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United States v. Brierley


decided: August 6, 1969; As Corrected September 4, 1969.


Van Dusen, Aldisert and Stahl, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stahl


STAHL, Circuit Judge.

The three issues in this habeas corpus appeal are:

(1) whether appellant has exhausted his state court remedies with respect to his claims of unlawful arrest, failure to have counsel at a preliminary hearing, and ineffective counsel;

(2) whether the state courts properly disposed of his double jeopardy claim; and

(3) whether a confession and related statements were properly admitted in his state court trial for murder and other offenses.

The district court dismissed appellant's application for a writ of habeas corpus, without an evidentiary hearing, on the ground that he had failed to exhaust his state remedies on some of his claims and that the other claims had been properly rejected by the state courts.*fn1 To put the issues in proper perspective, it is necessary to relate in some detail what transpired in the state courts.

Appellant Montgomery was brought to trial before a jury in May 1962, in Butler County, Pennsylvania, on consolidated indictments charging murder, arson, burglary and armed robbery. The District Attorney, in his summation to the jury, referred to appellant as a "pro" and as an "old pro." The court granted appellant's motion for a mistrial on the ground that his right to a fair trial had been prejudiced.

Over his protest*fn2 that retrial for first degree murder constituted double jeopardy, appellant was tried again in June 1962, and found guilty of murder in the first degree as well as of the other offenses for which he was indicted.*fn3 The murder conviction resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment which appellant is now serving; lesser concurrent sentences were imposed on the other indictments. No direct appeal was taken.

Early in 1965, appellant submitted to the Butler County court a pro se*fn4 petition for habeas corpus in which he claimed first, that the confession and other inculpatory statements introduced at his trial were erroneously admitted, and secondly, that the retrial for first degree murder constituted double jeopardy. This petition was dismissed without a hearing on February 18, 1965, in an opinion by Judge Shumaker,*fn5 the court reiterating its rejection of the double jeopardy argument and finding no constitutional infirmity in the admission of the statements, especially in light of the fact that Montgomery had taken the stand at his trial and testified to his participation in some of the offenses with which he was charged. In disposing of the present application, the court below did not have before it the Butler County court opinion dismissing this habeas corpus petition.

According to appellant, following the denial of his first state court habeas corpus petition by the Butler County court, he filed a second petition in which he alleges he raised the additional constitutional claims as to which the court below found he had not exhausted his state remedies. The second petition was also denied, again without an evidentiary hearing, in an opinion by Judge Shumaker dated July 15, 1965.*fn6

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the denial of habeas corpus was upheld. Commonwealth ex rel. Montgomery v. Myers, 422 Pa. 180, 220 A.2d 859, cert. denied, 385 U.S. 963, 87 S. Ct. 405, 17 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1966). The opinion, by Justice Roberts, dealt with two issues, viz., double jeopardy and the admissibility of the confession.

Exhaustion of State Remedies

Our independent examination of the record before the State Supreme Court discloses the following:

(1) Appellant's pro se brief before that Court contained only one "Statement of Question Involved," this being the double jeopardy issue, and the substantive argument in the brief was limited to this point.*fn7

(2) Attached to appellant's brief before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court were both of the petitions for habeas corpus which appellant claims to have filed with the Butler County court and both of the opinions by Judge Shumaker denying these petitions.

Appellant's counsel has furnished to this court the two state petitions and the two state lower court opinions.

From our examination of the record in the district court, it appears that the court did not have before it either of the opinions of Judge Shumaker referred to above but that both of the petitions filed in the Butler County court were attached to the habeas corpus application filed below.

