State v. Lindemuth, 5223

Docket NºNo. 5223
Citation1952 NMSC 31, 56 N.M. 257, 243 P.2d 325
Case DateApril 09, 1952
CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico

Page 325

243 P.2d 325
56 N.M. 257

No. 5223.
Supreme Court of New Mexico.
April 9, 1952.

Page 326

[56 NM 258] Frederick L. Nohl, Albuquerque, for appellant.

Joe L. Martinez, Atty. Gen., Walter R. Kegel, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

SADLER, Justice.

This appeal is prosecuted by the defendant to secure reversal of a conviction suffered by him at a trial in Bernalillo County as a result of which he was sentenced to the state penitentiary for life.

The trial and subsequent conviction of defendant grew out of the finding near Albuquerque on August 16, 1948, of the partially decomposed body of a young woman later identified as Lucille Ramirez. She was a nurse employed at County Hospital in Modesto, California, and had come to Albuquerque where her father resided arriving on the evening of July 22, 1948, seeking to locate her brother, Luis Ramirez who had telephoned her he was in trouble. [56 NM 259] She went to a tourist court, where she had learned the defendant and her brother were rooming, about 10:30 o'clock that night, found the brother absent and was seen to talk to the defendant a few minutes and leave in a taxi which had carried her there. She then disappeared.

When discovered the body was lying on its back about half a mile north of Central Avenue, west of and near the Rio Grande, concealed by underbrush about six feet in height. An examination disclosed a bullet wound, sufficient to cause death, in the back of the head, a large jagged hole in the left temple marking exit of the bullet. Clothing worn by deceased at time of her death appeared in a state of disarray, with her panties on the ground some fifteen feet away.

Shortly thereafter the defendant was arrested in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his home town. A suitcase, her nurse's pin and key case, all belonging to the deceased, were found in his possession, and a wrist watch which also belonged to her was found in that city at a shop where the defendant had pawned it. In addition, a baggage tag with her name on it which had been on her suitcase was found in an Albuquerque hotel room which the defendant had occupied for a time, after registering as 'Teco Ramirez,' the night after she arrived in Albuquerque. 'Teco' was the nickname of the defendant.

The claim of error primarily relied upon by the defendant for reversal grows out of the admission in evidence at the trial of three statements or confessions made by him following his return to Albuquerque from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his home, where he had been arrested charged with the murder of the deceased. Sheriff's deputies Hay and Slaughterbeck had journeyed to Pennsylvania to get the accused and return him to New Mexico. He waived extradition and at various times during the return trip, which consumed about four and a half days, he was questioned by the officers concerning the murder charge; making admissions conforming in many material respects with the written confessions later obtained.

The accused and the two deputies mentioned arrived in Albuquerque on the return trip from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about 2:00 p.m. of the fifth day, which was on Saturday. He was placed in a cell in the county jail at once. About an hour later he was taken from his cell to the office of the district attorney in the county court house for questioning. The following were present: A newspaper reporter, district attorney M. Ralph Brown, assistant district attorney Harry D. Robbins, district attorney's investigator Henry Espinosa, sheriff Harold Hubbell, Slaughterbeck and Hay, and Mrs. Helen K. Dunlap, a stenographer in the office of the district attorney who acted as stenographer in taking down [56 NM 260] the questions asked the defendant by the assistant district attorney and the answers made thereto.

Page 327

The interrogation of the defendant was begun by asking him a few preliminary questions of the kind usually employed for purposes of indentification such as his name, place of residence, age (18 years), date of birth and the like. It was conducted in question and answer form and was taken down in shorthand by a stenographer from the office of the district attorney who, as later shown, transcribed her notes of the hearing and presented same for reading, correction and signing by the defendant. The questions were asked by the assistant district attorney in an orderly and somewhat formal albeit considerate fashion, free from any suggestion of coercion, browbeating or intimidation. Indeed, the assistant district attorney had done no more than get the defendant identified as to name, age, date of birth and the like, before warning him formally of his constitutional rights, such as the right to have counsel, to speak out or remain silent, and to talk only freely, voluntarily, and of his own accord, if at all, as hereinafter shown in greater detail.

After more questioning of the defendant as to his father and mother, the state of their health, etc., the questioner gradually came to the point in the case and secured his confession that he accompanied the brother and sister to the place of the killing and saw the brother shoot and kill his sister and drag her body back into the bushes where it would not be seen; that the brother had taken her wrist watch and money, and had divided the money with him. He also detailed other incriminating facts. At this point the questioning ended and a recess was taken while Mrs. Dunlap, the district attorney's stenographer, transcribed her notes of the somewhat lengthy questioning. It consisted of 36 pages of legal size paper, double spaced, in question and answer form.

