People v. Woods

Decision Date04 August 1969
Docket NumberNo. 6,6
Citation169 N.W.2d 473,382 Mich. 128
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Charlie Lee WOODS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Robert F. Leonard, Pros. Atty., Genesee County, by Donald A. Kuebler, Asst. Pros. Atty., Flint, for plaintiff-appellee.

Brownell, Gault & Andrews, by Douglas M. Philpott, Flint, for defendant and appellant.

Before the Entire Bench.

BLACK, Justice (for affirmance).

This appeal brings up a nationally bruited and quite unsettled question of criminal justice. The source of that question is what vexed lawyers and judges refer to as Miranda and Johnson (384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 and 384 U.S. 719, 86 S.Ct. 1772, 16 L.Ed.2d 882; June 13 and June 20, 1966, respectively). The question, tersely put, is whether the rules laid down 5--3--1 in Miranda apply to this forthcoming retrial of a 1961 trial for and conviction of first degree murder.

Not being disposed 'to attempt to outrun the Supreme Court of the United States' (see Adams, J., in In re Apportionment of State Legislature, 372 Mich. 418 at 473, 127 N.W.2d 862, at 868) by stretching Miranda beyond what we perceive is the precise command thereof, and having concluded since oral argument that the intervening provisions of presumptively constitutional section 3501 of the Crime Control Act of June 19, 1968 (Public Law 90--351, 90th Congress, 82 Stat. 197, H.R. 5037) will bring to the State courts ultimately concordant advices of the Supreme Court, we stand with Judge Newblatt and the assigned panel of the Court of Appeals for a negative answer to the stated question.

Charged with first degree murder and jury tried June 13 through June 22, 1961, defendant Woods was convicted as charged and sentenced to life imprisonment. Throughout the proceedings resulting in such conviction he was represented by court appointed counsel, the competence and integrity of whom is unquestioned. June 26, 1967, for reasons dissociated entirely from the question of admissibility--on retrial--of defendant's 1961 confession, an order for new trial entered in circuit. Preparing for new trial, the prosecuting attorney gave notice of intent to prove and introduce the confession. Newly appointed counsel for defendant moved to suppress for want of compliance with the requirements of Miranda. The successor judge denied the motion on ground that Miranda by Johnson's terms was not intended to apply to any case Commenced before Miranda's decision was announced. The Court of Appeals affirmed May 29, 1968, citing People v. Shaw, 9 Mich.App. 558, 157 N.W.2d 811.

The subordinate Federal courts and the courts of the States generally are in manifest conflict. For the most recent and thorough discussion thereof see State v. Lewis, 274 N.C. 438, 164 S.E.2d 177; People v. Worley, 37 Ill.2d 439, 227 N.E.2d 746; People v. Sayers, 22 N.Y.2d 571, 293 N.Y.S.2d 769, 240 N.E.2d 540 and 'The Applicability of Miranda to Retrials,' Univ. of Penn.Law Review, Vol. 116 No. 2, pp. 317 et seq., of which more later along with specific reference to Jenkins v. State, Del. 230 A.2d 262 and Jenkins v. State, Del., 240 A.2d 146.

The Federal decisions furnish little or no reasoning, 1 the respective opinion writers seemingly having taken it for granted that 'if this case must be retried, it is clear that Miranda must be applied.' (Quotation from Government of Virgin Islands v. Lovell, C.C.A. 3, 378 F.2d 799); whereas the most persuasively reasoned decisions of the courts of the States hold to the contrary. The author of the Penn.Law Review commentary, supra, provides an appropriate introduction to scrutiny in depth (pp. 324, 325):

'In the retrial situation, the police face a far more difficult task in attempting to compensate for the inadmissibility of the confession since the trial is further removed in time from the investigation. The unavailability of evidence may necessitate dismissals or acquittals, should Miranda be applied.

'The interest of society here cannot be dismissed easily. It might be argued that by virtue of the establishment of stricter standards in Miranda, the Court has balanced society's interest in protection and safety against an accused's constitutional privileges, and has chosen to run the risk that people who have committed crimes will avoid imprisonment. However, in the normal case where Miranda will govern, the police will have had prior notice of the constitutional requirements and will have the opportunity to gather the evidence necessary to convict the guilty. In the retrial situation, through their justifiable reliance on the admissibility of confessions, the police have foregone the opportunity to gather such evidence and society's interest cannot be protected. Thus, the Miranda balance does not necessarily control this situation.'