From the foregoing, we believe it is necessary to remand this appeal to the district court to determine from a fair appraisal of both of the state habeas corpus petitions filed by appellant, and the opinions which dismissed them, whether he had in fact raised all of the constitutional claims he now makes prior to seeking relief in the federal courts. As we said in United States ex rel. Thomas v. Maroney, 406 F.2d 992 (3d Cir.1969), the district courts have the power, and the duty, to secure and examine all available state records before disposing of a habeas corpus petition.*fn8 See also Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S. Ct. 745, 9 L. Ed. 2d 770 (1963); Conner v. Wingo, 409 F.2d 21 (6th Cir.1969); Jackson v. Nelson, 404 F.2d 1138 (9th Cir.1968); Wright and Sofaer, Federal Habeas Corpus for State Prisoners: The Allocation of Fact-Finding Responsibility, 75 Yale L.J. 895, 923 (1966).

In determining whether appellant's state court petitions adequately raised the claims he now makes in the federal courts for exhaustion purposes, we should recognize that a habeas corpus petition prepared by a prisoner without the aid of counsel may be inartfully drawn and should therefore be read "with a measure of tolerance." Wade v. Yeager, 377 F.2d 841, 846 (3d Cir.1967), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 893, 89 S. Ct. 218, 21 L. Ed. 2d 173 (1968). It is the policy of the courts to give a liberal construction to pro se habeas petitions. Robinson v. Wainwright, 387 F.2d 438, 441 (5th Cir.1967). If an examination of the state records proves inconclusive, it may be appropriate for the district court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether appellant has exhausted his state remedies. See Brown v. Wainwright, 394 F.2d 153, 154 n. 1 (5th Cir.1968).*fn9

If the district court should find that appellant's state habeas corpus petitions did raise all of the claims he now makes below, it will be necessary to determine the effect of the failure of the State Supreme Court to deal with any of these claims except the double jeopardy and confession issues. As the courts have repeatedly said, the exhaustion requirement is based upon the principle of comity rather than on any jurisdictional limitation. United States ex rel. Gockley v. Myers, 411 F.2d 216 (3d Cir.1969); Bell v. Alabama, 367 F.2d 243, 248 (5th Cir.1966), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 916, 87 S. Ct. 859, 17 L. Ed. 2d 788 (1967). Due regard for this principle requires that the state courts, including the highest appellate court of a state, be afforded the initial opportunity to pass upon alleged claims of unconstitutional restraint: Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 419-420, 83 S. Ct. 822, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837 (1963); United States ex rel. Poulson v. Rundle, 276 F. Supp. 506, 507 (E.D.Pa.1967).

We believe that on either of two grounds the exhaustion requirement will have been satisfied here, insofar as the action of the State Supreme Court is concerned, if it is found that appellant had asserted in his state court petitions all of the constitutional claims which he now makes:

(1) As noted above, appellant's two state court petitions and the Butler County court opinions dismissing them were part of the record in the State Supreme Court. Therefore, so long as the claims have actually been presented to the highest court of the state, it generally does not matter whether that court expressly deals with the merits of the claims. Petition of Thompson, 301 F.2d 659 (3d Cir.1962);*fn10 Ellis v. New Jersey, 282 F. Supp. 298 (D.C.N.J.1967), aff'd per curiam, 388 F.2d 988 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 392 U.S. 938, 88 S. Ct. 2312, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1397 (1968);*fn11 Bauers v. Yeager, 261 F. Supp. 420 (D.C.N.J.1966).

(2) It may be argued that by limiting his State Supreme Court brief to the sole issue of double jeopardy, appellant abandoned the other claims raised in his state habeas corpus petitions and therefore they were not properly before the appellate court. If that be so, then under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Hearing Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, § 4, 19 P.S. § 1180-4, appellant would seem to be precluded from raising these issues again in the state courts.

Section 4(a) of the state law provides:

(a) For the purpose of this act, an issue is finally litigated if:

(1) it has been raised in the trial court, the trial court has ruled on the merits of the issue, and the petitioner has knowingly and understandingly failed to appeal the trial court's ruling ; * * * (Emphasis added.)

