Certiorari Denied March 15, 1965. See 85 S.Ct. 1029.
McGOWAN, Circuit Judge.
The principal question presented by this appeal relates to the adequacy of the pre-trial proceedings held before the United States Commissioner.
At the time of his arrest, appellant was a juvenile, seventeen years of age, with an educational experience terminating in the seventh grade. As required by law because of his age, he was first placed in the custody of the Juvenile Court, but that tribunal a few days later elected to waive its jurisdiction over him. The same day a complaint was filed with the Commissioner, and appellant was brought before him.
Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which is applicable to all U. S. Commissioners within and without the District of Columbia, specifies certain procedures to be followed in an appearance of this kind. Paragraph (b) of that Rule is as follows:
The record before us shows that the Commissioner here may be deemed to have complied with these directions. The proof in this respect is that the printed record form used by the Commissioner bears what appears to be a mechanical imprint with this legend:
Below this there is a typewritten statement that "Deft. Waived Preliminary Hearing."
This last recital of appellant's waiver of preliminary hearing derives from paragraph (c) of Rule 5 which provides in substance that, unless hearing is waived, the Commissioner is to hear the evidence against the defendant, with the latter having the right to cross-examine witnesses and to offer evidence of his own. Thereafter, the Commissioner is to determine whether the defendant is to be released or to be held to respond in the district court, depending upon whether he finds probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime charged.
The record here having recited a waiver of such hearing by appellant, he was bound over and subsequently indicted. After the indictment was returned, counsel was appointed by the District Court to represent appellant in the trial which resulted in the convictions now on appeal.
As the tribunal vested with the penultimate authority and responsibility for the supervision of criminal justice in the District of Columbia, our mandate comprehends alertness to see that the directions of Congress are complied with. Rule 5 is such a direction which, as noted above, is as binding upon the U. S. Commissioner in this jurisdiction as it is upon his counterparts in Alaska or Alabama. But, unlike his confreres outside the District, the Commissioner here is subject to additional instruction from Congress in the matter of the provision of counsel for indigents in preliminary hearings in felony cases. Thus, even if it be assumed that, on this record, the proceedings before the Commissioner were in literal compliance with Rule 5, our inquiry is not at an end for the reason that that Rule does not exhaust the responsibilities of a U. S. Commissioner sitting in the District of Columbia.
In 1960 Congress enacted the District of Columbia Legal Aid Act, 2 D.C.Code §§ 2201-2210. Its purpose was clearly reflected in its very first section which recited that the Legal Aid Agency thereby created was "to provide legal representation
It seems to us that this language cannot be read — at least with anything like a due regard for the fair intendment of Congress — as limiting the Commissioner's responsibilities in a case like the one before us to a routine notification under Rule 5 that appellant may retain his own counsel.
It may fairly be inferred, we think, both from what is said in the Board's report and from what appears in the record in this case, that the answer lies in an assumption by the Commissioner that he is not called upon to do more than to inform the defendants before him of the matters specified in Rule 5. Unless the defendant before him takes the initiative to assert his indigency and to seek actively the provision of counsel under the 1960 statute, the matter silently goes by default, an uncounselled waiver of preliminary hearing is ordinarily made, and the proceedings before the Commissioner are at an end. Contrarily, the defendant who himself raises the issue of the availability of unpaid counsel apparently becomes one of those who, like the 197 last year, have the benefit of counsel at the preliminary hearing and who, if they choose to waive the receipt of evidence and the making of a finding as to probable cause, at least do so after legal instruction and advice.
We need not pause, however, to speculate about what the Commissioner has been doing generally. Our problem is to determine whether he functioned properly as an instrument of the will of Congress in this particular case. We think he did not; and our conclusion rests upon what we conceive to be the letter, as it is certainly the spirit, of the 1960 statute. We find in it a clear and explicit prescription for the District of Columbia, as unique perhaps as the District is unique in the lead which it, thanks in large part to an enlightened bar which has shouldered a truly professional responsibility of staggering scope, has attained over other jurisdictions in the quest of one of the ideals of a free society — equal justice for all. And, given the Legal Aid Act, we also need not speculate, at least in order to decide the case before us, as to what the Constitution demands of criminal procedure as administered in Hawaii, or whether Rules 5 and 44 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure should be interpreted to mean now what they will clearly mean if the proposed amendments
We do not believe that the 1960 statute reflects any assumption by Congress that its benefits were to be available to a seventeen-year old boy with a seventh grade education only if he affirmatively raised the question and requested them. There is nothing in this record which remotely suggests that he was apprised of these benefits, and, indeed, the shorthand formalism of the papers recording the appearance before the Commissioner raises a strong inference to the contrary. These pre-trial proceedings, thus, do not seem to us to have measured up to the standard fixed by the Congress in the 1960 statute; and we regard the uncounselled status of this appellant when he waived preliminary hearing as infecting that waiver.