We find that the author's conclusion 2 is quite in accord both with Johnson and Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 87 S.Ct. 1967, 18 L.Ed.2d 1199. Johnson reads (384 U.S. at 733, 86 S.Ct. at 1781):

'In the light of these additional considerations, we conclude that Escobedo and Miranda should apply only to cases commenced after those decisions were announced.'

Stovall echoed, just a year later (pp. 300, 301, 87 S.Ct. p. 1972):

'We also conclude that, for these purposes, no distinction is justified between convictions now final, as in the instant case, and convictions at various stages of trial and direct review. We regard the factors of reliance and burden on the administration of justice as entitled to such overriding significance as to make that distinction unsupportable.'

For the convenience of Michigan judges and attorneys not having at ready hand the reports of Lewis, Worley and Sayers we quote connectedly and with approval from each.

State v. Lewis 274 N.C. at 450--451, 164 S.E.2d at 185:

'Consideration of these overruling decisions leaves the impression the Supreme Court of the United States has not spoken definitively on the precise question now under such consideration. Pending such decision, trial courts in this jurisdiction will be guided by our decision herein.

'In determining judicial policy, the opinion in Stovall states: 'The criteria guiding resolution of the question implicates (a) the purpose to be served by the new standards, (b) The extent of the reliance by law enforcement authorities on the old standards, and (c) The effect on the administration of justice of a retroactive application of the new standards.' (Our italics.) Obviously, law enforcement officers relied on the constitutional standards applicable at the time of the search and seizure, and at the time of the confession, and at the time of the lineup. The date the trial or retrial is commenced is unrelated to whether the law enforcement officers obtained the evidence according to constitutional standards upon which they reasonably placed reliance. As stated by Justice Schaefer, of the Supreme Court of Illinois, in The Control of 'Sunbursts': Techniques of Prospective Overruling, op. cit. at 411: 'The earlier constitutional standards were relied upon, not at the moment that the trial commenced, but at the moment that the interrogation took place.'

'In our view, Miranda should not and does not apply to confessions obtained prior to that decision, when offered at trials or retrials beginning thereafter, where law enforcement officers relied upon and complied with constitutional standards applicable at the time the confessions were made. We perceive a trend towards this conclusion in decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States discussed herein.'

People v. Worley, 37 Ill.2d at 446--447, 227 N.E.2d at 750:

'Since the language employed in the statement of the Johnson rule is inconclusive, in our opinion the intention of the court may best be found by examining the reasons for the rule. The court listed three factors which entered into its decision: the purpose for announcing new standards in Miranda, the reliance placed upon the Pre-Miranda rules, and the seriously disruptive effect on the administration of justice of a decision that Miranda apply retroactively. Finding that the integrity of the fact-finding process is not as substantially improved by Miranda as it has been by others of its decisions, that the Pre-Miranda rules had been relied on by law enforcement officers to obtain confessions which are inadmissible in Post-Miranda cases, and that making Miranda retroactive would seriously disrupt administration of our criminal laws, the court decided against applying Miranda retroactively. While the disruptive effect upon our criminal laws would not be as great if we follow Gibson (Gibson v. U.S., 5 Cir., 363 F.2d 146) as it would have been if the Supreme Court had held that Miranda applied retroactively, because retrials are not required in all Pre-Miranda decisions in which confessions are involved, the presence of a disrupting effect similar to that with which the court was concerned in Johnson, as well as a consistent thrust from each of the other two criteria, leads us to conclude that the Supreme Court did not intend that Miranda apply to retrials in cases such as the instant one. The Pre-Miranda and Pre-Escobedo rules making inadmissible coerced confessions, as well as Escobedo, were available to protect the integrity of the fact-finding process in defendant's case so that holding Miranda applicable to his retrial would effect no significant improvement therein. Law enforcement officers placed identical reliance on the Pre-Miranda rules to obtain confessions in all cases which commenced prior to June 13, 1966, and the fact that a retrial is ordered in some of these cases in no way alters this reliance.

'Our interpretation of the Supreme Court's intent in Johnson is reinforced by the fact that the court there made Miranda applicable only to cases commencing subsequent to June 13, 1966, expressly excluding those in which direct appeals were pending at the time...

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