POWERS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
Larry Donnell Pharr was found guilty by a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of charges of rape, committing an unnatural and perverted sexual practice, kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. He appeals from the judgments entered against him on those verdicts, and raises two questions in this Court. They are:
The Corpus Delicti
Although the facts of the crimes are not at issue in this appeal, we shall summarize briefly the events upon which the charges were based, as they were related in court by the
The attacker had forcible sexual intercourse with the woman. Then he held his hand over her eyes, and put his penis in her mouth for a brief time. He had sexual intercourse with her again. The man got up, she pulled up her clothes, and they walked back to her car. He took her keys and her pocketbook, and told her to get in the back. She crouched down between the seats. The man took the shoes she had bought out of the paper shopping bag they were in, and put the bag over her head. He drove for some time, stopped and summoned a friend, who followed in another car. He parked her car, took her new shoes and her watch as well as her pocketbook, then told her to stay still for five minutes. He said that her keys were on a garbage pail behind the car.
She never got a good look at her attacker, and she was not able to identify him. The victim waited, and after a few minutes she got out of the car, found her keys, and drove until she reached a gas station. The attendant called the police. About 10 days later her wallet came back to her in the mail.
By 23 September 1975, two weeks later, the police had identified a fingerprint found on the shoe store shopping bag, mentioned above, as the fingerprint of Larry Donnell Pharr. Facts developed by the police in their investigation of these two attacks, as well as a third reported attempt, led the police to obtain warrants on 23 September 1975 for the arrest of Pharr on several charges.
At about 6:30 P.M. on 23 September several detectives of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation of the Prince George's County Police, and a uniformed member of the force, went to the home of Larry Pharr in Prince George's County with warrants for his arrest. They placed him under arrest, took him into custody, and took him to the offices of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. There Corporal Alvin Hall, Jr. conducted an interview or interrogation of Pharr, during which Pharr allegedly confessed to Cpl. Hall that he had committed the crimes involved in this case. Cpl. Hall wrote down what Pharr said.
Trial of this case was held in the Circuit Court on 8 June 1976, Judge William B. Bowie presiding. A motion to suppress the statement was heard by the trial judge, out of the presence of the jury, during the course of the trial. The motion was denied. The statement was later admitted into evidence, over objection, when it was offered during Cpl. Hall's testimony before the jury.
Denial of the motion to suppress the statement is the principal issue in this appeal. To determine whether the ruling was correct, we look to the record of the suppression hearing, Haslup v. State, 30 Md.App. 230, 240, 351 A.2d 181 (1976).
Cpl. Hall testified that he rode with Pharr in a police cruiser, driven by another detective, to the office at Forestville.
The form, a letter sized sheet, signed by Pharr, was placed in evidence. There is no contention that the so-called warnings failed in any way to conform fully with the requirements of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The last sentence of the warnings reads:
The next paragraph of the form contains these lines: "Having been so advised, are you willing to make a statement?" "Reply of defendant;
Hall testified that when he read the question, "are you willing to make a statement?" Pharr said yes, which he wrote on the sheet, and initialed next to it. At the end of the
That statement, with the time 1930 [7:30 P.M.] noted at the head, described the accosting and rape of a [Mrs. C.] on 16 September. It begins with a short narrative in Cpl. Hall's handwriting, and continues with a series of questions and answers. Cpl. Hall testified, "The questions are my questions. The answers are what he related to those questions." Each of the four pages is signed, perpendicular to the lines of the handwriting, with the name Larry Pharr, in what the detective said was Pharr's handwriting. Pharr's signature is also at the bottom of the last page.
The statement, relating to a different occurrence, was received in evidence at the suppression hearing in the present case. When that statement was concluded, Cpl. Hall took statements from Pharr about two other cases, then, timed at 2100 [9:00 P.M.], a brief addendum to the first statement. Next, timed as beginning at 2105 [9:05 P.M.], he took a statement in reference to the rape of [Miss H.] on 9-9-75, the statement at issue in this case. It contains a short narrative, followed by questions and answers. Each page was signed, across the handwriting, by Larry Pharr, and his signature is at the end.
