Myre v. State

Decision Date19 January 1977
Docket NumberNos. 52676,52677,s. 52676
Citation545 S.W.2d 820
PartiesRonald Frank MYRE, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Criminal Appeals

DALLY, Commissioner.

These appeals are from convictions for the offense of aggravated robbery; the punishment in each case is imprisonment for 75 years.

The appellant contends that the State willfully failed to disclose evidence favorable to him. This contention arises out of a 'Gaskin rule' error. Officer R. C. Johnson had made a prosecution report; it was a summary of witnesses' expected testimony taken from the offense reports made by other officers, and it was also a summary of the circumstances in which the appellant made written pre-trial confessions to Johnson.

Johnson testified out of the presence of the jury in a hearing to determine whether the appellant's confessions were voluntary. Article 38.22, V.A.C.C.P., and Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964). After Johnson had testified on direct examination defense counsel requested a copy of the prosecution report prepared by Johnson for use in his cross-examination. The prosecutor's objection was sustained. The record reflects that the report was denied defense counsel because Johnson had not refreshed his memory from the report prior to testifying. It was error not to permit counsel the use of the report even though it had not been used by Johnson to refresh his memory. Hoffman v. State, 514 S.W.2d 248 (Tex.Cr.App.1974); White v. State, 496 S.W.2d 642 (Tex.Cr.App.1973); Zanders v. State, 480 S.W.2d 708 (Tex.Cr.App.1972); Gaskin v. State, 353 S.W.2d 467 (Tex.Cr.App.1962). However, the record reflects that prior to the closing of the evidence the report was tendered to the defense counsel and he had an opportunity to interview Johnson after reading the report.

The appellant points out that Johnson testified before the court in the Jackson v. Denno hearing that he did not make Polaroid camera photographs of the appellant prior to taking the confessions. The report showed that Johnson did make Polaroid camera photographs of the appellant prior to taking the appellant's confessions. It is argued that the delay in tendering the report resulted in the defense using tactics that were not as effective as if the report had been made available at the proper time. Counsel asserts that if the report had been available at the proper time Johnson could have been impeached by its use. The appellant says then he would have testified before the jury, to raise before it the issue of the voluntariness of the confessions. In view of the record presented, including the prior convictions of the appellant, which would have become admissible, and the strength of the eyewitness' identification testimony, it is rather speculative to say that the delay in furnishing the report to defense counsel would have greatly changed the strategy and tactics used in the trial. The report was furnished before the testimony was closed. Defense counsel could have recalled Johnson for cross-examination and he could have then offered the appellant's testimony. We do not take the argument advanced here on appeal lightly, but we are convinced in light of the whole record, reversible error is not presented.

A more serious problem would be presented if it appeared that it was the State's intentional trial tactic to delay furnishing the report to defense counsel. The record reflects, however, that the State and the court, although wrong, were in good faith in believing that the Gaskin rule did not require that the report be made available to defense counsel when the witness had not refreshed his memory from the report. This misconception about the Gaskin rule has been explained in Hoffman v. State, supra; White v. State, supra; and Zanders v. State, supra. The State did not willfully fail to disclose evidence favorable to the appellant and the delay in furnishing defense counsel the report in these circumstances was not reversible error. See Sheldon v. State, 510 S.W.2d 936 (Tex.Cr.App.1974).

The appellant contends that the court erred in ruling that appellant's confession was voluntary and in failing to charge the jury on the issue of its voluntariness. In compliance with the requirements of Article 38.22, V.A.C.C.P., and Jackson v. Denno, supra, the court held a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine whether appellant's confession was voluntary.

We will summarize the evidence. Officer Johnson was investigating the robbery of Bonnie Bailey at Bonnie's Drive-in grocery. He worked the 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift. On May 31, 1975, he was told that the appellant was in jail charged with the robbery of Sandra Tharp at a One Hour Martinizing laundry. At about 11:30 p.m. Johnson brought appellant from the jail to question him concerning the robbery of Bonnie Bailey. Johnson told appellant he thought that appellant was involved in other robberies. When appellant started discussing the robbery at the grocery store, Johnson read appellant his constitutional rights as they are printed on the forms used to take an accused's confession. The form contains the warnings required by Article 38.22, V.A.C.C.P. and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). After he read appellant his rights, Johnson testified that he asked appellant if he understood them and appellant said that he did and wished to make a statement. Johnson took appellant's statement down in longhand, read this back to appellant, then had it typed on the forms. Thereafter, Johnson read the statement, including the printed warning at the top, to the appellant and he signed it. The same procedure was followed in obtaining appellant's confession to the robbery at the laundry. Johnson stated that he did not take appellant before a magistrate because he did not think one would be available at that late hour. It took approximately an hour and a half to two hours to take the statements.

Appellant testified at the hearing for the limited purpose of contesting the voluntariness of his statements. He stated that he was arrested between 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on May 31, 1975, and placed in jail about 6:00 p.m. He ate supper in the jail. At approximately 11:30 p.m. Officer Johnson took him to the interrogation room at the police department. He was photographed and told that they would show the pictures to witnesses. Appellant stated that Officer Johnson thumbed through a large book that listed robberies, told him they had filed charges against him for the robbery at the grocery store, and that they thought he had committed five or six armed robberies. He said he was asked if he wanted to make a statement or have his attorney present. When he told Johnson he wanted a lawyer, the officer told him he would be furnished one when he was transferred to County Jail. Appellant testified that when he said he didn't want to make a statement Officer Johnson slapped him off the chair and told him to get his business straightened up or they were going to file more charges. The officer left the room and was gone about fifteen to twenty-five minutes. When he came back he had in his hands a piece of white paper with writing on it. Appellant said that when he refused to sign it Johnson hit him again, twisted his arm behind his back, and said if he didn't sign it something a lot worse would happen. Thereafter, the appellant signed the statement, but said it was not read to him and he was not allowed to read it. He stated that he never saw the woman who signed the statement as a witness. Appellant further testified that Johnson never advised him of his rights, but that the officer who arrested him did read part of his rights. He said he was not taken before a magistrate until the next day. Appellant said that he did not sign the statement freely or voluntarily, but under harassment and abuse.

On cross-examination appellant admitted that he had previously been convicted of four cases of armed robbery and sentenced to fifteen years in prison on each case in 1966. Thereafter, Officer Johnson was recalled and denied each fact about which the appellant testified. In response to questions by the court Johnson denied each of the allegations of abuse, coercion, and threats.

The court overruled appellant's objections to the confessions and admitted them into evidence. Thereafter, the court filed written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court found beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant had been advised of his rights; that he understood them and knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his rights; that the statements were his voluntary statements; and that the statements were made in full compliance with Texas and Federal law and were therefore admissible.

The judge at the Jackson v. Denno hearing is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of the witnesses. He may choose to believe or disbelieve all or part of any witness' testimony. Aranda v. State, 506 S.W.2d 221 (Tex.Cr.App.1974). The evidence raised an issue of fact as to the voluntary nature of appellant's statements. There was ample evidence to support the trial judge's findings and we sustain the trial court's decision that the confession was voluntary and admissible in evidence. Short v. State,511 S.W.2d 288 (Tex.Cr.App.1974). The fact that appellant was not taken before a magistrate until after he gave his statement does not vitiate a confession that is otherwise properly obtained. Unreasonable delay in bringing an accused before a magistrate only renders the confession inadmissible upon a showing of some causal connection between the delay and the making of the confession. There is no such showing here. Jurek v....

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