People v. Langley

Decision Date13 August 1975
Docket NumberDocket No. 21279
Citation63 Mich.App. 339,234 N.W.2d 513
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Mary L. LANGLEY, Defendant-Appellee. 63 Mich.App. 339, 234 N.W.2d 513
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

[63 MICHAPP 340] Robert E. Berg, Jr., Detroit, for plaintiff-appellant.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., William L. Cahalan, Pros. Atty., Patricia J. Boyle, Appellate Chief Asst. Pros. Atty., Raymond P. Walsh, Asst. Pros. Atty., for defendant-appellee.

Before DANHOF, P.J., and R. B. BURNS and MAHER, JJ.

DANHOF, Presiding, Judge.

Defendant Mary L. Langley is charged with second-degree murder. M.C.L.A. § 750.317; M.S.A. § 28.549. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence and statements. From this order, the plaintiff appeals by leave granted.

The record in this case indicates that on May 13, 1974 at approximately 2:30 p.m. a unit of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) of the Detroit Fire Department arrived at the home of the victim, Sidney Smith, and found him dead with numerous puncture wounds in his chest. An EMS man then called the police, who arrived at approximately 2:55 p.m. The police officers went into the bedroom where the victim's body was located.

Shortly after 3 p.m. the police officers led the defendant from a hallway near the bedroom into the front room. One of the officers then asked the defendant what had happened. The defendant stated that she had left the house at 12 o'clock noon and returned at 2:44 p.m. and found the victim laying face down between the well and the bed. She had pulled him on to the bed and then called the EMS.

Subsequent to this question and response, the police officer was informed that earlier a witness had seen the defendant place something in a garbage receptacle in the alley. The police later found a knife wrapped in newspaper and placed in a paper bag in a garbage receptacle in the alley.

At the time of the question, the defendant was not informed of her Miranda rights. 1 The defendant was not under arrest, but the officer did state that she was not free to leave. The officer further stated he was not suspicious of the defendant until [63 MICHAPP 342] he was informed that she had been seen putting something in a garbage receptacle. However, the officer did refer to her as a suspect at the time of the question.

On May 14, 1974, another police officer responded to a phone call from the deceased's brother, who informed the officer that he was at the house of the deceased and that he had found a blouse he believed had a blood spot on it. Upon arrival at the house, the officer received the blouse from the brother. The brother then admitted the police into the bedroom where the homicide occurred. The police seized a towel and a heating pad found in the bedroom.

The first issue presented is whether the defendant was entitled to her Miranda warnings before the police officer asked her what had happened.

People v. Reed, 393 Mich. 342, 357, 224 N.W.2d 867, 873 (1975), states the applicable test:

'In determining whether the investigation had become accusatory and the defendant entitled to his Miranda warnings, the Court of Appeals applied the rule in People v. Wasson, 31 Mich.App. 638, 642, 188 N.W.2d 55 (1971), that the 'deciding factor, in each case, is determined by examining the specificity of the investigation, I.e., whether the investigation has focused on one suspect'. 49 Mich.App. 308, 319, 212 N.W.2d 41, 46. * * * We approve the test employed and believe it should be used by examining the totality of the circumstances.'

People v. Jackson, 37 Mich.App. 664, 195 N.W.2d 312 (1972), Lv. den., 388 Mich. 767 (1972), provides guidance as to what circumstances do not warrant giving Miranda warnings. In Jackson, the police entered the dwelling where the homicide occurred, saw the deceased in a pool of blood, and then confronted the defendant. The police officer [63 MICHAPP 343] initially asked the defendant his name. He then asked the defendant, 'What happened?' To this question, the defendant made certain statements. The officer testified that he considered the defendant a suspect as soon as he had seen the body of the deceased. As to whether these circumstances warranted the Miranda warnings, the Court stated at 669, 195 N.W.2d at 314:

'It is quite obvious that Any questioning Anywhere by a police officer generates some pressures and anxieties. However, before defendant's contention can be afforded substance under Miranda, the question that must be answered is whether he was in custody or deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way when the officer asked 'What happened?' Therefore, it is necessary for this Court to determine under what circumstances the statements of defendant were made.