We set out here the complete statement:
Pharr testified. He had turned 18 in August. He said that when the police came, he was at the kitchen table, eating dinner. He said he heard the knock, and his brother answered the door. He heard his brother say, "Get the shotgun out of my face." Larry Pharr went to the door. One of the officers was holding a shotgun, pointed down. Pharr said he was under the influence of marijuana and vodka, but "I kind of woke up a little bit when he started shoving me around." Pharr said that his mother had taken him to a clinic at a hospital that day, where he had a check-up. She had brought him back about 3:00 o'clock, and dropped him off at a friend's house, where he saw several other friends.
Appellant told of being in the interview room with Cpl. Hall. Nobody else was there, except that a detective came to the door for a moment, and left. Pharr said Hall read to him from a paper, and that the signature "Larry Pharr" at the bottom was his, although he said that the initials "LP" above were not his handwriting. He said he knew that he was signing a piece of paper, and that it pertained to his rights, but that he did not read it.
Pharr testified that they were sitting at a desk, and Cpl. Hall had some papers and a pencil, and he was writing. The officer turned to him and said, "Now, let's hurry up and get this over with so we can try and get you out of here." Asked by his counsel, "Did you sign across those pieces of paper?", Pharr said, "Not at that time." He quoted Cpl. Hall:
Pharr signed his name across the papers, on every sheet. He did not read them. He testified that he had been advised of his rights and booked many times before, as a juvenile; he guessed more than 10 times.
Appellant also called as a witness at the suppression hearing a member of the Sheriff's Department, a classification officer, formerly program officer at the County Detention Center. She had done remedial reading work with Pharr. She had given him self-administered tests which indicated to her that his reading comprehension was at the level of the second grade, seventh month. The witness saw Pharr frequently over a period of months and had verbal communication with him. There was no time in which he did not seem to understand what she said to him. She never had any trouble communicating with him.
Argument for the appellant at the suppression hearing was that the statement should be suppressed because there was not a knowing and voluntary relinquishment by Pharr of his constitutional rights — that Pharr did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver, because of his youth, his IQ of 82, his low level of comprehension generally, and because at the time he was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. There was no contention, not even the slightest suggestion, that Pharr had been induced to confess by any promise held out to him.
It was the duty of the State to persuade the hearing judge by a preponderance of the evidence that Pharr knowingly and voluntarily made the statement attributed to him. Mulligan v. State, 18 Md.App. 588, 308 A.2d 418 (1973). Judge Bowie was so persuaded. With respect to the temporary effect of alcohol and marijuana upon appellant's capacity to understand what he was doing, Judge Bowie said to Pharr:
That contention was rejected on the basis of the judge's assessment of its credibility, in the light of all of the circumstances, including Pharr's detailed recital of events both before and after his arrest.
On the question of Pharr's ability to comprehend what was read and said to him, as well as the nature of his interrogation, both temporarily because of the alleged
Regarding a suggestion that Pharr did not read the pages of the statement when he signed them, the judge explained the minimal significance of the signatures. He said:
The court ruled:
The Alleged Intoxication
In Dempsey v. State, 277 Md. 134, 355 A.2d 455 (1976), the Court of Appeals, citing Bryant v. State, 229 Md. 531, 185 A.2d 190 (1962) and Mundell v. State, 244 Md. 91, 223 A.2d 184 (1966), said, at 151:
The Court said further, at 153-54:
In that case the evidence was sufficient to raise a legitimate jury issue as to voluntariness after the confession was in evidence before the jury. That issue was equally available to the appellant in this case, and was argued by him.
Upon our independent review of the evidence on the issue of impairment by intoxication we reject, as not credible, appellant's contention that his state of intoxication rendered his confession unknowing and involuntary.
Capacity to Comprehend
Appellant's testimony at the suppression hearing, and the record made by Cpl. Hall of appellant's narrative description
Cpl. Hall's testimony of what he read to Pharr, and Pharr's statement to him that he understood furnishes additional insight. The hearing judge's observation and impression of Pharr's comprehension are highly important.
Upon our own evaluation of the record we too are persuaded by a preponderance of the evidence that what Pharr heard and what he said during his interrogation by Cpl. Hall, were heard and said with understanding. Greenwell v. State, 32 Md.App. 579, 363 A.2d 555 (1976).
A third factor affecting the question of voluntariness, and thus admissibility of appellant's confession, has been injected for the first time in this appeal. It is, of course, a part of the overall issue of suppression for involuntariness, which was raised and decided below.
Inducement is argued here on the basis of the alleged statement of Cpl. Hall, as testified by Pharr, that, "if you cooperate I'll go down there and talk to the clerk and see if I can get you personal bond." Cpl. Hall was not recalled to refute that testimony.
