Yount v. Patton

Decision Date10 May 1983
Docket NumberSCI--C,No. 82-5372,82-5372
Citation710 F.2d 956
PartiesJon E. YOUNT, Appellant, v. Ernest S. PATTON, Superintendent,amp Hill, and Harvey Bartle III, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

George E. Schumacher, Federal Public Defender, (argued), Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellant.

F. Cortez Bell, III, Asst. Dist. Atty., (argued), Thomas F. Morgan, Dist. Atty., Clearfield, Pa., for appellees.

Before HUNTER and GARTH, Circuit Judges and STERN, ** District Judge.

OPINION OF THE COURT

JAMES HUNTER, III, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner Jon E. Yount was convicted in 1966 of first degree murder and rape in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. On direct appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that petitioner had not received adequate warnings against self-incrimination. It reversed the judgment of sentence and granted a new trial. Commonwealth v. Yount, 435 Pa. 276, 256 A.2d 464 (1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 925, 90 S.Ct. 918, 25 L.Ed.2d 104 (1970) ("Yount I "). After a retrial before the same court, petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and was again sentenced to life imprisonment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on direct appeal affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Yount, 455 Pa. 303, 314 A.2d 242 (1974) ("Yount II ").

In 1981 petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in United States District Court. 1 Petitioner alleged, inter alia, that his conviction had been obtained in violation of his fifth and fourteenth amendment privilege against self-incrimination and his sixth and fourteenth amendment right to a fair trial by an impartial jury. 2 The federal magistrate concluded that petitioner's privilege against self-incrimination had not been violated, but recommended that the petition be granted because petitioner had been denied a fair and impartial jury. App. at 124a-41a. The district court agreed on the former issue, rejected the magistrate's recommendation on the latter issue, and denied the petition. Yount v. Patton, 537 F.Supp. 873 (W.D.Pa.1982).

We agree with the district court that petitioner's privilege against self-incrimination was not infringed. We conclude, however, that the petitioner's right to trial by a fair and impartial jury was violated. We will therefore remand that portion of the case to the district court.

I. SELF-INCRIMINATION
A. Facts 3

During the early evening of April 28, 1966, the body of Pamela Rimer, an 18-year old high school student, was found in a wooded area near her home in Luthersburg, Clearfield County. There were numerous wounds about her head, apparently caused by a blunt instrument. There were also cuts caused by a sharp instrument on her throat and neck. One of her stockings was knotted and tied around her neck. An autopsy showed that she had died of strangulation when blood from the throat and neck wounds was drawn into the lungs. Except for her stocking and shoe she remained fully clothed. The autopsy revealed no indication that she had been sexually assaulted.

Neighbors gave state police a description of a station wagon which they had seen at approximately the time and place at which the body was found. E.g., Testimony of Trial beginning November 17, 1970, at 143-48 ("T.T."). Sometime after two o'clock on the morning of April 29, 1966, state policemen learned that petitioner, the victim's high school mathematics teacher, had on prior occasions been seen in a station wagon fitting that description. T.T. at 290-93; Transcript of Proceedings--August 17, 1970, at 17-18, 20-21 ("T.P.").

At approximately 5:45 that morning, petitioner voluntarily appeared at the State Police Substation in DuBois, Clearfield County. The occupants of the substation had participated in the investigation of the Rimer homicide, T.T. at 198-201, 203-05, 255-56, but had gone to sleep unaware of any link between the homicide and petitioner or his vehicle. T.T. at 275, 277; T.P. at 13, 20. 4 Petitioner rang the doorbell. A trooper awoke, opened the door and asked whether he could be of assistance. Petitioner stated, "I am the man you are looking for." The trooper asked petitioner to repeat what he had said, app. at 11a; T.T. at 250-51, and then asked whether petitioner was referring to "the incident in Luthersburg." Petitioner said yes. The trooper then asked petitioner to come in and be seated.

