People v. Williams

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation456 P.2d 633,71 Cal.2d 614,79 Cal.Rptr. 65
Decision Date07 July 1969
Docket NumberCr. 10801
Parties, 456 P.2d 633 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Oliver Stanley WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.

Page 65

79 Cal.Rptr. 65
71 Cal.2d 614, 456 P.2d 633
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Oliver Stanley WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 10801.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
July 7, 1969.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 17, 1969.

Page 67

[456 P.2d 635] [71 Cal.2d 618] Francis Heisler, Carmel, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

[71 Cal.2d 619] Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Jack E. Goertzen, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PETERS, Associate Justice.

Defendant appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County convicting him upon a jury verdict of first degree murder. (Pen.Code, § 187.) The jury returned the death penalty. As a result, this appeal is automatic. (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).)

On April 22, 1965, we reversed a similar judgment against defendant and his then codefendant because a confession was admitted into evidence without compliance with Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, as followed by this court in People v. Dorado, 62 Cal.2d 338, 42 Cal.Rptr. 169, 398 P.2d 361. (People v. Lilliock, 62 Cal.2d 618, 43 Cal.Rptr. 699, 401 P.2d 4.)

The remittitur issued on June 22, 1965. The matter was not calendared until September 24, 1965. On October 18 Williams moved under Penal Code section 1382 to dismiss the action since it was not brought within the 60 days fixed by statute. The motion was granted. A new information was filed and Williams was immediately rearrested under it. Defendant's subsequent motion to set aside this information under Penal Code, section 995, was denied.

Williams, and his codefendant Lilliock, were charged with murder. (Pen.Code, § 187.) Williams was also charged with five prior felony convictions. On March 1, 1966, Williams' motion to sever the trials was granted. Williams pleaded not guilty and admitted the prior convictions. The court accepted only four of the priors, inasmuch as defendant contended that he was not represented by counsel on a conviction for escape.

The sufficiency of the evidence is not challenged. It is sufficient, and may be summarized as follows:

Arthur Kretchman, the victim, resided at the Lincoln Park Motel near downtown Los Angeles. On October 28, 1962, about 10 p.m., a neighbor heard thumping and groaning notices emanating from the Kretchman cottage. He stepped outside and the noises stopped. He noticed that the cottage was dark. He then went back inside, but after again hearing the noises he returned outside. He observed a man, subsequently identified as William R. Lilliock, standing on the porch. Lilliock told him that he was Kretchman's nephew and that 'they' had put Kretchman to bed because he had a little too much to [71 Cal.2d 620] drink and had gotten unruly. The neighbor went back into his house and later observed two persons drive off in Kretchman's car. He could not identify them. Another neighbor, Edward C. Leipleim, corroborated the occurrences, and identified the driver of the car as Williams and the passenger as Lilliock.

Kretchman was found dead inside the cottage. One hand was tied to the refrigerator, the other was tied to the stove, both feet were bound, and his mouth gagged. According to the investigating officer Kretchman's pockets were turned inside out. Pry marks were found on the door and door frame. The screen above the sink was hanging on one hinge and pushed inward. Scattered about the interior of the cottage were various food packages, clothing and miscellaneous items. Williams' and Lilliock's fingerprints were found at many locations in the cabin.

The autopsy physician testified that death was caused by asphyxia due to strangulation. The bruises on the victim's head that he observed were caused by four separate blows, and none of them contributed

Page 68

[456 P.2d 636] to death. A blood test disclosed that the victim had not ingested any alcohol.

Williams and Lilliock were arrested near Needles while driving Kretchman's car. Two Los Angeles police officers were sent to return them to the city. The officers questioned them separately at the sheriff's office in Needles.

Concerning the admissibility of the statements made by Williams, Lechner, one of the officers who is now privately employed, testified as follows:

Lilliock, who was examined first, inquired whether the officers were attorneys. Lechner told him that they were officers, and informed Lilliock of his 'constitutional rights.' Williams was then brought into the room. Lechner testified, 'I took the initiative right away and told him that we were police officers, and I introduced him to the officers that were there, as Lieutenant Shumacher, Sergeant Zell and myself. I also advised him at that time that we were police officers again, and not attorneys, and from the looks of things he needed an attorney, and it was his prerogative either to hire one or wait until he was in Los Angeles and have one assigned. In the meanwhile, he could keep still if he chose to.' In response to questions, Williams then gave his name. He said he was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had been in Los Angeles one week. Williams said he was unemployed. He claimed that he picked up the car in which he was arrested [71 Cal.2d 621] at 5th and Main Streets because it had the keys in it. He refused to answer any further questions.