Thus, even if appellant is found not to have exhausted his full state remedies in the past, under the State Post Conviction Hearing Act he would at the present time be precluded from raising the issues in question in the state courts. In this posture, as the United States Supreme Court squarely held in Fay v. Noia, supra, resort may be had to the federal courts for relief by way of habeas corpus.*fn12

Double Jeopardy

The claim of double jeopardy was clearly raised in the first habeas corpus petition and was rejected by the Butler County court and by the State Supreme Court in an exhaustive opinion, by Justice Roberts, which contained a comprehensive analysis of the law on this subject. We agree with the court below that the double jeopardy contention has "had a full and complete review and * * * was determined by the highest court of the state in full accord with the applicable federal constitutional standards."

While it was not until June 23, 1969, that the United States Supreme Court for the first time directly incorporated the double jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment as part of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applicable to the states, Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784, 89 S. Ct. 2056, 23 L. Ed. 2d 707 (1969), Justice Roberts relied on both state and federal standards in deciding the case. Commonwealth ex rel. Montgomery v. Myers, 422 Pa. at 183-194, 220 A.2d at 861-867. Nothing the Supreme Court said in Benton calls for any different conclusion on this issue.

One of the principal cases on which Justice Roberts relied was Gori v. United States, 367 U.S. 364, 81 S. Ct. 1523, 6 L. Ed. 2d 901 (1961),*fn13 in which the trial judge in a federal trial, concerned that a line of questioning by the prosecutor might lead to a disclosure of a prior offense by the defendant, declared a mistrial sua sponte. The constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy was held not to be violated by a retrial.

We followed Gori in United States ex rel. Metz v. Maroney, 404 F.2d 233 (3d Cir.1968), a case involving a state prisoner, in which it was claimed that a trial following a court's change of position on a guilty plea "offended the Fifth Amendment stricture against double jeopardy as made applicable to state proceedings by the Fourteenth Amendment." 404 F.2d at 234. In Metz the state trial court, sua sponte, struck a plea of guilty and entered a plea of not guilty in a murder case where on the hearing to determine the degree of the offense the replies of the accused to the questions of the trial judge seemed inconsistent with the defendant's profession of guilt. At the subsequent trial in Metz, the defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree, whereas the prosecutor had been willing to recommend a sentence based on second degree murder on a guilty plea. The claim of double jeopardy was rejected by the state courts and, following a habeas corpus petition, by this court as well. (For the State Supreme Court decision, see Commonwealth v. Metz, 425 Pa. 188, 228 A.2d 729 (1967).)

The Gori and Metz cases, in which the declaration of a mistrial and the striking of the guilty plea were undertaken by the trial judge without any request by the defendants, may have provided stronger grounds for the invocation of the double jeopardy rule than in the instant appeal where the mistrial was initiated by appellant's motion. This is not to suggest that in every case where a defendant moves for a mistrial as a result of prosecutorial misconduct a claim of double jeopardy will be barred, but under the circumstances of the present case we agree with the careful reasoning of Justice Roberts that the double jeopardy claim should be rejected.


In his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, appellant claimed that a confession admitted in his trial was coerced. Under a subsequent paragraph in his petition, captioned "Denial of a Hearing," appellant stated further:

In its opinion, the district court stated that appellant did raise in the state courts the issue of "the introduction of a coerced confession at his trial" but that the second contention quoted above, with respect to the absence of an evidentiary hearing on voluntariness, had not been raised in the state courts. In our view the claim that the confession was coerced would clearly seem to put in issue the absence at trial of a hearing on voluntariness under the retroactive requirements of Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S. Ct. 1774, 12 L. Ed. 2d 908, 1 A.L.R.3d 1205 (1964). The lower state court and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania have rejected the coerced confession claim. We believe appellant has exhausted the state remedies on this issue and that it is ripe for consideration by the federal courts.*fn14

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed appellant's collateral attack on the introduction of his confession on three grounds:

(1) Since the trial in this case preceded Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758, 12 L. Ed. 2d 977 (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), the absence of counsel at the time of appellant's interrogation by the police did not invalidate the confession because of the non-retroactivity of these decisions: Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S. Ct. 1772, 16 L. Ed. 2d 882 (1966);

(2) The record in the case did not support any finding of coercion under the pre-Escobedo and pre-Miranda standards of Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433, 78 S. Ct. 1287, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1448 (1958), so as to taint the confession; and

(3) Because no objection was made at trial to the introduction of the confession, the state contemporaneous objection rule precluded appellant's collateral challenge: Commonwealth ex rel. Mullenaux v. Myers, 421 Pa. 61, 217 A.2d 730 (1966).

