State v. Self

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation366 P.2d 193,59 Wn.2d 62
Decision Date09 November 1961
Docket NumberNo. 35647,35647
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Joseph Chester SELF, Appellant.

Alan F. Austin, Daniel J. Riviera, Seattle, for appellant.

Charles O. Carroll, Pros. Atty., James D. Burns, Deputy Pros. Atty., Seattle, for respondent.


This is an appeal from a judgment and sentence based upon a jury verdict in which appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and the death penalty was imposed by the jury.

Appellant was charged in the information with the premeditated murder of Ralph Gemmill, a taxicab driver, committed during or in connection with the robbery of the victim by appellant. Thus he was charged with first-degree murder, committed either with premeditation or while engaged in the commission of a robbery.

He was represented in the trial court and in this court by two court-appointed attorneys. On his arraignment appellant stood mute, and a plea of not guilty was entered by the court.

At his trial appellant took the stand in his own defense, and admitted robbing Gemmill at gun point and firing two shots into the victim's body, but testified that the victim lunged at him and grabbed for the gun, precipitating a struggle, during which the two fatal shots were accidentally fired.

It is not contended on this appeal that the state failed to produce substantial evidence which, if believed by the jury, fully justified the verdict. Indeed, appellant's own testimony on the witness stand is sufficient to sustain the verdict of first-degree murder committed during the robbery of the victim of the homicide. In their arguments to the jury, the principal issue discussed by all counsel was whether the death penalty should be imposed. Therefore, it is not necessary to discuss the evidence except as it bears upon appellant's assignment of error, which is stated in his brief as follows:

'The appellant asserts:

'a. Where a defendant has been charged in a capital case; and

'b. A warrant of arrest has been issued by a court ordering the sheriff to apprehend the defendant and bring him before the court to be dealt with according to law; and 'c. Where the defendant is taken into custody of the sheriff under authority of the warrant; and

'd. Where the defendant, being without funds, requests the assistance of counsel; then due process of law requires the sheriff to bring the defendant before the judicial authorities, without questioning him, to be advised of his constitutional rights and to have counsel appointed to assist him and to be dealt with according to law. Failing so to do, evidence secured by the State, after such apprehension and request, should be suppressed by the court at the request of the defendant. The court's failure to grant the appellant's objections to the introduction of such evidence (including the gun, Ex. 44, the shells, Ex. 47, the testimony of witnesses McCullough, Zimmers and Kelman) constitutes a failure to accord appellant due process of law guaranteed him under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.' 1

The state and appellant stipulated as follows regarding the filing in the justice court of a criminal complaint on March 18, 1960, charging appellant with murder in the first degree:

'One, on March 18, 1960 a criminal proceeding was filed in Justice of the Peace Evangeline Starr's court here in King County, Cause No. 11085, charging Joseph Chester Self with murder in the first degree. And the Complaint was filed in 11085 and was in language substantially similar to that contained in the Information for this proceeding. The Complaint was signed by Joel A. C. Rindal, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. On the same day, March 18, 1960, a warrant of arrest was issued against Joseph Chester Self charging the Sheriff of King County, in the name of the State of Washington, to apprehend the said Joseph Chester Self and bring him before the Justice of the Peace to be dealt with according to law. And I think the language of the warrant is important. March 18, 1960 was a Friday. On March 20 1960 the defendant surrendered himself and was taken into custody under authority of the warrant which I have just described. March 20 was a Sunday.

'On that evening, that is the evening of March 20 the defendant signed a statement which has been referred to as a confession. And subsequent to March 20 further investigation was made on the basis of the information contained in the confession.

'The Information in the Superior Court proceeding was not filed until March 28, 1960. Subsequent to its filing the defendant was arraigned and counsel was appointed for the defendant on March 29, 1960. And up to March 29, 1960, the defendant Joseph Chester Self had no counsel of any kind to represent, consult with, or advise him in any particular regarding his rights under the United States Constitution or the laws of the State of Washington.