Mr. Joseph Busch, Jr., a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, testified that the officers' statements were not a recent fabrication. Mr. Busch had issued the complaint and made a memorandum of his discussion with the officers which stated that the suspects had been informed of their constitutional rights. He said he vividly remembered the conversation because he thought it was humorous that the officers had been mistaken for attorneys.

For the limited purpose of opposing the admission of his statements, Williams testified denying that he was given any warning at all.

The trial court ruled that there had been 'substantial compliance' with Escobedo and allowed Lechner to repeat his testimony before the jury.

After the suspects were returned to Los Angeles, Leipleim, who had given the police a description of the men he saw driving Kretchman's car, was asked to identify them at a lineup. There were four men in the lineup. Leipleim identified Williams as the driver of the car and Lilliock as the passenger.

Defendant contends that his statements to the police officers in Needles were admitted into evidence in violation of the standards enunciated in Escobedo v. Illinois, Supra, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, and People v. Dorado, Supra, 62 Cal.2d 338, 42 Cal.Rptr. 169, 398 P.2d 361. He claims that he received no constitutional warning and that former Police Officer Lechner and Deputy District Attorney Busch are guilty of perjury. This accusation is not only unsupported by the record, but is directly contradicted.

The warning that was given was arguably technically insufficient, but introduction of the statement made after the warning was in any event harmless error. Williams was told that from the looks of things he needed an attorney, but he could hire one or wait until he was in Los Angeles and have one assigned; and that he could remain silent in the meantime. Although properly informed that he could remain silent until he secured a lawyer, Williams was not explicitly informed that his right to have a lawyer was a right to have a lawyer not just at trial but, as provided in Escobedo and Dorado, at the accusatory stage of the proceedings, a stage which was clearly reached by the time the warning in the present case was given. (Compare People v. Thomas, 65 Cal.2d 698, 704--705,

Page 69

[456 P.2d 637] 56 Cal.Rptr. 305, 423 P.2d 233; but cf. [71 Cal.2d 622] People v. Johnson, 70 A.C. 577, 592, 594, 75 Cal.Rptr. 401, 450 P.2d 865.)

Even if the warning was deficient, a question we need not and do not decide, a reversal is not required. The statement did not constitute a confession, and its introduction was not prejudicial. The erroneous introduction into evidence of a Confession requires a reversal of the judgment regardless of other evidence, but the erroneous introduction of an Admission requires the further determination of whether the error was prejudicial. (E.g., People v. Powell, 67 Cal.2d 32, 51--53, 59 Cal.Rptr. 817, 429 P.2d 137.)

Williams stated that he found Kretchman's car parked at an intersection with the keys in it. This is inconsistent with Leipleim's testimony that he saw Williams drive the car away from the cottage. If the jury believed the statements made to the officers, Williams would not have been convicted of murder, and thus the statement viewed alone was exculpatory. The effect of this evidence at most was to impeach Williams' credibility even though he exercised his privilege against self-incrimination and did not testify. But, the record shows that the introduction into evidence of these exculpatory statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. (Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705.) Williams' credibility was not determinative of his defense. (Cf. People v. Alesi, 67 Cal.2d 856, 862--863, 64 Cal.Rptr. 104, 434 P.2d 360.) Since he was arrested in Kretchman's automobile, his admission was not necessary to establish his possession of the vehicle (Cf. People v. Doherty, 67 Cal.2d 9, 17, 59 Cal.Rptr. 857, 429 P.2d 177.) His presence at the cottage was overwhelmingly established by his fingerprints, independent of Leipleim's testimony. It is inconceivable that his admissions could have been prejudicial.

Defendant claims he was denied his right to a speedy trial. The remittitur was filed on June 22, 1965, but the case was not brought to trial until September 24, 1965. Since this delay was greater than the 60 days permitted by Penal Code, section 1382, defendant's motion to dismiss the action was granted. Williams was immediately...

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