Renner v. State

Decision Date28 June 1968
Citation159 N.W.2d 618,39 Wis.2d 631
PartiesCarol RENNER, Plaintiff in Error, v. STATE of Wisconsin, Defendant in Error. Lloyd RENNER, Plaintiff in Error, v. STATE of Wisconsin, Defendant in Error.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

Robert H. Ffiebert, State Public Defender, Madison, for plaintiff in error.

Bronson C. La Follette, Atty. Gen., Madison, David J. Cannon, Dist. Atty., and E. Michael McCann, Asst. Dist. Atty., Milwaukee Co., Milwaukee, for defendant in error.


The principal contention of the state public defender on this appeal is that the statements of both Carol and Lloyd were involuntary. It is his contention that under the ruling of Jackson v. Denno (1964), 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, 1 A.L.R.2d 1205, and State ex rel. Goodchild v. Burke (1965), 27 Wis.2d 244, 133 N.W.2d 753, it was the duty of the court to make a preliminary determination of the voluntariness of the statements. 1 Whether these statements are voluntary is governed by the 'totality of the circumstances' test which we discussed in detail in Bradley v. State (1967), 36 Wis.2d 345, 153 N.W.2d 38, 155 N.W.2d 564.

It is the contention of the public defender that Lloyd Renner's statements, in view of the 'totality of the circumstances,' were involuntary as a matter of law. He points out that the first statement was taken just prior to surgery, when Lloyd Renner was thought to be in extremis, and the second was taken following the surgery, when Renner may have been subject to postsurgical shock and under the influence of drugs or medication. The public defender correctly points out that the burden of showing voluntariness of a confession or pretrial statement is upon the state.

In respect to the statement of Carol Renner, the public defender does not urge that we find the statement involuntary as a matter of law, but he urges that a Goodchild hearing should be held to determine whether or not Carol's statements were voluntarily made. He contends that she was mentally upset and disturbed and under an emotional strain at the time her statement was taken.

The state in regard to the out-of-court statements of Lloyd Renner confesses error and, while contending that we should not rule as a matter of law that Lloyd Renner's out-of-court statements are inadmissible, concedes:

'* * * that defendant Lloyd Renner objected to the admission of any statements he made on the grounds that he had sustained a traumatic injury shortly before and that when the statements were to be admitted into evidence the trial court should have conducted a hearing on the voluntariness of the statements in the absence of the jury.'

The state acknowledges that a remand to the trial court should issue, with the proviso that a new trial should be had if the statements were involuntary.

We decline to rule as a matter of law that Lloyd's out-of-court statements were inadmissible but acknowledge the propriety of the state's concession and conclude that the case must be remanded to the trial court for a Jackson v. Denno and State ex rel. Goodchild v. Burke hearing on voluntariness.

While Carol's out-of-court statements were not objected to, it is claimed by the state that the failure of counsel to do so constituted a strategic waiver and that, therefore, the admissibility of these statements should go unquestioned in this court. However, we see no evidence of a strategic waiver from the face of the record, and no objection is necessary to preserve a constitutional error if the failure to object was due to oversight. Henry v. State of Mississippi (1965), 379 U.S. 443, 85 S.Ct. 564, 13 L.Ed.2d 408; Holloway v. State (1966), 32 Wis.2d 559, 146 N.W.2d 441.

The inconsistency between Carol's court testimony and her pretrial statements is relatively minor, referring merely to the question of whether or not she was pregnant. We might in the usual case be constrained to conclude that, in the absence of a waiver, the error, if any, was harmless. However, the essence of this trial was the credibility of the complaining witness, Staten, as contrasted with the credibility of the defendants Carol and Lloyd Renner. Any impeaching evidence in this situation assumes substantial significance. Moreover, it is clear that, as with the statement of Lloyd, no attempt was made to properly qualify her statement by a Goodchild hearing and, in view of the fact that we are remanding this case to the trial court for the determination of the voluntariness of Lloyd Renner's statements, we deem it appropriate to follow the same procedure in respect to the statements of Carol. We therefore conclude, as we did in Bosket v. State (1966), 31 Wis.2d 586, 143 N.W.2d 553, on remand of these causes to the circuit court, that court is to conduct a hearing on the issue of the voluntariness of the defendants' confessions and admissions to the Milwaukee police officers and make proper findings of fact.

