State v. Murphy

Decision Date31 January 1986
Docket NumberNo. C0-84-2128,C0-84-2128
Citation380 N.W.2d 766
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Marshall Donald MURPHY, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Defendant's confession to his probation officer of a prior crime was admissible under article 1, section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution where defendant was not "in custody" at the time of the confession.

2. Evidence of rape or attempted rape was sufficient on which to base a conviction for first-degree felony-murder.

3. Evidence was sufficient to sustain a felony-murder conviction where there was abundant proof that the killing occurred immediately after commission of a felony and it was clear that the killing and felony were parts of one continuous criminal act.

4. Trial court did not err in refusing to submit third-degree murder as a lesser included offense.

5. Trial court's response to a question from the jury was a correct statement of the law and was not prejudicial error.

C. Paul Jones, State Public Defender, Brian I. Rademacher, Asst. State Public Defender, Minneapolis, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Thomas J. Johnson, Hennepin Co. Atty., Vernon E. Bergstrom, Chief, Appellate Section, Paul R. Jennings, Asst. Co. Atty., Minneapolis, for respondent.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

AMDAHL, Chief Justice.

On September 14, 1984, defendant Marshall Donald Murphy was convicted of first degree murder. Essential to the state's case was evidence of a confession defendant made to his probation officer who was supervising defendant in connection with an unrelated matter. This confession was the subject of extensive pretrial litigation which included a ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the confession was not compelled within the meaning of the privilege against compelled self-incrimination under the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution. Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 104 S.Ct. 1136, 79 L.Ed.2d 409 (1984). Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction urging: (1) the confession was obtained in violation of his privilege against compelled self-incrimination under article 1, section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution; (2) the evidence was insufficient to prove rape as required by the felony murder statute under which he was convicted; (3) the evidence was insufficient to prove the homicide took place "while" the rape was occurring; (4) the trial court's refusal to submit third-degree murder as a lesser included offense denied defendant a fair trial; and (5) the trial court responded improperly to a question from the jury, depriving defendant of a fair trial. We affirm.

On October 29, 1974, Sherrie Cole and her friend, Pam McGee, both teenagers, accompanied defendant and another man, both in their twenties, to a bar in South Minneapolis. Near midnight, Cole, McGee, and defendant left the bar and walked to McGee's home several blocks away. Leaving McGee there, Cole and defendant walked off toward Cole's house approximately 12 blocks away.

On November 21, 1974, a bridgeworker found Cole's nude, partially decomposed body covered with brush on the south bank of the railroad tracks near 29th Street and Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis. This area is located between McGee's house and Cole's house. Cole's clothing was scattered about the area and no identification was found. A pathologist concluded that manual strangulation was the cause of death and placed the time of death at approximately 3 weeks before the body was discovered. He noted several wounds on her left hand, caused by a sharp instrument, which he characterized as "defensive wounds." Cole had also been cut on the chin and forehead and her jaw was fractured. The pathologist placed the time of the injuries at or shortly before death. A sexual assault examination was negative; a test for the presence of sperm was impossible due to the condition of the body.

Police officers questioned defendant concerning Cole's death on three occasions. Although defendant's roommate had turned over to the police a notebook containing Cole's identification cards which he found in his and defendant's attic, they were unable to gather enough evidence on which to charge defendant.

In 1980, defendant pled guilty to a charge of false imprisonment in connection with a prosecution for criminal sexual conduct unrelated to this matter. He was sentenced to 3 years, probation with Mara Widseth eventually appointed as his probation officer. The terms of probation included that defendant pursue a course of treatment at Alpha House, 1 report to his probation officer as she directed, and "be truthful" with her "in all matters." Failure to comply with this order could constitute grounds for revocation of probation.

In July 1981, Widseth discovered that defendant had discontinued his course of treatment, but after discussing the matter with him, she decided that treatment was no longer necessary. In September 1981, an Alpha House therapist informed Widseth that defendant had admitted during therapy that he had committed a rape and murder in 1974 but was never charged for lack of evidence. After Widseth discussed this information with her superior and determined that she must turn it over to the police, she sent a letter to defendant which read, "To further discuss a treatment plan for the remainder of your probation, I am requesting that you contact me upon your receipt of this letter to set [up] an appointment."

Defendant met with Widseth in her office in late September. She confronted defendant with the information she had received and he reacted with anger that the therapist had breached his confidence. He said he felt like calling an attorney. Widseth responded that he would have to deal with that outside of the office and that her main concern was the possibility that defendant would need further treatment because of the relationship between the two incidents. 2 Defendant tried to dissuade Widseth from imposing more treatment on him by maintaining his innocence on the false imprisonment charge and arguing that the rape-murder arose from his heavy drug use which he had since discontinued. He then confessed to the rape-murder in detail. Widseth urged defendant to turn himself in to the police but he refused. She then gave the police this information and defendant was arrested.