The Government suggests to us that, even if the pre-trial proceedings before the Commissioner in this case were inadequate, the subsequent return of an indictment cured any inadequacy. We do not believe, however, that the mere existence of an indictment renders academic any defects in the Commissioner's proceedings or necessarily insulates those defects from judicial correction. Such a proposition is, we believe, incompatible with the importance which Congress, in this jurisdiction at any rate, has attached to these preliminary proceedings and to the participation of counsel in them. If that body had thought that disregard of its efforts to provide counsel in preliminary hearings in the 1960 statute could be absolved by the return of an indictment, there would seem to have been little point in its taking the trouble to address itself directly to the provision of counsel in preliminary hearings in felony cases.
We think, on the contrary, that the express preoccupation of Congress with preliminary hearings in the Legal Aid Act denotes a legislative recognition and acceptance of the view that criminal prosecution is a continuous and unitary process, and that each stage along the way has its own intrinsic importance as well as a frequently significant relationship to the final result. Preliminary inquiries can on occasion have great value for one charged with crime. Where a defendant is denied out of hand the opportunity to consider utilizing that value, we do not think that that denial is to be swept under the rug of a grand jury indictment. Neither do we think that the availability of a remedy should depend upon the outcome of a race between counsel seeking habeas corpus or mandamus and the grand jury acting upon the
There are, it appears to us, three possible avenues of remedial action open for the redress of infirmities in preliminary proceedings. One, of course, is the dismissal of the indictment, which, as noted above, is the alternative pressed upon us in this case. The argument is that only in this way can a prosecution be assured which is free of defects in all its stages. Wiping the slate clean is always a tidily appealing solution, but we are not convinced that it is necessary to go so far, either generally or in this case.
A second remedy would be to reverse the conviction and remand for a new trial. As a sanction providing a potent deterrent to disregard of pre-trial requirements, there can be little question of the efficacy of this approach, although the weight of the blow would fall, in the first instance at any rate, upon those not responsible for the error. On the remedial level as well there is something to be said for it, inasmuch as it would inevitably operate to convert the first trial into a rough equivalent of the defective or omitted preliminary hearing. However, it would provide no incentive to defendants to seek pre-trial resolution and cure of claims of defects in pre-trial proceedings. It would be most wasteful indeed if a visible flaw in the early stages of the criminal process were not asserted, adjudicated, and, if necessary, corrected before a full-scale trial takes place. Justice to an accused does not require that he be permitted to visit this consequence of his own dilatoriness upon the offending system.
It is, therefore, the third alternative of intervention by habeas corpus or mandamus prior to trial that we conceive to be the remedy best calculated to combine adequate relief to accused persons with the least burden to the Government and the courts. Thus, an accused who is permitted to waive hearing without proper advice or who is wrongfully denied an opportunity to present witnesses in his own behalf will be entitled to an order of release unless a hearing is held, or to an order reopening the hearing for presentation of further evidence.
There remains the question of what to do in the present case. It has generally been thought that the purpose of a preliminary hearing is to afford the accused (1) an opportunity to establish that there is no probable cause for his continued detention and thereby to regain his liberty and, possibly, escape prosecution, and (2) a chance to learn in advance of trial the foundations of the charge and the evidence that will comprise the government's case against him.
As we have said, we do not feel that there is any necessity to do what appellant asks us to do, namely, reverse his conviction with directions to dismiss the indictment. In light of the generally recognized purposes of a preliminary hearing, it is not without significance that he has couched his prayer for relief here in these terms, rather than urging upon us that the Commissioner's error so impaired his ability to defend himself at his first trial that another should be granted for that reason alone. For this is the precise issue we face in considering whether some relief short of dismissal of the indictment should be ordered.
