State v. Woodards

Decision Date30 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 39248,39248
Citation215 N.E.2d 568,35 O.O.2d 8,6 Ohio St.2d 14
Parties, 35 O.O.2d 8 The STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. WOODARDS, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Where, during the investigation of a crime, a person not yet charged with the commission of such crime is informed prior to being interrogated by a deputy sheriff and an assistant prosecutor that he is not required to make any statement, and that any statement which he might make may be used against him, and where he has not requested that counsel be provided, such person has not been denied the assistance of counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

2. Ordinaily, in an appeal in a criminal case, no claim of error may be predicated upon alleged irregularities in the proceedings at the trial where defendant knew of such alleged irregularities in sufficient time to bring them to the attention of the trial court, or where defendant, at his trial, has acted in a manner inconsistent with the position taken upon appeal with regard to such alleged irregularities.

3. The fact that a person selected to serve as a juror at the trial of one charged with murder in the first degree is acquainted with the sheriff and a deputy sheriff who was a witness for the prosecution and has procured an insurance policy for that witness does not prejudice defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial, where the opportunity was present for defendant's counsel to ascertain this fact, and where there is no evidence that the juror was prejudiced against the defendant by reason of such acquaintance.

4. The admission into evidence of statements in a death certificate or a coroner's report that the decedent was beaten by an unknown assailant or that there was extensive beating involving the entire body does not constitute prejudicial error, where there is testimony as to the condition of decedent's body at the time of death and as to the cause of death, and where such statements in the documents do not connect the defendant with the death of the defendant. (Carson v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 156 Ohio St. 104, 100 N.E.2d 197, distinguished.)

On Saturday, July 13, 1963, Margaret Van Arsdale, a woman 85 years of age, was discovered dead in the utility room of her home in Columbia Station, Ohio. A blanket was wrapped around her body and tied with her nightclothes and underclothes.

An autopsy showed that all her ribs had been broken, her spleen ruptured and her perineum and vaginal wall torn. She had suffered injuries to her head, left forearm, right hand and other parts of her body.

About noon on July 13, 1963, two sheriff's cars were dispatched to the residence of John Woodards, a former tenant of the victim. No one was at home. A deputy entered the house and took a pair of work boots which he placed in his car. Shortly thereafter, Woodards arrived and was arrested by the officers. He was informed that he was wanted for questioning in connection with a gas station robbery which had occurred the night before.

One of the deputies accompanied Woodards into his house where Woodards identified and gave to the deputy the clothes which he said he had been wearing the night before. He was then taken to the county jail. The deputy later returned for more clothing which Woodards' wife gave him.

Woodards was questioned briefly, was fingerprinted on July 13 and was held in jail on Monday, July 15, at about 1:15 p. m., he was questioned for the first time concerning the murder of Mrs. Van Arsdale. At that time, he was informed by a deputy sheriff that he was not required to make any statement and was advised by an assistant prosecutor of his federal and state constitutional rights, including the fact that any statement he might make could be used against him.

The deputy in charge of the interrogation read to Woodards from a book on the subject of sexual deviations of older women and asked him whether he did not want to relieve the load on his shoulders. Woodards then made a statement which the court reporter transcribed. He agreed to go to the Van Arsdale residence and re-enact the incident. During the drive to and from the scene, he was questioned, and the questions and answers were taken down in shorthand by a deputy sheriff. Upon their return to the jail, Woodards was taken before a magistrate at the Elyria Municipal Court and charged with first degree murder. On July 16, he was represented by counsel, waived preliminary hearing and was bound over to the Grand Jury.

On July 23, he was indicted for first degree murder, arraigned on July 26, at which time he was represented by counsel, and pleaded not guilty.

Prior to trial, Woodards was twice examined at Lima State Hospital and was found to be legally sane.

At his trial before a jury, Woodards testified in his own behalf as to the events which took place on the night of July 12, 1963.

