State v. Miller

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation68 Wash. 239,122 P. 1066
Decision Date13 April 1912

Department 2. Appeal from Superior Court, Pierce County; C. M Easterday, Judge.

Peter Miller was convicted of burglary, and appeals. Reversed and remanded.

Joseph M. Glasgow, of Seattle, for appellant.

John F Murphy, Pros. Atty., and Everett C. Ellis, both of Seattle for the State.


On October 4, 1909, George F. Vanderveer, then prosecuting attorney for King county, filed an information against the appellant, which, omitting formal parts, was as follows: 'He, said Charles Elliott, alias Peter Miller in the county of King, state of Washington, on the 26th day of April, A. D. 1909, the dwelling house of one Fred V. Fisher, the same being a building or place in which goods and valuable things were then and there kept for use and deposit, did then and there unlawfully, willfully, feloniously, and burglariously enter in the nighttime, with intent then and there to commit a felony or misdemeanor.' A plea of not guilty was entered, and on January 20, 1910, the cause was brought on for trial in Pierce county, Wash., on a change of venue. On January 28, 1910, the jury returned a verdict, finding the appellant guilty of burglary, as charged in the information. On May 23, 1910, the motion for a new trial was overruled. On December 14, 1910, judgment and sentence were pronounced; whereupon this appeal was taken.

The contest at the trial was waged mainly upon the admission of evidence of certain confessions of the appellant and upon the admission of testimony of his confederate and accomplice, one Willis Taylor. The same matters are the principal grounds of contest here. The appellant contends tha the confessions were made under duress, and that the testimony of the accomplice, Willis Taylor, was induced by fear and intimidation.

The confessions here involved, though relating to a different burglary, were procured in the same manner and made at the same time, and as parts of the same conversations, as those involved in the case of State v. Miller, 61 Wash. 125, 111 P. 1053. A painstaking perusal of the evidence makes it plain that this case, so far as the confessions are concerned, cannot be distinguished from that. The respondent seeks to point a distinction in that in this case there were two confessions made by the appellant, the first to the captain of detectives, Tennant, alone, and the other, some three or four days later, to Tennant in the presence of George F. Vanderveer, prosecuting attorney of King county, and Fred C. Pugh, prosecuting attorney of Spokane county. We find, however, that the only material differences in the evidence as to the two confessions in the two cases is found in the fact that the prosecuting attorney of Spokane county, in addition to Vandeveer and Tennant, was called as a witness at the trial of this case, and testified as to what was said by the appellant in the last of these conversations; whereas, in the other case, the state's evidence on that point was confined to that of Tennant and Vanderveer. The evidence shows that the appellant was arrested on July 22, 1909, and was placed in a dark cell and kept there for a periof of about eight days, during which time permission to consult an attorney was denied him. The appellant testified that the prosecuting attorney, during this time, threatened him with prosecutions for many different crimes which would entail cumulative sentences. This was in substance admitted by the prosecuting attorney. The appellant in this case, as in the other, also testified that, in addition to being placed in the dark cell, he was beaten with a bludgeon, kicked, and otherwise maltreated by the captain of detectives, Tennant, and threatened with other dire punishments, if he did not confess. All of these things were denied by Tennant; but it is conceded that the appellant was confined in the dark cell until he confessed. Tennant in effect admitted that, though he did not give the order for this confinement, it was the result of his suggestion. It is plain that the purpose was to keep him there until he confessed, and that the confession was the result of this confinement.

