People v. Arthur

Decision Date14 June 1968
Citation239 N.E.2d 537,22 N.Y.2d 325,292 N.Y.S.2d 663
Parties, 239 N.E.2d 537 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Limuel ARTHUR, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

David O. Boehm, Rochester, for appellant.

John C. Little, Jr., Dist. Atty., (Norman A. Palmiere, Rochester, of counsel), for respondent.

SCILEPPI, Judge.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on July 24, 1963, the defendant, while walking across the Clarissa Street Bridge in the City of Rochester, either dropped or threw his two-year-old son into the Genesee River. The child was rescued and suffered no serious injuries.

The defendant was arrested near the scene of the incident and immediately confessed that he had thrown his son into the river. The defendant was placed in a police car and brought to the Detective Division of Police Headquarters' where he was questioned by the police. At approximately 6:30 p.m., one of the interrogating officers began typing a statement which was signed by the defendant at approximately 6:45 p.m.

In the meantime Herbert Stern, an attorney, was at home watching the 6:00 p.m. news on television. The first item in the newscast dealt with the incident at the Clarissa Street Bridge and the arrest of the defendant. Mr. Stern, who had known the defendant for a period of two years and who had acted as his personal attorney in several matters, including an accident case which was pending in July of 1963, became concerned and decided to go to police headquarters 'to see what had happened'. He left his home at about 6:05 p.m. and arrived at Police Headquarters at 15 or 20 minutes after six. Mr. Stern approached Deputy Chief Jensen who seemed to be in charge of the investigation. He identified himself as an attorney representing the defendant and asked to see him. Officer Jensen replied that he was not sure if Stern could see the defendant, but he would find out and let him know. Jensen left the room and returned a few minutes later. He told Stern that the police were finishing up with their questioning and, if he waited a few minutes, he could see the defendant.

After the police completed questioning the defendant, Stern was admitted to the interrogation room where he spoke to the defendant. Stern testified that the defendant appeared to be intoxicated and that he was unable to coherently answer his questions except to say that 'the boy was in the river'. After speaking to the defendant for 10 or 11 minutes, Mr. Stern left the interrogation room and told Officer Jensen, 'I think this fellow is pretty sick and I think you should leave him alone. There is no sense in talking to him anymore'. Mr. Stern testified that he had not been asked by anyone to go to Police Headquarters and that he went there on his own because he felt he had an obligation to the defendant.

On the following morning, the defendant was questioned, in the absence of an attorney, by Detective Fantigrossi. The defendant made incriminating statements.

The defendant was tried on an indictment charging him with attempted murder in the first degree. The defendant's written confession was admitted against him over trial counsel's objection. In addition, Detective Fantigrossi testified to the incriminating statements made by the defendant on the morning following his arrest. This testimony was not objected to. At the close of the trial, the defendant was found guilty of attempted murder in the second degree.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed without opinion.

Relying on People v. Donovan, 13 N.Y.2d 148, 243 N.Y.S.2d 841, 193 N.E.2d 628; People v. Failla, 14 N.Y.2d 178, 250 N.Y.S.2d 267, 199 N.E.2d 366 and People v. Gunner, 15 N.Y.2d 226, 257 N.Y.S.2d 924, 205 N.E.2d 852, the defendant argues that the written confession is inadmissible because all or part of it was obtained after his attorney had requested to see him. He also contends that the oral admissions made to Detective Fantigrossi are inadmissible because they were obtained in the absence of counsel after his attorney had been granted access to him.

In response to the defendant's contentions, the People argue that the cases relied on by the defendant are inapposite since there is no evidence that Mr. Stern was retained by the defendant or by anyone on his behalf before he arrived at Police Headquarters, and since Mr. Stern took no positive action to protect the defendant's rights once he arrived on the scene.

While it is true that the defendants in Donovan, Gunner and Failla were represented by retained counsel, the holdings in these cases were not dependent upon that factor. Indeed, in enunciating the fundamental right of the accused to be represented by counsel, we painted with broad strokes. Thus, in People v. Donovan, Judge Fuld, speaking for the court, stated 13 N.Y.2d at page 151, 243 N.Y.S.2d at page 843, 193 N.E.2d at page 629: '(W)e are of the opinion that quite apart from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, this State's constitutional and statutory provisions pertaining to the privilege against self incrimination and the right to counsel * * *, not to mention our own guarantee of due process * * *, require the exclusion of a confession taken from a defendant, during a period of detention, after his attorney had requested and been denied access to him' (accord People v. Failla, 14 N.Y.2d 178, 180, 250 N.Y.S.2d 267, 269, 199 N.E.2d 366, 367).

Similarily, in People v. Gunner (supra) it was argued that Donovan and Failla were...

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    ...counsel's presence. (People v. Hobson (1976) 39 N.Y.2d 479, 384 N.Y.S.2d 419, 421, 348 N.E.2d 894, 897; People v. Arthur (1968) 22 N.Y.2d 325, 292 N.Y.S.2d 663, 665, 239 N.E.2d 537, 539.) Other courts have not adopted New York's later rule that the suspect must consult with any lawyer who s......
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