Date07 July 1967
Docket NumberNo. 20240.,20240.
PartiesSheilah C. HICKS, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)

Mr. Richard T. Conway, Washington, D. C., with whom Mr. John R. Kramer, Washington, D. C. (both appointed by this court), was on the brief, for appellant.

Mr. Henry F. Field, Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Messrs. David G. Bress, U. S. Atty., Frank Q. Nebeker and John H. Treanor, Jr., Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before BURGER, TAMM and ROBINSON, Circuit Judges.

BURGER, Circuit Judge:

Appellant was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for a term of two to eight years for killing one Hoyte White, the man with whom she lived. She claims on appeal (1) that an oral admission that she stabbed White was improperly admitted into evidence; (2) that it was improper for the Government in rebuttal to read from Appellant's subsequent written statement; and (3) that there was not sufficient evidence corroborating Appellant's statements for the case to go to the jury.

Appellant and White lived in a second-floor room of a rooming house. At about 5:00 a. m. on Saturday, March 20, 1965, the police responded to a report initiated by Appellant that there was an unconscious man in her room. They were met by Appellant, who told them she could not rouse White. She told the police that White had arrived home from work Friday evening bleeding from a wound in his chest which he said he had received at the hands of some "jitterbugs" who had jumped, robbed, and stabbed him. The police found White dead in bed with wounds in his chest and jaw. There was a small amount of blood on the undershirt and shorts he was wearing, on the sheet and blanket, and on the floor between the bed and the wall. There was no sign of disorder in the room. The police found White's jacket, which had a hole corresponding with his chest wound, and his overcoat, which had blood on it but no hole.

The police questioned Appellant about White's habits, the route he would have taken home from work, his friends, associates, and debtors and about her own activities that evening. At 6:15 a. m. Detective Cannon sent other officers to verify the place of White's employment, which Appellant had described as a hotel near a stated intersection, and to trace his route homeward.

Cannon told Appellant he intended to take her to the Homicide Squad Office at Police Headquarters to prepare a written report of what she had told them; she was also told she would be taken home when this was finished. Detective Cannon testified that while he generally considers everyone found on the scene of a homicide as a "suspect in a way," he did not consider Appellant a suspect; in short her statements were considered plausible.

On the way to Headquarters with Appellant, the police attempted to locate White's sister and made another stop to buy a package of cigarettes which Appellant requested. They arrived at Headquarters at 6:40 a. m. and went to a private room in the rear of the Homicide Squad Office. Appellant was interviewed and her statement was typed in about two hours, 45 minutes being consumed by interruptions for Cannon to attend to other police business.

Cannon asked Appellant to read and sign the statement if she found it to be accurate. As she started to read it, she said she was "in trouble." Cannon asked what she meant by that and she responded, "Well, it just looks like I am in trouble." He offered her a phone to call a lawyer, assuring her that the lawyer "will tell you that you are a witness and what you are saying is what you know about the man's death." Shortly thereafter she signed. Cannon then offered to provide a ride home as soon as a driver was available. While they were waiting, they talked about a church where Appellant had been the previous evening and with which Cannon was acquainted. In the midst of this conversation, Appellant repeated her fear about being "in trouble," and at 9:05 a. m., she leaned forward and said "Well, I might as well tell you, I stabbed him." Cannon testified that at once he said

stop right there. I want to tell you right now you are under arrest. You are charged with homicide. You are entitled to the services of a lawyer and a bondsman. You don\'t have to say anything. If you do, I am going to take it down and it can possibly be used against you. If you can\'t get your own lawyer, the Court will appoint one.

The District Judge found that Appellant's oral statement had been voluntarily given, and his ruling is not challenged here; he also found "that she was not under compulsion at the time she went down to Headquarters, that she was acting voluntarily and that the inquiries of the police were of a general nature, not direct at her, not focused upon her * * as a suspect."

(1) The Oral Admission

Appellant argued that her oral admission that she had stabbed White was inadmissible on three alternative grounds: (a) that it was made during an illegal arrest;1 (b) that if the arrest were legal, it was made during an illegal detention prior to being taken before a United States Commissioner;2 or (c) that it was the product of custodial interrogation in the absence of requested counsel.3

The first two claims turn on whether Appellant was under arrest when she left her room or at any point when she was engaged with police in preparing her report of the event. That answer must be found not merely in Appellant's subjective feeling as to whether she was under arrest, but also in the nature of police intentions and actions in all the surrounding circumstances. "To constitute an arrest, there must be an actual or constructive seizure or detention of the person, performed with the intention to effect an arrest and so understood by the person detained." Jenkins v. United States, 161 F.2d 99, 101 (10th Cir. 1947); accord, Fisher v. United States, 324 F.2d 775 (8th Cir. 1963), cert. denied, 377 U.S. 999, 84 S.Ct. 1935, 12 L.Ed.2d 1049 (1964). The thought processes of both the police and Appellant, to the extent they can be discerned, are considerations, but

the test must be not what the defendant * * * thought, but what a reasonable man, innocent of any crime, would have thought had he been in the defendant\'s shoes."

United States v. McKethan, 247 F.Supp. 324, 328 (D.D.C.1965) (Youngdahl, J.), aff'd by order, No. 20,059 (D.C.Cir., Oct. 6, 1966). We reject the claim that a defendant's belief that he was under arrest is controlling; his subjective beliefs are a factor but they must be considered by the trier along with evidence of his conduct and all the surrounding circumstances.

We hold there was ample evidence to sustain the District Court findings and conclusion that no arrest occurred when Appellant was taken to Police headquarters to secure a written statement from her as a material witness in a homicide case. The detective who interrogated Appellant at her home might well have concluded that, apart from the need for transcribing facilities available only at the police office, the room where White lay dead was not conducive to an unemotional recall of all relevant facts.

Advising Appellant they wanted her to come to Headquarters, rather than "requesting" or "inviting" her, does not alter our view. See Hutcherson v. United States, 122 U.S.App.D.C. 51, 53, 351 F.2d 748, 750 (1965); Scarbeck v. United States, 115 U.S.App.D.C. 135, 152, 154, 317 F.2d 546, 563-565 (1962), cert. denied, 374 U.S. 856, 83 S.Ct. 1897, 10 L.Ed.2d 1077 (1963). An assumption that one is required to cooperate with the police can hardly be equated with an arrest; every citizen has a duty to assist police officers up to the point of self-incrimination. The cooperative innocent person would find it oppressive indeed if courts were to hold every person interrogated must first be taken before a magistrate and subjected to the judicial processes applicable to a person criminally charged, i. e., warned that he had a right to maintain silence and to counsel as a preliminary to interrogation.

The next inquiry is whether Appellant came under arrest at the Homicide Squad office before her oral admission. It is undisputed that at no time was Appellant restrained. Appellant's non-incriminating written statement indicates that the police were treating her as a witness; it discloses that Appellant told the police about White's habits and movements of the previous evening and then answered other questions. In only a minor degree can any of the questions put to her be thought as touching on Appellant's possible involvement; as to these questions she gave exculpatory answers which satisfied the police. After the statement was prepared and Appellant demurred about signing, Cannon explicitly assured her that he considered her only a witness. Appellant at no time made an attempt...

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