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United States v. Morin

decided: March 31, 1959.


Author: Staley

Before BIGGS, Chief Judge, and GOODRICH and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

STALEY, Circuit Judge.

These are appeals from the denial of appellant's second motion presented under Section 2255, 28 U.S.C.*fn1 It was entitled Motion to Vacate Sentence and Judgment and alleged that his convictions were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights in that his pleas of guilty, coerced and induced by a confession illegally obtained by federal and state officers, were involuntary.

The case on appeal was presented on an agreed statement of facts which may be summarized as follows: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police arrested appellant on Sunday, September 23, 1956, on suspicion of the armed robbery of the General Public Loan Corporation and two additional armed robberies of the Economy Federal Savings and Loan Association. The latter institution is a federally insured savings and loan association. Upon arrest appellant was taken to a suburban police station in order that his suspected accomplices would not become immediately aware of his apprehension. The next morning, September 24, 1956, he was moved to No. 1 Police Station in Pittsburgh for interrogation by local police. FBI agents, having been notified of appellant's arrest, joined in the interrogation later that same morning.

Interrogation of appellant proceeded into the late afternoon when, after repeated denials of guilt, he made both oral and written statements completely admitting his participation in the robberies involving the Economy Federal Savings and Loan Association. The statements also implicated others as his accomplices. Officers present at the interrogation, both federal and local, testified that he appeared "worn out" and appellant asserted that during this period he was suffering from the effects of extremely heavy drinking prior to his arrest.

Appellant was not taken before a police magistrate for a preliminary hearing on Monday, the local authorities testifying that none were available. The following morning he was brought before a magistrate located in the same building in which appellant was being detained. Despite the fact that appellant had been a suspect of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for several weeks prior to his arrest by the Pittsburgh police, he was not arrested by the federal authorities until late in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 26, 1956. The FBI agents who had been present at his earlier interrogation took him into custody at No. 1 Police Station and immediately brought him before a United States Commissioner on charges of armed robbery of the Economy Federal Savings and Loan Association on two occasions. It was testified that he was not arrested at an earlier date inasmuch as he was in the custody of local authorities.

Appellant was arraigned on November 28, 1956, when, in the presence of his appointed defense counsel and after consultation with them, he pleaded guilty to two indictments, each charging him with entering the Economy Federal Savings and Loan Association on different dates to commit a felony, robbery, and assaulting employees thereof with dangerous weapons. 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) & (b). Prior to the arraignment his appointed counsel had consulted with him and advised him of his constitutional rights, and appellant related to his counsel the circumstances surrounding his detention, interrogation and confession. At that time no indication was given to counsel that he was dissatisfied with the treatment accorded him by law enforcement authorities. Nor was there any indication by appellant at the arraignment that he had been mistreated.When the United States Attorney asked if any threats, promises, or inducements had been made by the government to obtain appellant's plea of guilty, he replied in the negative.

Thereafter, appellant testified for the government at the trials of a co-defendant. On those occasions he admitted having participated in the robberies in question and implicated his accomplices. On January 31, 1957, he was sentenced on each indictment to pay a fine of $1,000 and committed to imprisonment for concurrent terms of eighteen years.

Within six months, appellant presented his first motion which was entitled "Motion for Reduction of Sentence." That motion was treated as falling within the purview of 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and was dismissed after a hearing on a Rule to Show Cause. Subsequently, on June 10, 1958, appellant filed this "Motion to Vacate Sentence and Judgment." The district court permitted original counsel to withdraw because of derogatory accusations appearing in the second motion and appointed new counsel.The appellant was ordered brought to Pittsburgh for hearing and subpoenas were issued at defendant's request. Following the hearing, the court rendered a comprehensive opinion containing findings of fact and conclusions of law. D.C.W.D.Pa.1958, 163 F.Supp. 941.

Initially, appellant contends that a motion pursuant to Section 2255, Title 28 United States Code, is the proper procedure for contesting the validity of a conviction on a plea of guilty, alleged to have been induced and coerced by a prior, illegally obtained confession. This court, sitting en banc, had occasion to consider the scope of Section 2255 in United States v. Gallagher, 3 Cir., 1950, 183 F.2d 342, 343, 344, certiorari denied 1951, 340 U.S. 913, 71 S. Ct. 283, 95 L. Ed. 659:

"Relief under Section 2255 may be granted only where it appears that 'the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack.' Motions under this section may not be used to review the proceedings of the trial as upon appeal but merely to test their validity when judged upon the face of the record or by constitutional standards. The purpose of the section was not to confer a broader right of attack upon a judgment and sentence than might be made by habeas corpus but rather to provide that the attack which theretofore might have been made in some other court through resort to habeas corpus must now be made in the court where the sentence was imposed unless it should appear that this remedy was inadequate."

A conviction on a coerced plea of guilty has been held to be "such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack." Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 1956, 350 U.S. 116, 76 S. Ct. 223, 100 L. Ed. 126; Waley v. Johnston, 1942, 316 U.S. 101, 62 S. Ct. 964, 86 L. Ed. 1302; Behrens v. Hironimus, 4 Cir., 1948, 166 F.2d 245. The collateral attacks in the above cited cases took the form of petitions for writ of habeas corpus;*fn2 however, inasmuch as the review authorized on motions pursuant to Section 2255 is as broad as that authorized on petitions for writ of habeas corpus, United States v. Hayman, 1952, 342 U.S. 205, 219, 72 S. Ct. 263, 96 L. Ed. 232, they appear apposite.

It appears equally well settled that where a prisoner on a motion under Section 2255 alleges facts which, if true, would constitute a denial or infringement of constitutional rights so as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, it is incumbent upon the district court to order the production of the prisoner and have a hearing of the contested or controverted question of fact. United States v. Hayman, supra; and see Shelton v. United States, 1958, 356 U.S. 26, 78 S. Ct. 563, 2 L. Ed. 2d 579. In the instant case, the district court properly afforded the appellant a hearing, provided appointed counsel, and, at defendant's request, issued an order for subpoenas.

Appellant does not contend that the mere fact that he was detained illegally voids any conviction obtained on the basis of competent evidence or plea of guilty, for such a proposition cannot be sustained. Blood v. Hunter, 10 Cir., 1945, 150 F.2d 640; United States ex rel. Holly v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, D.C.W.D.Pa.1948, 81 F. Supp. 861, affirmed 3 Cir., 1949, 174 F.2d 480. Rather, the crux of appellant's argument is that his plea of guilty was involuntary in that it was induced and coerced by a confession which had been illegally obtained. the well-settled rule concerning pleas of guilty and attacks thereon is that the court will not inquire into guilt or innocence but rather will only inquire into the voluntariness of the plea. Friedman v. United States, 8 Cir., 1952, 200 F.2d 690, certiorari ...

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