In passing upon the admissibility of the confession and on practically the same evidence as to its procurement, this court, in the prior case, State v. Miller, supra, said: 'According to the testimony of the appellant, the prosecuting attorney had threatened him with prosecution for divers and sundry crimes which would work cumulative sentences, in addition to other harsh treatment which, it was claimed, the appellant received at the hands of the prosecuting attorney. It was conceded by the prosecuting attorney that he had visited this appellant more than once at his cell, and once in company with the captain of the detectives, and with the prosecuting attorney of Spokane county. All the charges of cruelty were indignantly denied by the prosecuting attorney; but in answer to a question propounded by the appellant, if he had had such a talk with him, he did say this: 'Under the laws of this state, you could be charged with all these burglaries, and your sentences would be tacked, one on the other. I did tell him that. I suppose that was a sort of an implied threat. Otherwise I never said a word in any threatening manner.' The prosecuting attorney was there for a purpose. The evident purpose was to obtain a confession from this appellant; and we think, under his own admission, that the threat which he made, or the implied threat, as he terms it, was sufficient to render the confession made a confession obtained by duress. The appellant was confessedly a bright man, and would understand, and it was no doubt intended that he should understand, that these cumulative sentences would follow, if he did not confess. This is all that need be said, so far as the testimony of the prosecuting attorney is concerned. The appellant also testified that he was thrown into what he calls the 'dark hole' in the jail; that he was maltreated, beaten with a bludgeon by the captain of the detective force, Tennant, and threatened with the most appalling punishments, if he did not confess what he knew about this alleged burglary. The details of this alleged punishment and threats are too horrible and disgusting to set forth here. The only question is as to the truth of the statements made. These allegations of threats and of barbarous treatment were denied by Captain Tennant; he claiming that he had never struck or abused the appellant, excepting once, when the appellant attempted to assault him. Captain Tennant denied that he had ever put the appellant into the black hole or black cell; but it is conceded that appellant was confined in the black hole, and that he was there with the knowledge of Captain Tennant. While Tennant probably did not put him there, as naturally he would not, appellant was evidently ordered there by him, or, if not by him, by some one in authority at the jail. It is not alleged or claimed anywhere that it was necessary to put appellant in this iron cell for the purpose of preventing an escape. The whole testimony shows conclusively that it was done for the purpose of extracting a confession from him.'

We find nothing in the evidence now before us warranting a modification of the above language. The first confession to Tennant alone was made on the evening of the seventh or eighth day of appellant's confinement in the dark cell and the last confession was made on August 2, 1909. It is thus clear that the second confession followed the first at an interval of not more than four days. While Tennant, Pugh, and Vanderveer all testified that this last confession was to all appearances made voluntarily, even boastfully,...

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7 cases
  • State v. Haynes, 34735
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 14, 1961
    ...Page 722 violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. * * *' (Emphasis supplied.) In State v. Miller, 1912, 68 Wash. 239, 122 P. 1066, in which the prosecution admitted that the defendant had been kept in a dark cell for eight days and was threatened with addit......
  • City of Tacoma v. Heater, 36384
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • January 13, 1966
    ...analysis of the statute found in decisions of this court in State v. Haynes, 58 Wash.2d 716, 364 P.2d 935 (1961), and in State v. Miller, 68 Wash. 239, 122 P. 1066 In conclusion, I must again emphasize that society has some important rights and claims which must be balanced against the clai......
  • The State v. Condit, 25784
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 19, 1925
    ...Deathridge v. State, 33 Tenn. (1 Sneed) 75; Thompson v. Commonwealth, 20 Grat. (Va.) 724; State v. Force, 69 Neb. 162; State v. Miller, 68 Wash. 239; Owen v. State, 78 Ala. 425; State v. Guild, 10 N. J. L. 163, 18 Am. Dec. 404; 1 R. C. L. 573; State v. Chambers, 39 Iowa 179; State v. Wood, ......
  • State v. Van Brunt, 29357.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • December 29, 1944
    ...Harvey, 145 Wash. 161, 259 P. 21; State v. Marcy, 189 Wash. 620, 66 P.2d 846; State v. Marselle, 43 Wash. 273, 86 P. 586; State v. Miller, 68 Wash. 239, 122 P. 1066. An analysis of these cases reveals that, where an issue of fact arises as to the question of the influence of fear produced b......
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