Williams v. Brewer

Citation509 F.2d 227
Decision Date30 January 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74--1300,74--1300
PartiesRobert Anthony WILLIAMS, a/k/a Anthony Erthel Williams, Appellee, v. Lou V. BREWER, Warden, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)

Richard Winders, Asst. Atty. Gen., Des Moines, Iowa, for appellant.

Robert Bartels, Iowa City, Iowa, for appellee.

Before VOGEL, Senior Circuit Judge, and ROSS and WEBSTER, Circuit Judges.

VOGEL, Circuit Judge.

Appellee, Robert Anthony Williams, was found guilty by jury verdict of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Iowa State Penitentiary. In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the conviction and denied rehearing. See State v. Williams, 182 N.W.2d 396 (1971).

After exhaustion of his state remedies, appellee filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court 1 on the ground that certain statements made by appellee, and other evidence and testimony obtained as the result of those statements, were improperly admitted into evidence in contravention of the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

In a carefully detailed and well supported opinion published as Williams v. Brewer, 375 F.Supp. 170 (1974), the District Court sustained the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Timely appeal was made to this court.

We affirm.

Evidentiary Facts.

The attorneys for the parties agreed to submit the case to the District Court on the record of facts and proceedings in the state trial court.

The District Court, in an exercise of its discretion, agreed to review appellee's petition based upon the state court records. Dempsey v. Wainwright, 471 F.2d 604, 606 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 968, 93 S.Ct. 2158, 36 L.Ed.2d 690 (1973). The District Court accordingly made its findings of fact, upon which it based its order, without conducting further evidentiary hearings.

The following facts are unchallenged by either party:

On December 24, 1968, the Powers family attended a wrestling tournament in the YMCA building in Des Moines, Iowa. When Pamela Powers, aged 10, failed to return from a trip to the restroom, a search was started. The police were called after she could not be located in the building.

Appellee Williams, who had a room on the seventh floor of the YMCA building, was seen in the lobby coming from the elevator carrying some clothing and a large bundle wrapped in a blanket. He spoke to several persons on the way out, explaining to one that he was carrying a mannequin. He requested the aid of a 14-year-old boy to open first the street door and then the door of his Buick automobile parked at the curb. This boy testified that when the appellee placed the bundle in the passenger's seat he 'saw two legs in it and they were skinny and white.' Efforts by YMCA personnel to view the object were thwarted by the appellee as he closed and locked the car doors and drove away.

On the following day appellee's car was found by police in Davenport, Iowa, approximately 160 miles east of Des Moines. At that time a warrant on a charge of child stealing was issued for appellee's arrest.

Sometime in the morning of December 26, 1968, appellee called from Rock Island, Illinois, to Attorney Henry T. McKnight of Des Moines, Iowa. Mr. McKnight advised the appellee to surrender himself to the Davenport, Iowa, police. Appellee did so.

After the first long distance telephone call from appellee, Mr. McKnight proceeded to the Des Moines police station where he received another long distance telephone call from the appellee, this time from Davenport where he was in police custody. Mr. McKnight, in the presence and hearing of Chief of Police Wendell Nichols and Detective Cleatus M. Leaming, told the appellee that he would be transported from Davenport to Des Moines by Des Moines policemen, that he would not be mistreated or grilled, that they would talk the matter over in Des Moines, and that appellee should make no statement until he reached Des Moines.

Thereafter, it was agreed that Detective Leaming and Detective Nelson would go to Davenport to pick up the appellee without Mr. McKnight accompanying them, and that the appellee would be brought directly back to Des Moines. Mr. McKnight and the police also agreed that appellee would not be questioned until after he had been returned to Des Moines and consulted with Mr. McKnight.

While the appellee was in Davenport in police custody, and at his request, he consulted with a local attorney, Mr. Thomas Kelly, who thereafter acted in his behalf while the appellee was in Davenport. Mr. Kelly advised the appellee to remain silent until he had arrived in Des Moines and consulted with Mr. McKnight.

