Stewart v. State

Decision Date18 July 1963
Docket NumberNo. 333,333
Citation232 Md. 318,193 A.2d 40
PartiesJames STEWART v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

George L. Russell, Jr., Baltimore, for appellant.

Richard M. Pollitt, Sp. Atty., Salisbury (Thomas B. Finan, Atty. Gen., William J. O'Donnell, State's Atty., and Stanley S. Cohen, Asst. State's Atty., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellee.

Argued May 3, 1963, before BRUNE, C. J., and HENDERSON, PRESCOTT, MARBURY and SYBERT, JJ.

Reargued June 6, 1963, before BRUNE, C. J., and HENDERSON, HAMMOND, PRESCOTT, HORNEY, MARBURY and SYBERT, JJ.


Stewart, the appellant, was convicted of having possession and control of narcotics. He argues that the evidence showed that, as a matter of law, he had been entrapped, that he was not a principal, only an agent whose possession and control were those of the principal, a federal narcotic officer, and that incriminating statements he made were inadmissible because uttered while he was in custody after an illegal arrest.

A federal narcotics agent named Notel and an informer drove to Eutaw Place, Baltimore, where appellant, whom they knew as a previous offender, was found. The agent asked appellant if he had any narcotics, and the reply was that he did not but could get some. The agent then gave appellant $24.00 of government funds to purchase two packages of narcotics for $12.00 each. Appellant directed them to drive him to Pennsylvania Avenue and Dolphin Street where he left the car and disappeared, returning in fifteen minutes. The three then drove back to Eutaw Place where appellant produced two small envelopes, each containing white powder, which subsequent analysis proved to be heroin hydrochloride, a narcotic drug. Appellant kept half of the contents of one envelope for himself and delivered the rest to the agent.

Eight days later appellant was arrested on the street by a police officer of the Baltimore City narcotics squad, who had no warrant and saw no crime committed in his presence. Although appellant was told at the time that he was being taken to headquarters for investigation, the crimes for which he was arrested and of which he was convicted were misdemeanors. The State conceded that the arrest was illegal.

The agent testified he saw appellant in Captain Carroll's office (Captain Carroll is head of the Baltimore City narcotics squad) soon after the arrest and said: 'I identified myself as an agent and * * * asked Mr. Stewart if he remembered me; he said, yes. * * * I then asked if he remembered making a sale of narcotics to me or getting the narcotics to me on October the 9th and he said, yes.' The arresting officer said that when he talked to Stewart in Captain Carroll's office after the arrest: 'I asked him, I stated to him the facts concerning the sale which took place on the 10th [October 9th] * * * and he said he sold the heroin to Agent George Notel.' When asked what else he said to appellant, the officer replied: 'That is all I said.'

There is no merit to the defense of entrapment. It is permissible for a law enforcement officer to lay a trap or join in common effort with another or others to detect a violation of law. Baxter v. State, 223 Md. 495, 165 A.2d 469, cert. den., 366 U.S. 968, 81 S.Ct. 1930, 6 L.Ed.2d 1258; Matthews v. State, 228 Md. 401, 179 A.2d 892. The record shows no more than this here. There was no repeated and persistent solicitation of a previously law abiding citizen in order to overcome his reluctance to commit a crime. There was only the permissible offering of an opportunity to a known offender to exercise his predisposition to violate the law. See Whyte v. State, 229 Md. 459, 184 A.2d 738, and Lane v. State, 226 Md. 81, 87, 88, 172 A.2d 400.

The defense that appellant was no more than an agent is based on the case of United States v. Prince (3rd Cir.), 264 F.2d 850, in which it was held that the defendant, accused of the sale of narcotics, was entitled to a jury instruction that if he merely acted for the narcotic agent and the informer in purchasing the drug 'from a third person with whom he was not associated in selling, and thereafter delivered it to the buyer,' the defendant could not be convicted as a seller.

Here the appellant was not charged with selling. If he had been and had acted only as a delivery man, the theory of the prayer in the Prince case might be applicable. The appellant was charged with possession and control. The Prince case was held not controlling, since it dealt only with a sale, in Vasquez v. United States (9th Cir.), 290 F.2d 897, 899, where the charge was transporting or facilitating the transportation of narcotics. The Court said: 'One may be convicted of transporting or facilitating the transportation of narcotics without having committed the act of selling.' In United States v. Sawyer (3rd Cir.), 210 F.2d 169, 170, cited in Prince, the Court said: 'The government having elected to charge the defendant with the crime of sale rather than illegal possession, the jury should have been alerted to the legal limitations of the sales concept * * *.'