At the omnibus hearing, defendant moved to suppress evidence of the confession on the ground that it was obtained in violation of his fifth amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination under the United States Constitution. The trial court denied defendant's motion but certified the question to this Court as important and doubtful under Minn.R.Crim.P. 28.03. We reversed the trial court and remanded the case for trial holding, as a matter of federal constitutional law, the probation officer's failure to warn defendant of his constitutional rights before she questioned him bars the use of his confession at trial. State v. Murphy, 324 N.W.2d at 344.

The United States Supreme Court granted the state's petition for a writ of certiorari and reversed. Minnesota v. Murphy, 104 S.Ct. 1136. The Supreme Court held that the confession was not obtained in a coercive setting and was not compelled within the meaning of the fifth amendment. Id. at 1149. The case was tried, the confession admitted through Widseth's testimony, and defendant was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. Defendant appeals from the judgment entered.

1. Defendant's primary challenge to his conviction is that the evidence of his confession to Widseth is inadmissible under article 1, section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution. This issue is properly before us as our prior ruling rested solely on federal constitutional grounds. State v. Murphy, 324 N.W.2d at 344, 345. The Minnesota Constitution provides, "No person shall * * * be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Minn. Const. art. 1, Sec. 7. The provision is identical to the self-incrimination clause in the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution.

Although this court has the power to provide broader individual rights under the Minnesota Constitution than are permitted under the United States Constitution, Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 81, 100 S.Ct. 2035, 2040-41, 64 L.Ed.2d 741 (1980); O'Connor v. Johnson, 287 N.W.2d 400, 405 (Minn.1979), we decline to do so in this case. Our first decision in this case was based entirely on our reading of United States Supreme Court cases construing the federal constitution. See State v. Murphy, 324 N.W.2d at 344, 345. We primarily relied on Roberts v. United States, 445 U.S. 552, 100 S.Ct. 1358, 63 L.Ed.2d 622 (1980), in which the Court declared:

The Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination is not self-executing. At least where the government has no substantial reason to believe that the requested disclosures are likely to be incriminating, the privilege may not be relied upon unless it is invoked in a timely fashion.

Id. at 559, 100 S.Ct. 1363-64 (emphasis added). We concluded that "an exception must be made on the facts of this case to the general rule requiring a timely claim of the privilege." State v. Murphy, 324 N.W.2d at 344.

The Supreme Court reversed our decision and held that "the probation officer's knowledge and intent have no bearing on the outcome of this case." Minnesota v. Murphy, 104 S.Ct. at 1145. The Court, therefore, has now made clear, as a matter of federal constitutional law, that the intent or knowledge of the government official has no bearing on whether a self-incriminating statement will be deemed "compelled."

We have previously noted that since the federal and state self-incrimination constitutional provisions are identical, a United States Supreme Court interpretation of the federal provision is of inherently persuasive, although not compelling, force. State v. Fuller, 374...

To continue reading

Request your trial
61 cases
  • Friedman v. Commissioner of Public Safety
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • June 7, 1991 right to counsel, even if he asks for it, if no charge has been filed against him and if he is not "in custody." State v. Murphy, 380 N.W.2d 766, 769-70 n. 2 (Minn.1986) (addressed the issue under both federal and state constitutions).5 One has, of course, no right to resist a search or ......
  • State v. Richardson
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • October 23, 2003
    ...contends that there is no rational basis for an acquittal on the offense charged and a conviction on the lesser offense. State v. Murphy, 380 N.W.2d 766, 772 (Minn.1986). The assault offense requires proof that: (1) the defendant assaulted a peace officer; (2) the peace officer was engaged ......
  • State v. Crims
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • November 28, 1995 amplify previous instructions, reread previous instructions, or not respond. Minn.R.Crim.P. 26.03, subd. 19(3); State v. Murphy, 380 N.W.2d 766, 772 (Minn.1986). Failure to challenge an instruction at trial waives the right to appeal that issue unless the trial court committed plain erro......
  • State v. Khalil, A19-1281
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • July 27, 2020
    ...court "may, in [its] discretion, give additional instructions in response to a jury's question on any point of law." State v. Murphy , 380 N.W.2d 766, 772 (Minn. 1986). Whether jury instructions correctly state the law presents a question of statutory interpretation reviewed de novo. State ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT