WOODS v. CLUSEN No. 85-1618.
794 F.2d 293 (1986)
Burdette WOODS, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Donald CLUSEN, Respondent-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Decided June 25, 1986.
Sally Wellman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Justice, Madison, Wis., for respondent-appellant.
Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, CUDAHY, Circuit Judge, and CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge.
WILLIAM J. CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge.
Petitioner Burdette Woods pled guilty and was subsequently adjudged guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter in the Circuit Court for Shawano County, Wisconsin for the beating death of Henry and Beryl Schwab. An oral confession obtained from Woods while in police custody played a pivotal role in petitioner pleading guilty. Prior to pleading guilty Woods brought a motion to suppress the oral confession. The trial court denied the motion. Woods took direct appeal to the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin pursuant to Wisconsin Statute § 971.31(10). The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished order. Subsequently the Wisconsin Supreme Court reviewed the circumstances surrounding the confession and affirmed the rulings of the lower tribunals. See State v. Woods,
On September 10, 1979, Henry and Beryl Schwab were beaten to death in their Shawano County home. While local police were investigating the murder scene petitioner Woods was observed watching the events unfold from a distance. His presence and interest caused him to become a prime suspect. However, several days into the investigation police had no probable cause to arrest him.
Shortly thereafter police received information that petitioner had attempted to sell
While in transit to police headquarters petitioner was read his Miranda rights and asked if he understood them. Woods responded affirmatively. Woods was also asked if he wished to consult an attorney to which he answered in the negative. When asked if he would like to answer any questions or make a statement Woods did not respond. Woods arrived at police headquarters at approximately 8 a.m. A juvenile intake worker, David Gage, asked Woods many of the same questions concerning his understanding of his Miranda rights and his opportunity to consult an attorney. Woods continued to state he understood his rights and did not wish the presence of counsel. At this point Woods was fingerprinted, photographed and asked to remove his clothes and don jail overalls. He was not issued shoes or socks and was left barefoot.
After approximately forty-five minutes the booking process was completed and Woods was taken to a room to be interrogated by Officers Thorpe and Trombi. Woods was seated at a table, still barefoot and dressed in jail clothing but unrestrained. Approximately one to two feet away from Woods were pictures of the Schwab murder scene. Officers Thorpe and Trombi did not repeat the Miranda warnings to Woods. They did ask several times if Woods was willing to talk to them. The petitioner never responded. Without Woods' explicit consent the officers proceeded to interrogate Woods about the Schwab case for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes. Several intimidating and deceptive tactics were employed by the officers to get Woods to talk. First, there were the disturbing pictures of the murder scene and the jail house clothing. In addition to this, Officer Thorpe misrepresented that police officials had enough evidence to convict Woods regardless of whether he talked. The officers admit this statement was not true. Officer Trombi further suggested things would "be better" or "go easier" if Woods talked, in view of the fact he knew Woods committed the murders. Trombi testified petitioner became visibly emotional during the interrogation. At one point when Officer Trombi asked petitioner why he was in the woods the day after the murders Woods responded, "I never went in the woods the next day." Nonetheless, except for this statement and despite the police tactics mentioned above Woods, although clearly emotionally involved, remained unresponsive.
Having reached an apparent impasse, Officers Trombi and Thorpe left the room. Two fresh investigators, Robert Ankenbrandt and Wendell Harken of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, entered the interrogation room to commence their own interrogation. Harken asked Woods if he had been advised of his rights and Woods replied affirmatively. Harken and Ankenbrandt then initiated their own questioning. More deceptive tactics were employed to elicit an incriminating response from Woods during this second interrogation. Agent Ankenbrandt testified he produced a fingerprint card with two prints circled in red and the wallet of one of the murder victims and declared to Woods, "this is what is going to pin you down, or this is what's going to hang you, or something to that effect." Tr. 41. Ankenbrandt admits this statement was untrue and intentionally advanced to trick Woods into confessing. Indeed, no fingerprints were found on the wallets of the victims.
In this case we are asked to determine whether petitioner Burdette Woods knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to remain silent as well as his right to counsel within the spirit of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Were the conduct and tactics employed by police officials so psychologically overwhelming and offensive that they violated Woods' Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Did the police actions remain within constitutionally permissible bounds and did Woods, by his course of conduct, waive his rights and decide to confess willfully, rationally and freely? We conclude the conduct of the police under the circumstances of this case violated the constitutional principles and safeguards which have been enunciated in past Supreme Court caselaw. The habeas corpus relief granted at the district court level was appropriate.
An individual has a right to be free from compelled self-incrimination while in police custody under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (See generally Miranda v. State of Arizona,
A review of the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding this case does not leave us with the impression the constitutional principles and values enunciated by the Supreme Court above were respected in any acceptable manner. The police simply overreached in this case. We note the following particulars, to be reviewed in a "totality of circumstances" framework. Petitioner Woods was a juvenile sixteen and one-half years of age. He had no prior criminal record and certainly no serious previous contact with the criminal justice system. He was awakened early one morning by police officers hovering in his bedroom, handcuffed and led away from home and family in a matter of moments ostensibly for the theft of a chain saw. Upon his arrival at the police station he was stripped of his clothes, given institutional garb, but not given shoes — enhancing his feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability.
After all of this tactical maneuvering and chicanery on the part of the police, two fresh police agents arrived upon the scene. While these officers were "fresh" Woods was already several hours into the ordeal. Without the presence of counsel one can only imagine what kind of convoluted thoughts were racing through Woods' mind at this point. The two new agents commenced what was to be a twenty to thirty minute interrogation. One of the agents lied to Woods by telling him they found his fingerprints on the wallet of one of the victims. This false evidence was followed by clearly intimidating statements such as "this is what is going to pin you down, or ... hang you." Agent Harken's fatherly overtures lacked sincerity and served to confuse the issue further for Woods. They hindered Woods' ability to make a knowing and voluntary choice concerning his exercising his option to waive his rights.
In Gault, supra, the Supreme Court stated that when juveniles are involved "the greatest care must be taken to assure that the admission was voluntary." See 387 U.S. at 55, 87 S.Ct. at 1428, 1455. In this case such care was nonexistent. It is a long-standing principle that great care is necessary to insure the voluntariness of a confession when juveniles are involved. We return to the language of Haley, supra, where the Supreme Court stated:
We share the same concern about juveniles in police custody in this case as the Supreme Court did in 1948. The statements obtained under the circumstances of the instant case should have been suppressed. There was little meaningful effort by the police in this case to uphold and respect the above constitutional principles and safeguards. The police tactics violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of fundamental fairness.
We see no error in the district court's handling of the review of petitioner's claim.
We close by noting that we recognize the brutality of the crime involved in this case and the frustration that will undoubtedly arise from some circles over the result we have reached. However, our society has chosen to protect individual liberties and, to do so, to err on the safe side in the manner in which state law enforcement officials can arrest and interrogate private citizens about unsolved crimes. Undoubtedly, there are more efficient and effective ways in which to battle crime, as can be evidenced by a survey of the criminal justice systems of other countries in this world. However, we have no doubt about the wisdom of this country's priorities, and examples, such as the instant case, must from time to time be set in order to uphold principles we believe the citizens of this country still deeply cherish.
The ruling of the district court is hereby AFFIRMED.
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