People v. Stockman

Citation47 Cal.Rptr. 365,63 Cal.2d 494
Decision Date10 November 1965
Docket Number8436,Cr. 8417
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 407 P.2d 277 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. James Robert STOCKMAN, Ronald Anthony Cathcart and Genevieve Humble, Defendants and Appellants.

Eric A. Rose, Long Beach, Richard Levin, Los Angeles, and Kate Whyner, Hollywood, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendants and appellants.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and George J. Roth, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PETERS, Justice.

The three appellants were convicted of the first degree murder of Carroll Clayton Elwell. The jury imposed the death penalty on Stockman. His appeal is automatic. (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).) Appellants Cathcart and Humble were sentenced to life imprisonment. They appeal from the judgments so providing.

On January 5, 1964, Stockman, Cathcart, Miss Humble and Mrs. Horning, the latter two being sisters, left Florida in Stockman's car and came to California. They ultimately arrived in Long Beach, where, on January 11th, they checked in at a motel. Because they were short of funds, they checked out of the motel the next day, January 12 (a Sunday), intending to sleep in the car. The motel owner, however, permitted them to move back into their room for another night without charge.

At 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, the parties discussed the problem of how to raise some money. It was agreed that the two women would go to a bar and meet some men and set them up so they could be 'rolled.' Stockman gave each girl one dollar to get started.

The two women, Humble and Horning went to a bar where they met Elwell (the victim) and Snider. The four left the bar in Snider's car and went to Elwell's motel, stopping off at a liquor store on the way. Snider wanted to be alone with Horning, so he suggested that Elwell leave in Snider's car with Humble. Humble took Elwell, who was drunk, back to the motel where she was staying. She left Elwell in the car, and went in and told Stockman and Cathcart that she had a 'well-heeled sucker' in the car to be 'rolled.' She brought Stockman and Cathcart out and introduced them to Elwell as her brothers. It was suggested and agreed that the four go to a bar for a drink. They all got into the car. Cathcart drove, Humble sat next to him, and Elwell sat next to her on the right side. Stockman sat in the back seat on the right side. After they had driven two or three blocks, Stockman pulled out a gun and fired two successive shots at Elwell. The first bullet struck the victim in the back and the second hit him in the head. Either shot could have been fatal. Elwell's wallet was taken and his body was pushed out of the car.

Stockman, Cathcart, and Humble returned to their motel. They then left for Las Vegas in Stockman's car. In Las Vegas, Stockman sold his car and used the proceeds to buy a bus ticket to Pennsylvania. Cathcart and Humble were arrested near Las Vegas by the Las Vegas police on January 19th, and Stockman was arrested by the FBI in Philadelphia on January 28th.

The only evidence concerning what happened after Humble and Elwell left Snider and Horning came from statements given by the appellants. These statements were incriminating. Whether they were confessions or admissions, if inadmissible, they were highly prejudicial. (Cf. People v. Hillery, 62 A.C. 726, 746, 44 Cal.Rptr. 30, 401 P.2d 382.) The prosecution put these statements into evidence by way of four tape recordings and the testimony of a police detective as to two interrogations. The primary issue on this appeal is the admissibility of these statements under the rules enunciated in Escobedo v. State of Illinois (1964) 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977; People v. Dorado, 62 A.C. 350, 42 Cal.Rptr. 169, 398 P.2d 361; and their progeny.

It was held in People v. Stewart, 62 A.C. 597, 603, 43 Cal.Rptr. 201, 204, 400 P.2d 97, 99, that normally the accusatory stage is reached when the suspects have been placed under arrest and when the police 'carry out a process of interrogations that lends itself to eliciting incriminating statements.' Here all statements were obtained after the defendants had been arrested, so it must be ascertained whether the second requirement of Stewart has been met. In determining whether the police carried out a 'process of interrogations,' we must 'analyze the total situation which envelopes the questioning by considering such factors as the length of the interrogation, the place and time of the interrogation, the nature of the questions, the conduct of the police and all other relevant circumstances.' (Id. at p. 605, 43 Cal.Rptr. at p. 206, 400 P.2d at p. 102. See also People v. Sears, 62 A.C. 783, 44 Cal.Rptr. 330, 401 P.2d 938.) Such analysis demonstrates that in each instance the police were involved in a process of interrogations designed to elicit incriminating statements from the accused, and that, therefore, the accusatory stage had been reached.

