State v. Linkletter, s. 58596 and 58893

CourtSupreme Court of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtSUMMERS
Citation345 So.2d 452
PartiesSTATE of Louisiana v. Victor Hubert LINKLETTER and Kathleen McKenzie.
Docket NumberNos. 58596 and 58893,s. 58596 and 58893
Decision Date11 April 1977

Page 452

345 So.2d 452
STATE of Louisiana
Victor Hubert LINKLETTER and Kathleen McKenzie.
Nos. 58596 and 58893.
Supreme Court of Louisiana.
April 11, 1977.
Rehearings Denied May 13, 1977.

Page 454

William J. Guste, Jr., Atty. Gen., Barbara Rutledge, Asst. Atty. Gen., Knowles M. Tucker, Dist. Atty., Dracos D. Burke, Asst. Dist. Atty., for plaintiff-appellee.

Owen J. Trahant, Jr., Jefferson, for defendants-appellants.

SUMMERS, Justice.

Defendant Linkletter was charged by bill of information with the September 7, 1975 simple burglary of the City Pharmacy in Jeanerette, Louisiana, in violation of Article 62 of the Criminal Code. After trial the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Linkletter was then charged as a multiple offender, found guilty and sentenced to serve 18 years at hard labor. He appeals, assigning five errors to rulings of the trial judge.

Assignment 1

Defendant filed a motion for a bill of particulars in which he asked if the State had in its possession any 'Brady v. Maryland' evidence material to the issues of the case which might be favorable to the defense. The defense motion also requested authority to inspect and copy all such evidence in the possession of the State. The State answered that it was unaware of any evidence within the purview of Brady v. Maryland.

At a hearing on February 2, 1976 to determine the sufficiency of the State's answers, defendant requested that the trial judge make an in-camera inspection of the State's file. When the request was denied by the trial judge, defense counsel objected and assigned the ruling as error.

On a number of occasions this Court has made clear that the decision in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), while requiring the prosecution to inform the defendant of exculpatory evidence, does not require the State to open its files to the defendant to search and decide what is exculpatory. State v. Nix, 327 So.2d 301 (La.1976), Cert. denied, Fulford v. Louisiana, 425 U.S. 594, 96 S.Ct. 1732, 48 L.Ed.2d 198 (1976); State v. Major, 318 So.2d 19 (La.1975); State v. Williams, 310 So.2d 528 (La.1975); State v. Ranker, 263 La. 914, 269 So.2d 812 (1972).

These cases do not construe Brady v. Maryland to permit the defendant unlimited pretrial discovery. No fishing expedition is authorized by that decision and a pretrial in-camera inspection of the State's file is not required. However, the cases do understand Brady v. Maryland to hold, in effect, that the State must, upon request, furnish the defense with evidence which is material to the issues and favorable to the defense. And, if it can be shown that the State, after request, has deliberately withheld from the trial specific evidence favorable to the defense, the error would warrant reversal of the conviction. State v. Tyler, 342 So.2d 574 (La.1977). On the basis of the facts before him, the ruling of the trial judge was correct.

Assignment 2

On February 3, 1975, the day following the hearing on the motion for bill of particulars referred to in Assignment 1, the State's attorney notified defense counsel by letter, received on February 4, 1975, that in the initial stages of the investigation into this burglary, a suspect other than Linkleter had been arrested but was later released

Page 455

when additional inquiry established his innocence.

Thereafter, on February 9, 1976, defendant filed a motion for a continuance in which it was set forth that the name of the innocent suspect referred to in the State's letter was not learned until February 5, 1976, no contact had been made with that individual and further investigation could not be carried out prior to February 11, 1976, the date set for trial.

The motion was summarily fixed for hearing on February 9, the day it was filed, for the trial judge was concerned with the numerous delays already experienced in getting the case to trial and because the jurors had been summoned. The State's attorney advised the trial judge at the hearing that defense counsel's predecessor, who had represented the defendant, was aware of the innocent suspect. He stated that the letter of February 3, 1976 informing defense counsel of the innocent suspect was written out of an abundance of caution, not because he felt that it was Brady v. Maryland, evidence material to the defense.

State v. Nix, 327 So.2d 301 (La.1976), Cert. denied, 425 U.S. 954, 96 S.Ct. 1732, 48 L.Ed.2d 198 (1976), accepted as valid an argument that false leads followed out by the police certainly are not evidence tending to negate the guilt of the defendant. See also Moore v. Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 92 S.Ct. 2562, 33 L.Ed.2d 706 (1972).

