People v. Crawl, 7

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtCOLEMAN; RYAN; Levin; MOODY; LEVIN; KAVANAGH, C. J., and FITZGERALD
Citation401 Mich. 1,257 N.W.2d 86
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Claude Eugene CRAWL, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 7,7
Decision Date29 August 1977

Page 86

257 N.W.2d 86
401 Mich. 1
PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Claude Eugene CRAWL, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 7.
Supreme Court of Michigan.
Aug. 29, 1977.

Page 87

[401 Mich. 7] William L. Cahalan, Pros. Atty., Edward Reilly Wilson, Research, Training & Appeals, Robert A. Reuther, Asst. Pros. Atty., Detroit, for plaintiff-appellee.

State Appellate Defender's Office by Chari Grove, Asst. Defender, Detroit, for defendant-appellant; Steven L. Schwartz, Detroit, of counsel.

COLEMAN, Justice (Reversing in part, affirming in part).

Because this case was administratively held in abeyance pending the decision in People v. Carter, 395 Mich. 434, 236 N.W.2d 500 (1975), I concur in the result reached by Justice Levin in Part I of his opinion. The defendant's case should be remanded to the trial court for entry of a judgment of conviction for second degree murder and for resentencing. 1

[401 Mich. 8] I cannot agree with Justice Levin that Sergeant Ewald's cursory search of the bedroom during a potentially life endangering situation while the occupants of the apartment were not yet under police control was unjustified or illegal. He acted reasonably to protect the lives of his fellow officers.


At approximately 9:00 p. m. on May 11, 1971, Detective Sergeants Edward Ewald and Lawrence Kelly of the Detroit police department received a radio message directing them to investigate a robbery and shooting at a Detroit bar. They arrived at the bar at approximately 9:15 p. m. There they were told that sometime between 8:30 p. m. and 8:50 p. m. two men armed with

Page 88

handguns had robbed the bar and killed the bartender. One of the handguns used in the crime had already been recovered. They were also told that one of the robbers had been wounded, captured and taken to Detroit General Hospital.

At approximately 11:30 p. m. Ewald and Kelly went to the hospital and spoke with the wounded robber. He told them that the other robber's name was Claude Crawl and that Crawl was the one who had shot the bartender. He gave them a rough description of Crawl and the address of an apartment in Highland Park where Crawl could be found. He also said a third man was involved in the robbery, but he did not name or describe the man or say where the man could be found.

Ewald and Kelly left the hospital and radioed the Highland Park police department for assistance. [401 Mich. 9] Soon a Highland Park scout car with three uniformed officers joined them and the group drove towards the Highland Park address where Crawl was said to be. They arrived at the address shortly after midnight.

The address was a two-story apartment building. The wounded robber had said Crawl would be in apartment 204. The Highland Park officers warned Ewald and Kelly that there had been trouble, including shootings, at this apartment building in the past. One Highland Park officer drove the scout car into an alley behind the building and remained with the car. Ewald, Kelly and the remaining Highland Park officers approached the building's front entrance. They pinpointed the location of apartment 204. Ewald positioned himself in an alcove from which he could observe the apartment's windows and the front of the building. Kelly and the two officers continued upstairs to the apartment.

When Kelly and the two officers reached the apartment, Kelly knocked on the door. One of the occupants of the apartment opened the door and admitted the three policemen into a small hallway. Straight ahead the hallway led to the living room and kitchen. Three steps from the door on the left side of the hallway was the entrance to a small bedroom. The occupants were scurrying all through the apartment. The three policemen ran through the apartment looking for Crawl and trying to bring the occupants under control.

Meanwhile, Ewald observed from his position downstairs a man climb out one of the apartment's windows and jump to the ground. Ewald shouted for the man to halt and identified himself as a police officer. The man walked a few steps and then halted. Ewald determined that the man was [401 Mich. 10] Claude Crawl, placed him under arrest and ordered him back to the apartment.