In the case before us there is no showing the appellant was not acting for himself in having possession and control of narcotics. It is undisputed that he retained, as his own, half of the drug in one envelope. The defense of the appellant that he was only an agent must fail on the facts, if for no other reason.

In Prescoe v. State, 231 Md. 486, 191 A.2d 226, we held that a confession, which was explicitly conceded in open court to have been voluntary, was not made inadmissible solely because it was given while the accused was in custody after an illegal arrest. To avoid the effect of Prescoe, appellant argues that his statements were not confessions but admissions and that the rule as to admissions differs from that controlling confessions, so that an admission made during unlawful custody is 'a fruit of the poisonous tree' and inadmissible, just as are objects seized in the course of a search following an illegal arrest.

In our view an admission made while in custody after an illegal arrest is no more inadmissible for that reason alone than a confession made in similar circumstances.

A confession is a species of admission, that is to say, an admission that says or necessarily implies that the matter confessed constitutes a crime. An admission which is not a confession is an acknowledgment of some fact or circumstance which, in itself, is insufficient to authorize a conviction but which tends to establish the ultimate fact of guilt. Merchant v. State, 217 Md. 61, 69, 141 A.2d 487. See also Vincent v. State, 220 Md. 232, 151 A.2d 898.

The authorities have differed as to whether an admission is subject to the same requirements concerning voluntariness as a confession in order to be admissible. For the view that the requirements are not the same, see Commonwealth v. Dascalakis, 243 Mass. 519, 137 N.E. 879, 38 A.L.R. 113; State v. Romo, 66 Ariz. 174, 185 P.2d 757; 3 Wigmore, Evidence (3rd Ed.), Sec. 821, p. 243, n. 4.

The contrary view, that an admission must be tested by the same standard of voluntariness as a confession, in determining its admissibility, has been said to be more likely to bring about a just result and to be more consonant with current trends of impartiality in practice in criminal prosecutions. Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 327 U.S. 274, 66 S.Ct. 544, 90 L.Ed. 667 (but compare Stein v. New York, 346 U.S. 156, 73 S.Ct. 1077, 97 L.Ed. 1522); Anderson v. United States, 318 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 599, 87 L.Ed. 829; People v. Hiller, 2 Ill.2d 323, 118 N.E.2d 11; State v. Nagle, 25 R.I. 105, 54 A. 1063; McCormick, Evidence, Sec. 113, pp. 235-236; A. L. I. Model Code of Evidence, Rule 505, p. 239.

In some Courts the fact that the admission was of a subsidiary fact only has been used to justify admissibility without a showing of voluntariness. 2 Wharton, Criminal Evidence (12th Ed.), Sec. 398, p. 146.

We take the preferable rule to be that an admission which is significantly incriminating but short of a confession must, like a confession, have been made voluntarily and without improper inducement to be evidence against the accused.

When an admission is in substance a partial confession or in the words of Chief Judge Bond for the Court in Markley v. State, 173 Md. 309, 314, 196 A. 95, 97, is a statement 'in the nature of [a confession],' there must be considered the same potential danger of coercion as in the case of a confession. The less incriminating the admission, the less the likelihood that it was obtained by coercion or inducement. 2 Wharton, op. cit., Sec. 398, p. 147.

This Court in practice has consistently applied to admissions the test of voluntariness. Cothron v. State, 138 Md. 101, 113 A. 620; Frank v. State, 189 Md. 591, 595, 56 A.2d 810; Curreri v. State, 199 Md. 54, 57, 85 A.2d 454; McGuire v. State, 200 Md. 601, 609, 92 A.2d 582, cert. den. 344 U.S. 928, 73 S.Ct. 497, 97 L.Ed. 714; Zerwitz v. State, 205 Md. 357, 361, 109 A.2d 67; Merchant v. State, 217 Md. 61, 69, 141 A.2d 487; Felkner v. State, 218 Md. 300, 311, 146 A.2d 424; Robinson v. State, 225 Md. 300, 170 A.2d 187. Cf. Cooper v. State, 220 Md. 183, 152 A.2d 120; Glaros v. State, 223 Md. 272, 164 A.2d 461.

In Delnegro v. State, 198 Md. 80, 87, 81 A.2d 241, 245, it was said that the burden is on the State to show that a confession was freely and voluntarily made and was not obtained by improper inducements, and it was held that a statement by a defendant in a raided bookmaking establishment that he worked on the adding machines (in the form of a reply to a question), 'was manifestly voluntary and was an admission, not a confession of guilt.' It was then said: 'The rule for the admission of a confession in evidence is not applicable to an admission.' The last statement would not seem to have been necessary to the decision since it had already been held that the statement was voluntary. We think the case means only that the...

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