State ex rel. Rasmussen v. Tahash

Decision Date10 December 1965
Docket NumberNo. 39847,39847
Citation141 N.W.2d 3,272 Minn. 539
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota ex rel. Melford RASMUSSEN, Appellant, v. Ralph H. TAHASH, Warden, Minnesota State Prison, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. The rule of Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, filed June 22, 1964, is not to be applied retroactively.

2. The rule of Escobedo v. State of Illinois, supra, applies only in cases where the record discloses affirmative conduct on the part of law enforcement officials as the result of which a defendant's right to counsel is frustrated.

3. The rule of Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, filed June 22, 1964, is not to be applied retroactively.

4. The following are controlling principles with respect to the necessity of objection at or before trial in order to preserve claims of error based upon constitutionally protected rights:

(a) In the absence of unusual circumstances, the admission of evidence even though prejudicial does not entitle the defendant to a new trial as a matter of right where no proper objection was made at trial, and this is the case even though valid objection to the evidence might have been made upon constitutional grounds.

(b) The improper admission in evidence of a confession over proper objection is never error without prejudice.

(c) Where at trial the attention of the court is directed to a claim of constitutional infringement, technical niceties as to the time and form of objection should be disregarded.

(d) Upon appeal or in postconviction procedures, a conviction based in whole or in part upon evidence obtained in violation of the constitutional rights of the defendant will be set aside even though no proper objection was made at the time of trial, if to do otherwise, in light of the record considered as a whole, would be to perpetuate a substantial and essential injustice in the sense that as a result an innocent man may have been convicted.

5. Record reviewed and held that petitioner is not entitled to relief in this case based upon claims of infringement of constitutional rights.

6. With respect to problems of evidence which may arise in connection with searches and seizures and confessions, the procedure to be followed by the trial courts of this state whenever possible should be as follows:

(a) At the time of arraignment when a defendant pleads not guilty, or as soon thereafter as possible, the state will advise the court as to whether its case against the defendant will include evidence obtained as the result of a search and seizure; or evidence discovered because of a confession or statements in the nature of a confession obtained from the defendant; or confessions or statements in the nature of confessions.

(b) Upon being so informed, the court will formally advise the attorney for the defendant (or the defendant himself if he refuses legal counsel) that he may, if he chooses, move the court to suppress the evidence so secured or the confession so obtained if his contention is that such evidence was secured or confession obtained in violation of defendant's constitutional rights.

(c) If the defendant elects to contest the admissibility of the evidence upon Federal constitutional grounds, a pretrial fact hearing on the admissibility of the evidence will be held in open court with the defendant present and represented or advised by counsel. Upon the record of the evidence elicited at the time of such hearing, a determination by the trial court as to whether the receipt of the evidence contested will vitiate defendant's constitutional rights will be made. It will be the obligation of the state to proceed first at such a hearing identifying the evidence which will be offered against the defendant and showing that the circumstances under which it was obtained were consistent with constitutional requirements. The defendant in presenting his case in opposition to the claims of admissibility may testify without waiver of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. The factors to be considered in determining whether a confession is valid are as outlined in State v. Taylor, 270 Minn. 333, 133 N.W.2d 828.

(d) If the defendant, having been advised before trial that evidence obtained as the result of search and seizure will be offered against him or having been informed that confessions or statements in the nature of confessions will be offered in evidence at trial, and having been told that he may have a test of the admissibility of this evidence upon constitutional grounds before the trial, fails or refuses to request such a hearing, any objection which he may otherwise make based upon this ground may be deemed waived.

(e) If the state, having been requested to disclose whether evidence obtained as a result of a search and seizure will be offered against defendant at the time of the trial and having been requested to state whether confessions or admissions in the nature of confessions will be a part of its case, fails or refuses to make such disclosure, it may be inferred that any such evidence offered at the time of trial was obtained in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights.

Wayne Dordell, St. Paul, for appellant.

Robert W. Mattson, Atty. Gen., Gerard W. Snell, Sol. Gen., St. Paul, for respondent.

SHERAN, Justice.

Appeal from an order of the district court denying a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the District Court of Washington County December 24, 1964.

A ground for habeas corpus now urged is that a statement elicited from defendant by the police during the interrogation which followed his arrest was in violation of his Federal constitutional right to counsel as defined in Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, filed June 22, 1964. Defendant also contends that the voluntariness of his confession was not tested and resolved by the trial court as directed upon Federal constitutional grounds in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, filed June 22, 1964.

These claims were not presented or considered in our review of this case filed April 17, 1964. State v. Rasmussen, 268 Minn. 42, 128 N.W.2d 289, certiorari denied, 379 U.S. 916, 85 S.Ct. 267, 13 L.Ed.2d 187. Our prior determination does not bar consideration of petitioner's present claims under principles of res judicata. Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 83 S.Ct. 1068, 10 L.Ed.2d 148, filed April 29, 1963.

A brief reference to the United States Supreme Court decisions upon which petitioner relies will bring to mind the relevance of these landmark cases.

Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, involved a 22-year-old of Mexican extraction who was arrested and taken to police headquarters for interrogation in connection with a homicide which had occurred about 11 days previously. He had been previously arrested shortly after the shooting but had made no statement, being released on that occasion after his lawyer obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a state court. The defendant made several requests to see his lawyer who, though present in the building, and despite persistent efforts, was refused access to his client. After questioning by the police the defendant made a damaging statement to an assistant state's attorney which was admitted at the trial. Convicted of murder, he appealed to the state supreme court which affirmed the conviction. Upon certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, it was held that the receipt in evidence of the statement resulted in a deprivation of Federally protected constitutional rights. The majority opinion concludes with this sentence (378 U.S. 492, 84 S.Ct. 1766, 12 L.Ed.2d 987):

'* * * We hold only that when the process shifts from investigatory to accusatory--when its focus is on the accused and its purpose is to elicit a confession--our adversary system begins to operate, and, under the circumstances here, the accused must be permitted to consult with his lawyer.'

Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, involves an examination of the procedure by which the voluntariness of a confession is tested in state criminal proceedings. The holding of the case is that any procedure whereby a confession is submitted to the jury as evidence without a prior determination by the trial judge based upon a fact hearing that the confession was voluntarily given fails to meet the minimal requirements of due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

The contentions of appellant serve to raise the following questions:

(I) Is the rule of Escobedo v. State of Illinois, supra, to be applied retroactively and with respect to convictions in the courts of this state that were final before June 22, 1964?

(II) Should the rule of the Escobedo case be applied only in cases where the record discloses affirmative conduct on the part of law enforcement officials as the result of which a defendant's right to counsel is frustrated?

(III) Is the rule of Jackson v. Denno, supra, to be applied retroactively in reviewing convictions that were final before that date?

(IV) Will application for postconviction relief based on the claim that a confession was improperly received in evidence in violation of Federal constitutional rights defined in Escobedo v. State of Illinois, supra, and Jackson v. Denno, supra, be granted when the record of the trial proceedings fails to show a demand that this procedure be followed?

I Retroactivity of Escobedo

We cannot tell from reading the Escobedo case whether the United States Supreme Court intended the application of it to be prospective only. Retroactive application has been denied in California, 1 New Jersey, 2 New York, 3 Ohio, 4 Pennsylvania, 5 and a Federal district court in California. 6 Retroactive application has been accorded by ...

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