We need not dispute the correctness of the State Supreme Court's determination to conclude that appellant may, under federal constitutional standards, challenge the voluntariness of the confession under Jackson v. Denno, supra, where he has not waived his right to do so. Fay v. Noia, supra 372 U.S. at 428, 83 S. Ct. 822, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837. We have so held on a number of occasions, United States ex rel. Snyder v. Mazurkiewicz, 413 F.2d 500 (3d Cir.1969); United States ex rel. Gockley v. Myers, 378 F.2d 398 (3d Cir.1967);*fn15 United States ex rel. Dickerson v. Rundle, 363 F.2d 126 (3d Cir.1966),*fn16 even where the defendant's counsel failed to object to the admission of the confession, Snyder, supra, or expressly declined to object upon inquiry by the trial judge, Gockley, 378 F.2d at 400. See also opinion by Judge Weinstein in United States ex rel. Diblin v. Follette, 294 F. Supp. 841, 846 (E.D.N.Y.1968).

Appellant's right to challenge the voluntariness of his confession in a Jackson v. Denno type hearing is, of course, conditioned on whether or not he waived this right at trial. Counsel's failure to object to the introduction of the statements, and the appellant's willingness to testify both at the aborted and subsequent trials, are important factors to consider. See Curry v. Wilson, 405 F.2d 110 (9th Cir.1968). But the question of waiver can be determined conclusively only by an evidentiary hearing and none has been held on this issue, either in the state or federal courts.

The tests of waiver have been delineated in the classic decisions in Fay v. Noia, supra, and Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 58 S. Ct. 1019, 82 L. Ed. 1461 (1938), as well as in the decisions of this circuit referred to above. We have only recently reviewed the whole question of the right to challenge a pre-Jackson v. Denno confession, in which no objection to its introduction was raised at trial, in a comprehensive opinion by Judge Aldisert in United States ex rel. Snyder v. Mazurkiewicz, supra, and we need not plow this well-furrowed ground again. Suffice it to say that we find the present case to fall squarely within the ambit of the Gockley, Dickerson and Snyder decisions.

Consequently, an evidentiary hearing should be held in the district court on the question of whether there was an effective waiver of any right by appellant to have the confession and related statements excluded. If waiver is found, that will, of course, terminate the claim of a coerced confession. If the court finds that there was no waiver of the constitutional right to challenge the admission of appellant's statements, the Jackson v. Denno hearing should also be conducted in the district court.

We acknowledge the desirability, normally, of having the state courts decide a Jackson v. Denno issue in the first instance, as suggested by the Supreme Court in the Jackson opinion. But on this record, where an evidentiary hearing is held in the district court on the question of waiver, we believe it would not comport with orderly judicial administration to spin-off the Jackson v. Denno hearing to the state courts and thus prolong this already protracted litigation. See United States ex rel. Snyder v. Mazurkiewicz, supra; cf. United States ex rel. Gockley v. Myers, 411 F.2d 216 (3d Cir.1969).

To summarize, this appeal will be remanded to the district court for the following purposes:

(1) Upon the court's examination of all available state records, to determine, with or without an evidentiary hearing as deemed appropriate, whether there has been an exhaustion of state remedies with respect to the allegations of unlawful arrest, absence of counsel at the preliminary hearing and ineffective counsel;

(2) If it is found that the state remedies with respect to the above claims have been exhausted, to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine the relief, if any, to which appellant may be entitled;*fn17 and

(3) To hold an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether appellant waived his right to object to the admission of the confession and other statements at his trial and, if no waiver is found, to afford appellant a Jackson v. Denno hearing in the district court.

Accordingly, the order of the court below will be vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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