U.S. v. Charles

Citation738 F.2d 686
Decision Date13 August 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-2550,83-2550
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Santos CHARLES, Jr. and Steven McAninch, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

Page 686

738 F.2d 686
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Santos CHARLES, Jr. and Steven McAninch, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 83-2550.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Aug. 13, 1984.

Page 688

William Bradford Reynolds, Asst. Atty. Gen., James William Clute, Walter W. Barnett, Civil Rights Div., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., James R. Gough, Asst. U.S. Atty., Houston, Tex., for plaintiff-appellant.

Phil Westergren, Corpus Christi, Tex., for Charles.

Roland E. Dahlin, III, Federal Public Defender, George McCall Secrest, Jr., Thomas S. Berg, Asst. Federal Public Defenders, Houston, Tex., Gustavo L. Acevedo, Asst. Federal Public Defender, Laredo, Tex., for McAninch.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before POLITZ, WILLIAMS, and GARWOOD, Circuit Judges.

GARWOOD, Circuit Judge:

In this case the United States appeals an order of the district court granting the motion of defendants-appellees to suppress certain post-offense, preindictment oral and written statements. The district court found that the defendants made the statements while they were in custody and that the government failed to meet its burden of proving that the statements were made pursuant to a voluntary waiver of defendants' rights after the defendants received proper warnings in accordance with Miranda v. State of Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Because we conclude that both findings were clearly erroneous, we reverse the order of the district court.

Defendants Charles and McAninch, who were police officers with the Alice, Texas police department, were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 23, 1982 for violating the civil rights of a citizen while acting under color of state law. These

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charges stemmed from the death of Juan Alonzo, an individual arrested by Charles and McAninch and allegedly assaulted by them on January 12, 1981.

In pretrial proceedings before the district court below, both defendants moved in October and December 1982 to suppress the written statements they had given to Luis Salinas, an investigator employed by the district attorney's office of Jim Wells County, of which Alice is the county seat, on March 3, 1981, during the course of the state's investigation of the death of Juan Alonzo. The defendants also sought to suppress oral statements made by them to Bruce Stepp, an F.B.I. agent, on March 16, 1981, in which they each essentially verified the truthfulness and accuracy of the March 3 statements. After a hearing on the motions, the district court granted the motions to suppress the March 3 and March 16 statements, and the government appealed. While that appeal was pending, the government discovered an error in the grand jury proceedings that required dismissal of the original indictments. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss the indictments without prejudice, and this Court subsequently granted the government's motion to dismiss the appeal.

On July 6, 1983 Charles and McAninch were reindicted on the same charges. The district court granted the parties' joint motion to make most of the proceedings in the earlier case, including the motions to suppress, part of the record in the pending case. All parties agreed that no additional evidence was needed to determine the issues. The district court then adopted its previous order granting the defendants' motions to suppress the statements.



At the hearing on the motions to suppress, only the government presented any evidence. The defendants maintained that the March 3 statements had been taken by Salinas, who died in April 1982, 1 and that the government could not substantiate that the statements were the defendants' statements or that proper warnings were given and that improper inducements were not. The defendants chose to offer no evidence on their contentions. 2

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The government's central witness at the suppression hearing was Bruce Stepp, the F.B.I. agent who interviewed Charles and McAninch on March 16, 1981 as a part of a federal civil rights investigation of the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault and death of Juan Alonzo. Stepp testified that both of the defendants were then suspected of having committed a civil rights violation in that connection. He indicated that McAninch's name had been given to him as one of the officers who was probably involved in the beating of Juan Alonzo. Prior to his interviews with the defendants, Agent Stepp contacted the Alice, Texas chief of police and asked the chief to have Charles and McAninch come in for interviews on March 16, 1981. It was stipulated that the chief then "notified" the defendants to be at his office on the 16th.