'We further state that after being apprehended by the Sheriff on Sunday, March 20, the defendant Joseph Chester Self requested counsel but no response was made to his request. He was apprehended at about 4:30 and was questioned after 4:30 and at about 9:10 of the same evening signed a statement which has been referred to as a confession. Those are the facts.

'The Court: In what respects does the State controvert or would controvert these facts?

'Mr. McGough: The only possibility of controversion in Mr. Riviera's statement is the use of the term 'request for counsel'.

'We will agree that Mr. Self mentioned a general desire to consult with some unknown attorney one or two times during the interrogation, but I think that is about all the further it went. That is just a question of phraseology, I think. Aside from that, we are willing to agree to all the facts that Mr. Riviera stated.'

At the time that the warrant for his arrest was issued on March 18, 1960, appellant was at large in the Eatonville and Elbe area in Pierce county. On Sunday, March 20, 1960, appellant telephoned the sheriff's office at Tacoma that he desired to surrender himself to the sheriff of Pierce county at a certain ranch. This was accomplished about four o'clock p. m., whereupon the sheriff of Pierce county then and there delivered him to the custody of the sheriff of King county.

The latter and one of his deputies then drove appellant in their car to the King county jail, arriving there about 6:30 or 7:00 o'clock p. m.

During the ride, appellant inquired of the officers as to the death penalty in this state and was told that it was hanging. He testified that he expressed a desire to see a reporter and then a lawyer at that time. The sheriff in his testimony had no recollection of this request.

After their arrival at the jail in Seattle, appellant had supper (according to him it consisted of two hard rolls and coffee). About eight o'clock p. m., appellant was taken to the sheriff's office where the sheriff and the captain of detectives questioned him in the interrogation room. Appellant said that he wanted to see a lawyer. He made his request before he made an oral confession (which was about 8:45 p. m.).

On the witness stand, at the pretrial hearing on his motion to suppress the confession and all evidence which the state had secured by means of it, appellant was asked by his counsel what answer was received to this request. He testified (in the absence of the jury):

'At any time after your first contact with the sheriffs, which you have just referred to, did you make any request for counsel? A. I did.

'Q. Can you place the time when this request was made? A. After he took me to meet the Sheriff of King County.

'Q. And in whose presence was this request made? A. I believe it was made in the presence of the King County Sheriff, the Sheriff that took me up to Pierce County and one other officer.

'Q. Now, can you state as closely as you can recall the language you used in making this request? A. I told them that I wanted, I first wanted to see a reporter, then I wanted to see a lawyer.

'Q. Did you make this request regarding counsel on more than one occasion? A. I made it up here also one time.

'Q. When you say 'up here', you mean---- A. Interrogating room.

'Q. Right here in the King County Building? A. That's right.

'Q. And that request which you have just referred to was made on the same day? A. Yes.

'Q. And was it made prior to your signing the statement? A. Yes.

'Q. Do you recall when you signed the statement? A. Not exactly, late at night, and I hadn't slept in about forty hours, so I can't say. It was 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 o'clock, something like that.

'Q. What response was made by the officer to this request? A. Well, they didn't get me no lawyer. They didn't. They stood mute on it, they just didn't say anything about it.'

The trial court's ruling on appellant's motion to suppress was:

'My opinion at this juncture is that the motion to suppress the confession document taken March 20, 1960 is granted. The motion to suppress as stated 'All evidence secured through' the said document is denied.'

Later in the trial, when the state offered the murder weapon in evidence, the appellant renewed his motion to suppress it and all other evidence obtained as a result of the confession. In the absence of the jury, the question was again considered.

The sheriff's version (as stated in his testimony in the absence of the jury) was as follows:

'Q. Now, Mr. McCullough, were you present when the defendant was questioned about this particular alleged murder that he perpetrated? A. Yes, sir.

'Q. And where was this questioning taking place, sir? A. Not questioning or in an attempt to obtain a confession--at the time the confession was made, Chief of Detective Tommy Nault and myself; it was not in the spirit of trying to obtain a confession, but to clear up some points in regard to the evidence that we had run across thus far in this...

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  • Brown v. State, S
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
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