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United States v. Mazurkiewicz

decided: July 24, 1969.


Freedman, Seitz and Aldisert, Circuit Judges.

Author: Aldisert


ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

The appellant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a Pennsylvania court in 1961 and sentenced to 6-12 years imprisonment. The conviction was affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Snyder, 408 Pa. 253, 182 A.2d 495 (1962).*fn1

In 1966, further relief was sought in a petition filed in the sentencing court under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Hearing Act. This petition was dismissed without hearing and affirmed by the state Supreme Court in an extensive opinion at 427 Pa. 83, 233 A.2d 530 (1967).*fn2 Having exhausted his state remedies, the appellant then filed a habeas corpus petition in the district court below. Here he reiterated the arguments advanced in the state post-conviction proceeding. Foremost among these was the contention that the 1961 conviction had resulted from the admission at trial of allegedly coerced confessions.*fn3 Relying on the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the district court denied relief without evidentiary hearing. This appeal followed, and was argued pro se by appellant who is now on parole.

The appellant has alleged facts describing the taking of his confessions which are strikingly similar to those portrayed in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758, 12 L. Ed. 2d 977 (1964).*fn4 Even so, because Snyder's trial occurred in 1961, three years before the decision in Escobedo, the non-retroactive rule of Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S. Ct. 1772, 16 L. Ed. 2d 882 (1966), precludes application of the precise rule of Escobedo to this case.

This is not to say, however, that the facts alleged by him are not relevant to the question whether the confession was his voluntary act. On the contrary, such facts could constitute significant components in the "totality of circumstances" affecting its voluntary character.*fn5

Appellant claims that at the very least he is entitled to an evidentiary hearing so that he may demonstrate that the statements adduced from him by the police were the product of coercive forces. Diluting the efficacy of this apparently reasonable argument, however, has been a previous determination by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the appellant, for sound tactical reasons at trial, intentionally waived any objection to their introduction, "deliberately bypass[ing] state procedures available to litigate the allegation." The trial record discloses that appellant's counsel did not object to the admission of the confession; and the state court reasoned that no objection was made because the statement contained much exculpatory material which "constituted substantial support for appellant's defense."*fn6

Although we agree with the Pennsylvania court's statement of the law that an effective waiver will bar collateral attack, we have some difficulty in reconciling this principle with the record facts of this case.*fn7 It is true that the transcript in this pre-Jackson v. Denno*fn8 trial contains no objection by counsel to the introduction of the confession. But the record is equally devoid of any discussion or dialogue from which any conclusion of waiver by the appellant may be convincingly demonstrated.*fn9

The Supreme Court has made it clear that for a waiver to be effective, it must be the "considered choice of the petitioner. * * * A choice made by counsel not participated in by the petitioner does not automatically bar relief." Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 439, 83 S. Ct. 822, 849, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837 (1963).

Moreover, the record must convincingly demonstrate a factual background for a finding of waiver, and failing this, an evidentiary hearing is required. Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 85 S. Ct. 564, 13 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1965).

Here there is no testimony upon which to make a proper adjudication of this issue. On the basis of the present record -- consisting only of the trial transcript, there having been no post-conviction evidentiary hearings in any of the state or federal proceedings -- we are unable to decide whether an effective waiver was made. The record simply does not address itself to this point. Undoubtedly, the record is capable of supporting the hypothesis that no objection was made by counsel for tactical reasons. On the other hand, it is equally capable of supporting the appellant's assertion that he had no part in counsel's decision not to object. This is especially true where, as here, the defense was not provided with a copy of the confession until the moment of its offer by the state, affording little time for deliberate reflection.

The existence of possibly conflicting inferences amply demonstrates that the question of waiver is not one which should be resolved by an appellate hypothesis divined from a silent record. To do so is to presume the abandonment of rights; such a presumption flies in the face of what has been called the Supreme Court's abhorrence of technical forfeiture and waiver.*fn10 The Court has stated in unequivocal terms: "There is a presumption against the waiver of constitutional rights, see e.g., Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 70-71, 62 S. Ct. 457, 464-465, 86 L. Ed. 680, and for a waiver to be effective it must be clearly established that there was 'an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege.' Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464, 58 S. Ct. 1019, 82 L. Ed. 1461." Brookhart v. Janis, 384 U.S. 1, 4, 86 S. Ct. 1245, 1247, 16 L. Ed. 2d 314 (1965).

We are quick to recognize that there may be circumstances where the issue of waiver is capable of proper resolution by an examination of the trial record alone. Brookhart v. Janis, supra. But this is not such a case; it is one which requires an evidentiary hearing on the threshold question of waiver, such as this court confronted in United States ex rel. Gockley v. Myers, 378 F.2d 398 (3 Cir. 1967). There we remanded a case for further hearing on the question of waiver even though ...

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