Stockman made two statements, both of which were taped. The first was taken on January 29th in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Police Department after Stockman's arrest by Officers Castillo and Robertson of the Long Beach Police Department, who had flown east. This interview took place in 'the interrogation room.' The tape begins with an announcement by Officer Castillo describing the time, place, people present, and the type of tape recorder being used. This would seem to indicate clearly that the police contemplated using the tape in evidence, and thus must have expected to obtain incriminating statements from Stockman. The questions asked also indicate this expectation. Castillo began with, 'Jim, we want to uh get from you the details in connection with the homicide of one Rob--one Caroll Clayton Elwell, uh referred to by your acquaintances as Buz.' During this interrogation, Stockman made a complete confession, stating facts showing murder in the course of a robbery, which is first degree murder. (Pen.Code, § 189.)

Stockman was then taken back to Long Beach, where his second statement was taken the same day. This interview was conducted essentially as a continuation of the first one. Stockman repeated his confession and added some details.

A detective from the Clark County Sheriff's Department in Nevada testified that Cathcart and Humble were arrested near Las Vegas on January 19th and were brought to 'the interrogation room' individually the next morning, where they were interrogated by Officers Welch and Robertson from the Long Beach Police Department. Cathcart admitted that he was at the motel in Long Beach on the night of the killing. Humble admitted that she picked up Elwell but stated that Elwell later left her after she would not 'put out.' There is no other evidence concerning the factors listed in Stewart as relevant on the issue of whether these statements were the results of a process of interrogations designed to elicit incriminating statements. It may reasonably be assumed, objectively, that an interrogation which does elicit incriminating statements was conducted by the police for that purpose, at least in part, and therefore the burden should be on the prosecution to show that the statements were the result of something other than a 'process of interrogations that lends itself to eliciting incriminating statements * * *.' (People v. Stewart, supra, 62 A.C. at p. 603, 43 Cal.Rptr. at p. 205, 400 P.2d at p. 101.) It was noted in Stewart that 'in most cases the process of interrogations following an arrest will so lend itself * * *.' (Id. at p. 604, 43 Cal.Rptr. at p. 205, 400 P.2d at p. 101.) As stated in People v. North, 233 A.C.A. 1050, 1054, 44 Cal.Rptr. 123, 125, 'Since in 'most cases' the interrogation will so lend itself, in the absence of any contrary showing thereon in the record we cannot presume that this is one of the 'rare' or 'unusual' cases in which it did not so lend itself.' (See also People v. Andrews, 234 A.C.A. 70, 85, 44 Cal.Rptr. 94.) Stewart also held, as already pointed out, that in determining whether the statements are products of a 'process of interrogations,' the trial court must consider such factors as 'the length of the interrogation, the place and time of the interrogation, the nature of the questions, the conduct of the police and all other relevant circumstances.' (Id. at p. 605, 43 Cal.Rptr. at p. 206, 400 P.2d at p. 102.) The prosecution and the police are better able than the defendant to preserve evidence as to these factors for use at trial. Here no substantial evidence concerning such factors was presented. Therefore, it must be held that the prosecution did not sustain its burden.

Cathcart and Humble were taken back to Long Beach where they were again interrogated, at the police department, on January 21st. Three statements were taken. All were taped. First, Humble alone was interrogated. The questions asked were clearly designed to elicit incriminating statements. For example, Officer Welch asked, 'Now, Genevieve, when you went to the bar in company with your sister and met the deceased, Caroll Elwell, you went there with the intention of luring him to the motel where Mr. Stockman would be waiting and you knew at the time that Mr. Stockman was to rob Mr. Elwell?' Humble denied the killing (she said that Elwell left her), but she admitted that she went out with her sister to pick up men for Stockman to 'roll.'

Next, Cathcart alone was interrogated. The trial court sustained Cathcart's objection to admitting this tape in evidence, on the ground that this statement was coerced by promises of leniency. Then Cathcart and Humble were brought in together for the third and final interrogation. The questions asked here show that this too was part of a continuing process of interrogations that lent itself to eliciting incriminating statements from the accused.

It thus appears...

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