Leaving petitioner unattended, the trooper went to a back bedroom and roused a detective and a second trooper. The first trooper informed them that "there was a man in the front that said we are looking for him" in connection with the Luthersburg incident. See T.T. at 276; T.P. at 6. The first trooper then returned to the front office where petitioner had removed his coat, hat and gloves. The trooper asked petitioner for his identification. Petitioner gave the trooper his wallet, which the trooper returned after removing petitioner's automobile operator's license. T.T. at 252.

Shortly thereafter, the detective and the second trooper entered the front office. The detective was handed petitioner's license and learned that petitioner was Jon Yount. App. at 12a; T.T. at 259, 262-63, 271. The detective requested that petitioner be seated inside a smaller adjacent office, and gave petitioner something to eat. See Yount I, 435 Pa. at 278, 256 A.2d at 465; T.P. at 15. The detective asked, "Why are we looking for you?" Petitioner replied, "I killed that girl." Upon hearing that answer, the detective inquired, "What girl?", and petitioner responded, "Pamela Rimer."

The detective then asked, "How did you kill this girl?" Petitioner answered, "I struck her with a wrench and I choked her." At that time the detective undertook to advise petitioner of his rights. The detective, however, failed to tell petitioner of his right to court-appointed counsel if he could not afford his own attorney. The detective then conducted an interrogation regarding the details of the crime. At some point the second trooper searched petitioner and confiscated his penknife. T.T. at 265-66, 267-68, 272-73. 5 Petitioner gave his first written confession to the detective. Later the district attorney, after giving similarly inadequate warnings, questioned petitioner and obtained another written confession.

B. State Proceedings and Proceedings Below

Before the first trial petitioner moved to suppress his statements and confessions as violative of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). After a hearing the motion was denied. The petitioner's statements and confessions were admitted in the first trial over petitioner's objections.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the warnings given by the detective and district attorney were inadequate under Miranda. Yount I, 435 Pa. at 279, 256 A.2d at 465 (Roberts, J., plurality opinion). The court rejected the Commonwealth's argument that the confessions were volunteered. "After indicating a willingness to talk, [petitioner] was interrogated about details of the crime, and his formal confession followed." 435 Pa. at 279-80, 256 A.2d at 465 (emphasis in original); see 435 Pa. at 281, 256 A.2d at 468 (Jones, C.J., concurring). The court found the confessions invalid and granted a new trial. 435 Pa. at 281, 256 A.2d at 466.

Prior to the second trial petitioner requested that his oral and written statements be suppressed. The trial court on the authority of Yount I suppressed the written confessions, as well as the question "How did you kill this girl?" and its answer. The trial court ruled, however, that petitioner's statement "I killed that girl" and his identification of "that girl" as "Pamela Rimer" were admissible under Yount I. App. at 748a, 755a. It concluded that petitioner's statements were made before petitioner was in custody. App. at 755a.

On appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not determine whether petitioner was in "custody" when he made the statements to the detective. Yount II, 455 Pa. at 311 n. 4, 314 A.2d at 247 n. 4. Instead it ruled that the statements were volunteered and not the product of interrogation. The court said that the detective's first question, "Why are we looking for you?", was simply an extemporaneous response "of neutral character." 455 Pa. at 310, 314 A.2d at 246. In the court's view the detective's question "What girl?" after petitioner had responded, "I killed that girl," was merely "a clarifying inquiry." Id. The supreme court therefore concluded that the questions were not calculated, expected or likely to elicit an incriminating response. 455 Pa. at 309, 314 A.2d at 246.

In his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, petitioner again argued that his fifth and fourteenth amendment privilege against self-incrimination had been violated by the admission of his responses to the detective's questions. The magistrate ruled that the responses were properly admitted because only after those responses, when "the police recognized that petitioner was present to confess his participation in a crime, did his presence become custodial." App. at 132a. The magistrate did not consider whether the questions constituted interrogation. The district court adopted the magistrate's findings. 537 F.Supp. at 875.

C. Discussion

Miranda held that unless the government has advised a defendant of his rights, it cannot put into evidence statements stemming from the "custodial interrogation" of the defendant. 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. The Supreme Court defined "custodial interrogation" to mean

questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.

Id. (note omitted).

Petitioner argues on appeal that his statements "I killed that girl" and "Pamela Rimer" must be excluded as the...

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