It is indeed the law, as appellant points out, citing Smith v. State, 189 Md. 596, 56 A.2d 818 (1948), that to be admissible in evidence a confession must be the free and voluntary act of the accused. In that case the Court of Appeals said at 603-04:
A pitfall for the State may be created when at a suppression hearing the defendant testifies that he was induced to confess by a promise held out to him (or by a threat made, or other coercion brought to bear upon him) by a police officer. If such testimony is foreseen, the prosecutor may refute it in advance. If it is not foreseen, and not already refuted or rebutted, the prosecutor must call as a witness the person alleged to have made the promise or threat, or a person in whose presence it was allegedly made, so as to refute the allegation.
The need for prosecutorial alertness, and the serious consequences of its lack, have been illustrated in numerous cases in the Court of Appeals and in this Court. A rule, frequently identified with the case of Streams v. State, 238 Md. 278, 208 A.2d 614 (1965), was stated earlier in Mercer v. State, 237 Md. 479, 206 A.2d 797 (1965). In the latter case the accused had made a confession after interrogation for about two and one half hours, with three different officers
In Price v. State, 261 Md. 573, 277 A.2d 256 (1971), the Court of Appeals referred to the Streams rule, but held that the facts there did not call for its application. The Streams rule was held clearly applicable in Gill v. State 265 Md. 350, 289 A.2d 575 (1972), so as to require reversal because testimony that a confession was induced was unrebutted by the only person able to rebut it.
We pointed out that there was conflicting testimony relating to the time the alleged inducement took place, if it took place at all. We said, at 176:
We have carefully studied the testimony given by the appellant at the suppression hearing. It establishes quite clearly the chronology of the events of the evening of 23 September 1975. It does not conflict with the chronology of Cpl. Hall's testimony relating those same events. In outline, they went this way:
1. Pharr was arrested at his home by several police officers, and taken to the police station.
2. Cpl. Hall took Pharr into a room, where both sat at a desk.
3. Cpl. Hall read to Pharr from a paper, which pertained to his rights. He signed it.
4. Cpl. Hall and Pharr talked. Cpl. Hall was writing, on several sheets of paper.
5. When Cpl. Hall finished writing, he asked Pharr to sign his name on each sheet.
6. Pharr did not sign the pages at that time, but he did sign after Cpl. Hall told him he would talk to the clerk and see if he could get him personal bond.
It becomes clear that if that alleged promise induced Pharr to do anything, it did not induce him to confess. He had already done that. It was not a promise "held out to an accused for the purpose of inducing him to confess." Smith v. State, supra. The confession had been completed. It had been recorded in the handwriting of Cpl Hall. Whether Pharr signed his name on the pages, or declined to do so, had nothing to do with its voluntariness, or its admissibility. Nor did his testimony that he told the officer that he didn't know anything about any rape go to the issue of voluntariness.
We cannot help but attach significance to the content of the paper which was read to Pharr, and which he said he understood. He was told, "you are not promised anything to make a statement." He signed the waiver saying that he was willing to make a statement, and that no promises or threats had been made to him.
If one accepts, as we do, that Cpl. Hall read to Pharr what was printed on the paper, and that Pharr understood what it said, and agreed to the waiver, then one wonders if it is necessary thereafter to have Pharr sign still another paper saying, "I have not been promised anything to make a statement that I have not been promised anything ... etc., etc., etc.,".
There was no error in the ruling of the lower court denying the motion to suppress Pharr's confession, and admitting it in evidence.
The Handgun Charge
We agree with appellant's argument that the evidence was not sufficient to convict him on the charge of using a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. His motion for judgment of acquittal on that count should have been granted.
The victim said that her assailant was holding a "silver handgun". He cocked and uncocked it several times, but did not fire it. Appellant's confession said that he had a silver blank gun. No gun was produced. The evidence did not show that the weapon Pharr used came within the statutory
We have considered the additional arguments suggested by counsel at the express direction of the appellant. They have no merit.
Judgment on count charging use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, reversed.
Judgments on other counts affirmed.
Appellant to pay costs.
On the other hand, if one attacks a confession on the ground that he did not say what the document records as having been said by him — that it is a forgery or otherwise a trumped-up document, then the question is simply whether the document is a true or a false record, and voluntariness is irrelevant.