Approximately two minutes after Kelly and the two officers were admitted to the apartment, Ewald and Crawl appeared at the door. The door was open and Ewald directed Crawl, who was now handcuffed, inside. Ewald turned Crawl over to the control of one of the officers. Another man and two women were in the living room. They were milling or running around. There was much confusion. Kelly and the other officer were trying to persuade the occupants to sit down and stay still. At this point, Ewald looked in the bedroom. No one was there. Ewald then looked under or on the bed and saw a small black barber's case. 2 He opened the unlocked case and found a chrome plated handgun, live and spent shells, barber's tools and identification cards belonging to Crawl. Ewald did not look anywhere else in the bedroom. He seized the case and its contents, and took these items to police headquarters along with Crawl and the three occupants, who had been arrested on narcotics charges. Crawl was charged with first-degree murder after confessing to the crime.

Before trial, Crawl filed a motion to suppress the items seized at the apartment. After an evidentiary hearing, the motion was denied. The items were admitted into evidence against Crawl at his trial. Several

Page 89

witnesses identified the gun as looking like one of the guns used in the robbery. A ballistics expert testified that tests run on the gun and bullets found at the scene of the robbery showed that the gun was used in the robbery. Crawl testified that he was a barber. The identification cards found with the gun were Crawl's.

[401 Mich. 11] II

Justice Levin contends that at the point Sergeant Ewald entered the bedroom there was no justification for seizing and opening the barber's case. He says that "there was no danger that anyone in the apartment could grab the bag and * * * make use of any weapon contained in the bag". I respectfully disagree.

When Sergeant Ewald captured Crawl outside the apartment, he was not thereby prohibited from returning to the apartment to assist his fellow officers. When he entered the apartment, about two minutes after the raid began, the situation was not under police control. An unidentified man and two women were milling or running around the living room of this small apartment. There was a great deal of confusion. The man could have been the third robber. The other handgun used in the crime was not accounted for. The officers had every reason to believe they were in a life endangering situation. There had been trouble, including shootings, at this apartment building in the past. It was dark and late at night. They were looking for a murderer and an accomplice who might well be prepared to kill again.

Under these circumstances, I cannot say that Sergeant Ewald's cursory search was unreasonable or illegal. The lack of police control and the dangerousness of the situation justified his proceeding without first obtaining a search warrant. To have delayed would have needlessly endangered the lives of his fellow officers.

Justice Levin relies heavily upon Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685 (1969) and United States v. Chadwick, --- U.S. ----, 97 S.Ct. 2476, 53 L.Ed.2d 538 (1977), to support his [401 Mich. 12] conclusion that the search in this case was illegal. The limits on the scope of warrantless searches established by these cases do not come into play until arrests have been made and the police are in control of the situation.

In Chimel, three policemen were admitted to the defendant's home by the defendant's wife and waited for the defendant to return from work. When he arrived, the police arrested him for burglary of a coin shop. Then, accompanied by the defendant's wife, the police conducted a detailed 45 minute search of every room in the house. In Chadwick, federal officers seized a double locked footlocker they suspected to contain marijuana. The footlocker was transported to a federal police building where it was locked in an evidence storage room. A few hours later, at their convenience, the officers opened and searched the footlocker.

Neither Chimel nor Chadwick involved uncontrolled and potentially life endangering situations like the situation in the case at bar. Also, the searches in those cases were much more intrusive than the quick, protective search undertaken here. Thus, I do not find either of these cases to be controlling or convincing precedents.

The case at bar is much more like Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 18 L.Ed.2d 782 (1967). There the police were told that an armed robber had just entered a certain address. The police went to the address, a two-story house, and knocked on the door. A woman answered the door and admitted the police. The police knew the robber was armed, but they did not know where in the house he was. They immediately fanned out through the house looking for the robber and for weapons. In the course of the next few minutes, one policeman found the [401 Mich. 13] robber in an upstairs bedroom and arrested him. Ammunition for a handgun and a cap worn by the robber during the robbery were found underneath the mattress of the robber's bed and ammunition for a shotgun was found in a bureau drawer. A sawed-off shotgun and a handgun were found on the main floor inside a toilet flush tank and clothing worn by the

Page 90

robber during the robbery was found in the basement inside a washing machine. The United States Supreme Court upheld the search for and seizure of all these items, saying:

"They (the police) acted reasonably when they entered the house and began to search for a man * * * and for weapons which he had used in the robbery or might use against them. The Fourth Amendment does not require police...

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