Other questions are presented on this appeal which we need not decide pending the determination of the voluntariness of the statements of the defendants. Lloyd and Carol Renner were tried together. The statements which we have referred to above of both Lloyd and Carol were mutually inculpatory. Since the statements of Lloyd differed from his trial testimony, and he thus was not subject to cross examination on the out-of-court statements, the inculpatory evidence in the out-of-court statements was hearsay as to Carol. Likewise, any statements inculpatory of Lloyd made in an out-of-court statement that was not reiterated on trial was hearsay as to Lloyd. We have previously in this court adopted the rule of Delli Paoli v. United States (1957), 352 U.S. 232, 77 S.Ct. 294, 1 L.Ed.2d 278. See also Gronowicz v. State (1949), 255 Wis. 133, 37 N.W.2d 788, which permits the use of out-of-court hearsay statements not subject to cross examination, provided that the jury is instructed that any portion of a defendant's out-of-court statement that inculpates a codefendant must be considered as hearsay and disregarded in determining the guilt or innocence of a codefendant. In the instant case no such instruction was requested, nor did the court sua sponte offer such an instruction. The recent case of Bruton v. United States (May 20, 1968), 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476, held that the confession of one defendant inculpating the other defendant was inadmissible in a joint trial and that the hearsay error committed by the admission of such a statement could not be corrected by instructions. The Supreme Court of the United States, following the dissent in Delli Paoli, concluded that the admonitory instruction was a 'futile collocation' that failed to sufficiently protect a defendant's sixth amendment right of cross examination. 2

Inasmuch as we hold that the out-of-court statements fail to comply with Goodchild, we are not at this time confronted with the problems that arise under Paoli, Gronowicz, and Bruton.

In the event the trial court should determine that the admissions or statement were involuntarily made, the court is directed to vacate and set aside the judgments of conviction and sentence and grant a new trial. In the event the statements are found to be voluntary, the trial court is directed to return the record to this court for further consideration in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions.

The causes are remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings in accordance with this...

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9 cases
  • State v. Sorenson
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • 7 September 1989
    ...determination of accused's competency to stand trial although three or four years had passed since trial); Renner v. State, 39 Wis.2d 631, 637, 159 N.W.2d 618, 621 (1968) (remand for retrospective determination whether defendants' confessions were voluntary); State v. Haskins, 139 Wis.2d 25......
  • State v. Agnello
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • 11 December 2003
    ...should be reinstated. If the statement is found to be involuntary, then a new trial should be granted."); Renner v. State, 39 Wis. 2d 631, 639-40, 159 N.W.2d 618 (1968) (defendant's conviction was not vacated; trial court was directed to grant a new trial if the court determined that defend......
  • Upchurch v. State
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • 28 June 1974
    ...the defendant would ordinarily be bound by the failure to object and precluded from raising the issue on appeal. In Renner v. State (1968), 39 Wis.2d 631, 159 N.W.2d 618, this rule was reiterated. The court there announced that, 'We see no evidence of a strategic waiver from the face of the......
  • Wright v. State, s. S
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • 3 April 1970 p. 478, 86 S.Ct. at p. 1630.15 Bruton v. United States (1968), 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476.16 Renner v. State (1968), 39 Wis.2d 631, 638, 159 N.W.2d 618. See also: State v. Cartagena (1968), 40 Wis.2d 213, 220, 161 N.W.2d 392.17 '* * * The unreliability of such evidence i......
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