Stepp's interviews with the defendants on March 16, 1981 were conducted at the Alice, Texas police department in the office of the chief of police. Immediately prior to his interviews with the defendants, Stepp obtained copies of the written statements the defendants had given on March 3, 1981 to Salinas, the investigator with the Jim Wells County district attorney's office. At the commencement of the interviews he advised both defendants that they were being interviewed in regard to an alleged civil rights violation involving the arrest of Juan Alonzo and that any information they furnished could be used in a court of law, but did not read them their Miranda rights. He testified at the suppression hearing that the defendants were not in custody at the time of the interviews.

Stepp further testified that neither of the defendants was physically detained and that they were both free to come and go. Furthermore, both of the defendants were working as police officers when they were interviewed by Stepp. In the course of the interviews, Stepp showed each of the defendants his March 3 statement, read the statement aloud, and allowed each defendant to read the statement himself. Defendant Charles stated that his March 3 statement was true and correct and that he had no additions or changes to make. Defendant McAninch said that the statement was basically correct but he specified four minor additions or clarifications he wished to make.

The March 3 statements taken from the defendants by Salinas and adopted by the defendants in their March 16 interviews with Stepp essentially set forth a written account of the arrest and booking of Juan Alonzo. Both of the statements admit that the defendants struck Alonzo while he was being booked. The statements also indicate that the defendants were employed as patrolmen at the time they gave the statements. The statements appear on forms captioned "Voluntary Statement" with printed language to the effect that the

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person taking the statement has warned the subject of his Miranda rights, followed by a printed statement of those rights. The statements also contain a printed paragraph indicating that the person giving the statement "hereby knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive[s] the above explained rights." 3 The defendants and Investigator Salinas signed each page of the defendants' respective statements.

The government's only other witness at the suppression hearing was Rolando Ramirez, the district attorney for Jim Wells County. He testified that the defendants had appeared before a Jim Wells County grand jury in connection with the state's investigation of Alonzo's death and that their testimony before the grand jury outlined substantially the same facts as those contained in their March 3 statements. Ramirez also testified that he had requested Salinas to take the statements from the defendants, that Salinas thereafter reported having done so, and gave Ramirez the written statements, and that he could authenticate Salinas' signature on the statements.



At the suppression hearing, both the defendants and the district court operated

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under the assumption that the burden of proving the admissibility of the March 3 statements was wholly upon the government. This, however, is not entirely correct. It is established that both the burden of production and the burden of persuasion generally rest upon the movant in a suppression hearing. United States v. De La Fuente, 548 F.2d 528, 533 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 932, 97 S.Ct. 2640, 53 L.Ed.2d 249 (1977). See also United States v. Glasgow, 658 F.2d 1036, 1044 (5th Cir.1981); United States v. Haydel, 649 F.2d 1152, 1157 (5th Cir.), modified on other grounds, 664 F.2d 84 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1022, 102 S.Ct. 1721, 72 L.Ed.2d 140 (1982). In the present instance, the defendants' burden required that at a minimum they demonstrate that the March 3 statements were obtained while they were under custodial interrogation. As we stated in De La Fuente:

"It is well established that the burdens of production and persuasion generally rest upon the movant in a suppression hearing. [Citations omitted.] Concededly, in some well-defined situations the ultimate burden of persuasion may shift to the government upon an initial showing of certain facts by the defendant. For example, ... if a defendant shows that a confession was obtained while he was under custodial interrogation, the government then has the burden of proving that the defendant voluntarily waived his privilege against self-incrimination.... And even in those situations ["in which the government may bear the ultimate burden of persuasion"], the defendant must first discharge his initial burden of producing some evidence on specific factual allegations sufficient to make a prima facie showing of illegality." 548 F.2d at 533-34.

See also United States v. Crocker, 510 F.2d 1129, 1135 (10th Cir.1975).

Having considered the suppression hearing record, we conclude that the defendants failed to meet their burden of proving that they were in custody at the time the March 3 statements were taken and that the...

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