His testimony was that he had previously been a tenant in the upstairs apartment of Mrs. Van Arsdale's house, and after he and his wife had moved, he had periodically returned to visit Mrs. Van Arsdale. He testified that upon several previous occasions he had had sexual intercourse with her.

He testified that on July 12, 1963, he had been away from home all day and had drunk several beers and some wine during the course of the day. In the evening he went to several bars and drank approximately 17 bottles of beer.

He stated further in his testimony that at about 1:00 a. m. he decided to return home and on his way he passed the Van Arsdale residence. He noticed that the lights were on and decided to stop. He parked his car in a field about a quarter of a mile down the road, walked back to Mrs. Van Arsdale's home and knocked on the door. He testified that Mrs. Van Arsdale admitted him. He stated that they talked for a few minutes. He said that he then helped her onto the kitchen table and they had intercourse. The table tipped, and both he and Mrs. Van Arsdale fell on the floor. He testified that he put out his elbows to break the fall and they hit her chest. He stated that he became frightened and got up immediately and put the table back in place. According to his testimony he then picked Mrs. Van Arsdale up and carried her into the living room to see whether she was hurt. After this, he dragged her into the utility room, wrapped her in a blanket and tied it around her with her nightclothes and underwear. He left the premises, went home and went to bed.

He testified that he did not injure her purposely or wilfully, and that he did not realize that she was dead when he left.

On the witness stand he stated that the next morning he went shopping with his wife. He remembered nothing of the night before and did not, in fact, remember what had happened until July 15th when he was questioned.

The jury convicted him of murder in the first degree without recommendation of mercy.

The trial court denied defendant's motion for new trial.

Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction.

This cause is before this court upon an appeal as of right and upon the allowance of a motion for leave to appeal.

Paul J. Mikus, Pros. Atty., and John B. Otero, Lorain, for appellee.

Adams & Conley and Edward J. Conley, Lorain, for appellant.

O'NEILL, Judge.

Errors are assigned as follows:

(1) Two purported confessions of defendant were obtained in violation of his right to the assistance of counsel and were improperly used against him at trial.

(2) Various items were seized incident to an invalid arrest and were improperly admitted into evidence.

(3) Defendant was forced to wear handcuffs and body belt during the trial and was heavily guarded, and the trial court failed to keep order during the course of the trial.

(4) The foreman of the jury failed to reveal on voir dire that he was the insurance agent of the sheriff and of a deputy sheriff who was a witness for the prosecution.

(5) Certain items other than those obtained as the result of an unreasonable seizure were improperly admitted into evidence.

(6) Inflammatory statements and the use of items not introduced into evidence were improperly permitted by the trial court during the summation by the prosecutor.

(7) The jury was erroneously charged on the lesser included offense of manslaughter.

(8) The trial court refused to define the word, 'psychopath,' after the jury had requested such definition.

The first assignment of error is based upon an alleged denial to the defendant of his right to counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

In Section 2935.14, Revised Code, it is provided in part:

'If the person arrested is unable to offer sufficient bail or, if the offense charged be a felony, he shall, prior to being confined * * * be speedily permitted facilities to communicate with an attorney at law of his own choice, or to communicate with at least one relative or other person for the purpose of obtaining counsel * * *.'

In Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977, the United States Supreme Court held that where an investigation had focused upon a particular suspect who had been taken into custody and interrogated in a manner lending itself to incriminating statements, where the accused had requested and been denied an opportunity to consult with counsel, and where he had not been effectively warned of his right to remain silent, he was improperly denied 'the assistance of counsel' to which he was constitutionally entitled.

Under Ohio law, the accused must be permitted to communicate with counsel or a relative, or the officers must contact someone for him for the purpose of obtaining counsel irrespective of whether the police effectively warn him of his absolute right to remain silent. City of Toledo v. Dietz, 3 Ohio St.2d 30, 209 N.E.2d 127, certiorari denied, 382 U.S. 956, 86 S.Ct. 432, 15 L.Ed.2d 360.

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