After arriving in Davenport and before departing for Des Moines, Detective Leaming advised the appellee of his Miranda rights. These rights were not repeated during the trip to Des Moines.

On the trip from Davenport to Des Moines, Detective Leaming and the appellee sat in the rear seat of the car with Detective Nelson driving. Leaming and the appellee engaged in conversation. They discussed religion, appellee's reputation, appellee's friends, police procedures aspects of the police investigation into this matter, and various other topics.

At this time Detective Leaming knew that the appellee had been a patient in the state mental hospital at Fulton, Missouri, for a period of about three years and that he was an escapee therefrom.

On several occasions during the return trip to Des Moines appellee told Detective Leaming that he would tell him the whole story after he returned to Des Moines and consulted with his attorney, Mr. McKnight.

According to Detective Leaming's own testimony, the specific purpose of his conversation with appellee was to obtain statements and information from appellee concerning the missing girl before the appellee could consult with Mr. McKnight.

The following testimony by Detective Leaming during the hearing on the motion to suppress describes a portion of his conversation with the appellee.

Eventually, as we were traveling along there, I said to Mr. Williams that, 'I want to give you something to think about while we're traveling down the road.' I said, 'Number one, I want you to observe the weather conditions, it's raining, it's sleeting, it's freezing, driving is very treacherous, visibility is poor, it's going to be dark early this evening. They are predicting several inches of snow for tonight, and I feel that you yourself are the only person that knows where this little girl's body is, that you yourself have only been there once, and if you get a snow on top of it you yourself may be unable to find it. And, since we will be going right past the area on the way to Des Moines, I feel that we could stop and locate the body, that the parents of this little girl should be entitled to a Christian burial for the little girl who was snatched away from them on Christmas Eve and murdered. And I feel we should stop and locate it on the way in rather than waiting until morning and trying to come back out after a snow storm and possibly not being able to find it at all.'

In response to an inquiry by appellee, Leaming told the appellee that he knew the body was somewhere in the area of Mitchellville, a town 15 miles from Des Moines and along the freeway between Davenport and Des Moines. Leaming later testified that he did not, in fact, know that the body was near Mitchellville.

Shortly before reaching the Mitchellville turnoff, the appellee told Leaming that he would show him where the body was located. Accompanied by other police officers who were following them, they drove to a location designated by the appellee; the body of Pamela Powers was found in a ditch alongside the highway.

Appellee's statements and other evidence obtained pursuant to such statements were admitted into evidence at trial, and over the objections of appellee's attorney.

Challenged Evidentiary Facts.

As noted heretofore, this case was submitted to the United States District Court on the record of the facts and proceedings in the state court. Under such circumstances, a federal court in reviewing an application for writ of habeas corpus is to presume as correct the facts as determined by the state court (subject to various exceptions). 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). 2 The appellant contends here that the United States District Court made certain findings of fact contrary to the findings in the state court and therefore violated the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

The District Court specifically found that Mr. Kelly, appellee's Davenport attorney, had advised Detective Leaming prior to his departure from Davenport with the appellee that the appellee was not to be questioned until he got to Des Moines and that Mr. Kelly had asked Leaming that he be permitted to accompany the appellee to Des Moines and that Leaming denied the request.

The District Court also found that Leaming knew that the appellee was a deeply religious person and that he used that knowledge to elicit incriminating statements from the appellee.

The District Court also found that the misstatement by Leaming that he knew the whereabouts of the body of Pamela Powers had a compelling influence on the appellee to make incriminating statements.

A review by this court of the record of the state proceedings reveals certain discrepancies between the testimony of Mr. Kelly and Detective Leaming and certain ambiguities in some of the testimony upon which the District Court relied in making its findings. The record also indicates with regard to the facts challenged here that the state court did not resolve 'the merits of the factual disputes.' Accordingly, where neither party has requested an evidentiary hearing, the federal court is not constrained in its fact findings by the presumption of correctness to be given findings of the state court....

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