'The question asked by the officer was not the product of a process of interrogation aimed at eliciting incriminatory statements from one whom an investigation had focused upon. Instead, it was a situation of an officer reacting naturally and spontaneously to the scene before him. It was a routine means of commencing an investigation and not an inquiry made pursuant to an already-launched investigation. The defendant had not as yet been placed under arrest; neither was he in foreign surroundings nor in a 'police-dominated atmosphere' as stressed in Miranda.'

The Court concluded that the case presented no violation of Miranda.

As in People v. Jackson, the police in the present case entered the dwelling, viewed the body, and confronted the defendant. In his initial inquiry, the police officer asked, 'What happened?' Even though the officer referred to the defendant as a suspect at this point, the officer was not particularly suspicious of the defendant. The officer did not become suspicious to the point that [63 MICHAPP 344] it could be said that he focused on the defendant to an accusatory degree until he learned the defendant had been seen disposing of something in the alley. Further, for general investigatory reasons, a police officer would not let any person at the scene of the crime leave without some initial interrogation. There is no evidence of physical restraint or the use of other coercion on the defendant at the time this initial question was asked so that it could be said she was deprived of her freedom of action in any significant way. Therefore, under the totality of the circumstances shown in the record, the response by the defendant may not be suppressed because at the time the question was asked the defendant was not yet entitled to the Miranda warnings. The trial court ruling suppressing the defendant's statement is reversed.

The second issue is whether the blouse received by the police from the brother of the deceased should be suppressed as an unreasonable seizure under U.S.Const., Am. IV.

Admission of evidence obtained by a private individual, not acting under the authority of the state, is not prohibited by the U.S.Const., Am. IV, whether his actions were reasonable or not. People v. Smith, 31 Mich.App. 366, 373--374, 188 N.W.2d 16 (1971).

In the instant case, the brother entered the house of the deceased, found the blouse, and seized it. There is nothing in the record to indicate any governmental involvement other than accepting the blouse from the brother. The police did not encourage the brother to obtain the evidence, nor did the police authorize the brother to seize it. Therefore, the blouse received from the brother was not obtained in violation of the U.S.Const., Am. IV. The trial court ruling suppressing the blouse [63 MICHAPP 345] as evidence to be used against the defendant is reversed.

The third issue is whether the trial court erred in suppressing as evidence the towel and the heating pad, which the police seized after the brother consented to a search of the decedent's bedroom.

Where the defendant and a third person are joint owners and joint occupants of a bedroom and property to be seized is jointly handled, the defendant assumes the risk that the third person will consent to seizure of those items by the police. People v. Chism, 390 Mich. 104, 136--139, 211 N.W.2d 193 (1973). Where the defendant's possession and control is exclusive of that third person, the...

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9 cases
  • People v. Nash
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • October 20, 1981
    ...discovery of the corpse is beyond the purview of Fourth Amendment unreasonable search considerations, citing People v. Langley, 63 Mich.App. 339, 234 N.W.2d 513 (1975); People v. Smith, 31 Mich.App. 366, 188 N.W.2d 16 (1971). We agree that Mrs. Ballard discovered the body while acting as a ......
  • People v. Perlos
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • July 18, 1988
    ...no knowledge on the part of the police, seizes evidence and then voluntarily turns the evidence over to police. People v. Langley, 63 Mich.App. 339, 234 N.W.2d 513 (1975); People v. DeLeon, 103 Mich.App. 225, 303 N.W.2d 447 (1981), lv. den. 412 Mich. 935 (1982). In each of those cases, the ......
  • People v. Abdalla
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 23, 1976
    ...his parents to remove the bullet. Therefore, he was acting strictly as a private person. This Court stated in People v. Langley, 63 Mich.App. 339, 344, 234 N.W.2d 513, 516 (1975), as 'Admission of evidence obtained by a private individual, not acting under the authority of the state, is not......
  • People v. DeLeon, Docket No. 47057
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • January 23, 1981
    ...actions were reasonable or not. People v. Harry James Smith, 31 Mich.App. 366, 373-374, 188 N.W.2d 16 (1971)." People v. Langley, 63 Mich.App. 339, 344, 234 N.W.2d 513 (1975). In the present case, there is no contention or evidence that the police encouraged or authorized the actions of def......
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