There was no error in the ruling of the trial judge.

Assignment 3

Prior to trial the defense filed a motion to suppress evidence in the State's possession seized by police officers of the city of Kenner and the parish of Iberia in a search of premises at 272 Auburn Street, Apartment 'N', Kenner, Louisiana, on or about September 17, 1975. The grounds alleged were that the search and seizure were unconstitutional because the search was carried out incidental to a warrantless arrest of the defendant made without probable cause; and, further because the search and seizure were conducted in reliance upon the written consent of defendant obtained without the benefit of counsel to advise him.

The trial judge found probable cause to arrest and that defendant consented to the search and seizure. Defense counsel objected and assigned this ruling as error.

The Warrantless Arrest

By the express terms of Article 213(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, '(a) peace officer may, without a warrant, arrest a person when . . . (t)he peace officer has a Reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed an offense, although not in the presence of the officer. . . .'

Reasonable cause may be likened to reasonable belief or probable cause, terms which were defined and explained in State v. Johnson, 249 La. 950, 192 So.2d 135 (1967);

'Reasonable belief--or 'probable cause', as it is termed under the federal standard--to make an arrest without a warrant exists when the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to justify a man of average caution in the belief that a felony has been or is being committed. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327 (1959); State v. Green, 244 La. 80, 150 So.2d 571 (1963); State v. Aias, 243 La. 945, 149 So.2d 400 (1963); State v. Calascione, 243 La. 993, 149 So.2d 417 (1963).

'Compliance with these standards is, in the first instance, a substantive determination to be made by the trial court from the facts and circumstances of the case. Ker v. State of California, 374 U.S. 23, 83 S.Ct. 1623, 10 L.Ed.2d 726 (1963); State v. McIlvaine, 247 La. 747, 174 So.2d 515 (1965).

'And in determining compliance with these standards it is not the proof required for conviction which concerns us. Proof required to satisfy the requirement

Page 456

of reasonable belief or probable cause is less and is what the terms imply: probabilities and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable men could reasonably be expected to act. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949); State v. Bourg, 248 La. 844, 182 So.2d 510 (1966).

'In such cases, because only factual issues are presented by the contentions, the setting in which the arrests took place becomes a factor of prime importance; facts and circumstances known to the arresting officers from which they might draw conclusions warranted by their training and experience become the focus of our attention with due allowance for the discretion vested in the trial court.'

See also State v. Dell, 258 La. 1024, 249 So.2d 118 (1971); State v. Pebworth, 251 La. 1063, 208 So.2d 530 (1968); State v. Ahrens, 250 La. 391, 196 So.2d 250 (1967), Cert. denied, 389 U.S. 871, 88 S.Ct. 156, 19 L.Ed.2d 152 (1967).

This right of a peace officer to arrest upon probable cause does not depend upon his inability to obtain an arrest warrant. In the recent case of Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975), the United States Supreme Court declared that '. . . it has never invalidated an arrest supported by probable cause solely because the officers failed to secure a warrant.' See also United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 96 S.Ct. 820, 46 L.Ed.2d 598 (1976). Louisiana cases have held to the same effect. State v. Johnson, 319 So.2d 786 (La.1975); State v. Terracina, 309 So.2d 271 (La.1975); State v. Shaffer, 260 La. 605, 257 So.2d 121 (1971); State v. Johnson, 255 La. 314, 230 So.2d 825 (1970).

In determining the existence vel non of probable cause, the Court is concerned with the 'facts and circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information,' State v. Johnson, 249 La. 950, 192 So.2d 135. It is not particularly significant that the officer received information that was not firsthand; what is important is the nature of the information, whether it was such that 'reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.' Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949). Thus, observations and reports of fellow peace officers engaged in related investigations clearly provide a reliable basis for an arrest. Cf. United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 85 S.Ct. 741, 13 L.Ed.2d 684 (1965).

In applying these principles to the case at hand, we find there was probable cause to arrest Linkletter for the burglary of the City Pharmacy in Jeanerette. Captain Horace Comeaux had personally examined the scene of the burglary within a short time after its occurrence. He interviewed several witnesses who had seen two suspects and a particularly described 1970 green Oldsmobile near the scene. It was obvious that the...

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