The defendant remained in the office of the district attorney throughout, being served a steak dinner while awaiting completion of a transcription of the notes of his questioning. When the transcribed notes were returned to him for examination he read the entire statement, making numerous corrections in pen and ink in his own handwriting. It was 10:30 p.m., by the time this somewhat tedious detail was finished, whereupon the defendant was returned to his cell in the county jail, having already signed the statement. It was identified in evidence as plaintiff's Exhibit 28.

It is to be observed from a recital of this statement, taken on Saturday evening, August 28, 1948, that while admitting guilty knowledge through presence at scene of the crime and the sharing in a division of the money taken from the body of deceased, he accused her brother, Luis Ramirez, of firing [56 NM 261] the fatal shot that killed his sister, claiming to have witnessed the shooting. Obviously, dissatisfied with this statement of what had transpired, deputies Hay and Slaughterbeck questioned the defendant further at the jail in the county court house the following afternoon and evening, being Sunday, August 29th. During the course of this interrogation the clothes taken from the deceased's body following its discovery were exhibited to the defendant in the fingerprint room on the fourth floor of the county court house opposite the jail cells. It served as an office for deputy Slaughterbeck.

The talks with defendant on the 29th, Sunday, began around 2:30 or 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon and were carried on from time to time, though not constantly, until the deputies left before supper for their respective homes. They returned to the county jail after supper that evening for further talks with defendant. Here it should be said that enroute to Albuquerque from Pennsylvania the defendant had stated to the deputies that deceased's brother, Luis Ramirez, was in possession of her watch and that if they would check the pawn shops on South First Street in Albuquerque they would find the watch. In the meantime, however, they had been advised by officers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that the watch had been located in a pawn shop there.

Accordingly, and soon after the beginning of the talks with defendant after supper that evening, the deputies confronted him with the fact that the watch had been found in Harrisburg. It was then that he asked for a pencil and some paper, saying he wanted to write his father and mother

Page 328

a letter. They gave him a pencil and some paper and he was returned to his cell. In about an hour he sent for them and they went upstairs where he handed them the letter and asked that they mail it to his father and mother. They told him they would hand it to the district attorney the following day and it was up to him to say whether it would be mailed or not, as it later was. Then, the defendant said:

'Now, don't ask me any questions, leave me alone and I will write out the facts in this case.'

They gave him a pen and paper and at that time and in the presence of the officers he wrote out the statement, plaintiff's Exhibit 29, in his own handwriting and signed the same. His signature was witnessed by deputies Hay and Slaughterbeck.

It was in this statement, written entirely in defendant's own handwriting and in his own words, that he admitted killing the deceased and taking $100 from her purse, and as well, removing her ring, watch and a few other personal articles from her body. The statement also related that prior to the homicide the deceased had called [56 NM 262] at the room occupied by defendant and her brother in a cabin back of La Fonda Bar in Albuquerque at a late hour on the night of July 22, 1948; that she announced to him she was searching for her brother and finding him absent left, after giving defendant the name of her hotel for the brother's benefit; that shortly, thereafter, the defendant had contacted deceased at her hotel and, on the pretext of taking her to the brother at the home of the latter's uncle on North Ute Road, had lured her to the scene of her death and there killed her.

The next day, Monday, August 30th, the defendant made and signed still another typewritten statement consisting of one page in narrative form, known as plaintiff's Exhibit 30, clearing...

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28 cases
  • State v. Anderson, 21069
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 25, 1994
    ...was not "reliable or generally approved and accepted by members of the medical profession specializing in psychiatry." State v. Lindemuth, 56 N.M. 257, 271, 243 P.2d 325, 334 (1952). The Lindemuth Court held that in order for scientific evidence to be admissible, the scientific technique or......
  • Culombe v. Connecticut, 161
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 19, 1961
    ...328; State v. Wise, 1955, 19 N.J. 59, 115 A.2d 62; State v. Smith, 1960, 32 N.J. 501, 161 A.2d 520. New Mexico: State v. Lindemuth, 1952, 56 N.M. 257, 243 P.2d 325; State v. Griego, 1956, 61 N.M. 42, 294 P.2d 282; State v. Padilla, 1959, 66 N.M. 289, 347 P.2d 312. New York: People v. Perez,......
  • State v. Alberico, s. 20282
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 30, 1993
    ...was not "reliable or generally approved and accepted by members of the medical profession specializing in psychiatry." State v. Lindemuth, 56 N.M. 257, 271, 243 P.2d 325, 334 (1952). To be admissible, the Court held that the scientific technique or principle about which the expert proposes ......
  • State v. Beachum, 5130
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • November 19, 1981
    ...(truth elicitors), the concerns over the scientific unreliability of hypnosis as a truth elicitor can be dispelled. In State v. Lindemuth, 56 N.M. 257, 243 P.2d 325 (1952), testimony relating statements made by the defendant while under the influence of sodium pentathol was held inadmissibl......
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