Appellant's appointed counsel entered the case three days after the indictment was filed. There was, therefore, time for him to have sought pre-trial relief from the Commissioner's earlier error. We are not, however, inclined to hold him (see United States v. Stevenson, 170 F.Supp. 315 (D.D.C.1959)) to as rigorous a standard of timely action as we contemplate for cases arising in the future. Nevertheless, in weighing the problem immediately before us, we cannot be unmindful that counsel apparently did not see any compelling necessity to seek pre-trial relief in order to prepare for trial. Nor, at the trial itself, did he make any intimation, by formal objection or otherwise, that appellant was being unfairly exposed to, or surprised by, the introduction of evidence that he could have successfully rebutted had he had a pre-trial hearing. And no more than in the trial court have claims of this nature been advanced on this appeal. Moreover, our own examination of the record discloses no basis for any such allegations. Accordingly, we cannot find that the Commissioner's failure to accord appellant a meaningful opportunity to elect to have a preliminary hearing, and thereby to acquaint himself in greater detail with the case against him, so handicapped him in his first trial as to require a second.
The other main purpose of a preliminary hearing, as we have noted, is to afford the accused a chance to secure his immediate release by persuading the Commissioner that there is no probable cause to hold him on the charges in question. Where, as here, the accused has been found guilty of those charges in a full-scale trial that we have otherwise found to be free of error, the chances that he could persuade a magistrate that no probable cause exists for his continued detention are perhaps not ungenerously to be characterized as speculative.
Accordingly, the convictions appealed from are
BAZELON, Chief Judge (concurring in part and dissenting in part):
I concur in Parts, I, II, and III of the court's opinion. I dissent from Part IV. I do not think we should decide, without remanding for further inquiry, that the denial of appellant's right to a preliminary hearing did not prejudice his defense. The court cites, as grounds for concluding that appellant was not prejudiced, the facts that appellant's
"Preliminary Examination. The defendant shall not be called upon to plead. If the defendant waives preliminary examination, the commissioner shall forthwith hold him to answer in the district court. If the defendant does not waive examination, the commissioner shall hear the evidence within a reasonable time. The defendant may cross-examine witnesses against him and may introduce evidence in his own behalf. If from the evidence it appears to the commissioner that there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant has committed it, the commissioner shall forthwith hold him to answer in the district court; otherwise the commissioner shall discharge him. The commissioner shall admit the defendant to bail as provided in these rules. After concluding the proceeding the commissioner shall transmit forthwith to the clerk of the district court all papers in the proceeding and any bail taken by him."
"The Agency shall make attorneys available to represent indigents in criminal proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and in preliminary hearings in felony cases, and in cases involving offenses against the United States in which imprisonment may be for one year or more in the Municipal Court for the District of Columbia, in proceedings before the Coroner for the District of Columbia and the United States Commissioner, in proceedings before the juvenile court of the District of Columbia, and in proceedings before the Commission on Mental Health of the District of Columbia and proceedings in the courts arising therefrom.
"The Agency shall from time to time advise each of the courts and tribunals named in this section of the names of the attorneys employed by the Agency who are available to accept assignments in said court or tribunal. The judges or other presiding officers of the several courts and tribunals may assign attorneys employed by the Agency to represent indigents, such assignments to be upon a case-to-case basis, a group-of-cases basis, or a time basis, as the assigning authority may prescribe. Each such court and tribunal will make every reasonable effort to provide assignment of counsel as early in the proceeding as practicable."
A staff attorney of the Agency assigned to represent a defendant in a preliminary hearing before the United States Commissioner considers himself still his attorney after the hearing, and to the extent possible begins before indictment to prepare for trial. Experience to date indicates that prompt investigation contributes to the correct and speedy disposition of criminal cases."
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LEGAL AID AGENCY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, FOURTH ANNUAL REPORT 10-11 (1964).
The Second Preliminary Draft has been widely distributed to bench and bar, with a request that comments be forthcoming not later than April 1, 1965. It may or may not be significant, as a presage of eventual adoption, that the proposals of immediate interest to us were only strengthened in the Second Draft as compared with the First, which latter itself was outstanding for comment for a considerable period of time.