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UNITED STATES v. SINGLETON

July 6, 1973

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Amos James SINGLETON, Jr.


Hannum, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HANNUM

Hannum, District Judge.

 On February 23, 1973, the Grand Jury charged that the defendant Amos Singleton, Jr. robbed a branch of the Girard Bank on or about January 29, 1973, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (b). The defendant has moved to suppress all physical evidence seized, oral and written statements admitting the bank robbery in question, and identification testimony. Five grounds are offered in support of the motion to suppress: (1) defendant was arrested without probable cause and his confessions were the fruit of the unlawful arrest; (2) the physical evidence seized was the product of an unlawful search; (3) the oral and written confessions were obtained in violation of defendant's rights under the fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments; (4) the oral and written confessions were obtained in violation of defendant's rights under Rule 5(a), Fed. R. Crim. P., 18 U.S.C. § 5035, Rule 116 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, 19 P.S. Appendix, and 11 P.S. § 50-310; (5) the anticipated identification testimony is the product of tainted pretrial confrontations.

 On the morning of February 7, 1973, Detective Riehl of the Philadelphia Police Department obtained a State arrest warrant charging the defendant, Amos Singleton, with bank robbery, and a State search warrant commanding that Detective Riehl search Singleton's residence at 2767 North 23rd Street, Philadelphia, Pa., for a man's tan overcoat, a pair of men's brown and white checked pants and $4,800 in United States currency. Detective Riehl testified that at approximately 3:30 a.m. on the morning of February 7, 1973, he, in company with other Philadelphia police officers, arrived at the defendant's house and knocked on the front door. He stated that he observed a young Negro male lying on the couch in the living room. Before answering the door this man appeared to throw something beneath the couch. Detective Riehl asked the Negro male if he was Amos Singleton, whereupon the man said "no". However, Riehl indicated he knew, from having viewed police photographs, that the person he was speaking to was the defendant, Amos Singleton. Detective Riehl gave the defendant a copy of the search warrant, and he and other officers began to search the upstairs bedrooms, looking for the items of evidence described on the face of the search warrant. Detective Riehl stated that while he was upstairs he was informed that Detective Filler, who was watching the defendant, had recovered a loaded.38 caliber revolver from under a cushion of the couch. He then returned downstairs and proceeded to search the living room and dining room. Remembering the defendant's earlier gesture, he looked beneath the couch and recovered a Pennsylvania Junior Driver's Permit and a temporary Pennsylvania registration, made out to Amos Singleton and dated January 30, 1973, for a 1971 Ford Thunderbird automobile. The search continued to the basement of the house, where Detective Riehl recovered from a trunk in the rear of the basement a man's tan overcoat and a pair of plaid checked pants. Riehl formally advised the defendant that he was under arrest and departed with the defendant for the Northwest Detective Division at 4:15 a.m. Upon arrival at 4:45 a.m., defendant was placed in a detention room and an official police chronology form was prepared. Detective Riehl testified that he advised the defendant of the nature of the charges against him and warned the defendant of his rights and questioned him as to his understanding of his rights as they appear on the standard police warning card. In response to Riehl's question "Do you want to remain silent", the defendant answered "no" and further stated that he would answer any questions but would not sign anything. Riehl stated that upon being shown a copy of a bank surveillance photograph of the robber, Singleton stated "yeah, that's me." Riehl then terminated the interview at 5:15 a.m. to advise his supervisor, Sergeant Hill, of the defendant's oral admission. Sergeant Hill then commenced questioning the defendant. In concluding his testimony, Detective Riehl stated that at no time during his contact with the defendant was Singleton mistreated or physically abused, nor did the defendant, at any time prior to his attorney's arrival, complain of being in pain or request medical treatment.

 Detective John Filler testified that he accompanied Detective Riehl during the search and arrest of the defendant. He stated that he remained on the first floor with Singleton during the search by the other police officers. During this time he observed the defendant place his hand down between cushions on the couch, whereupon he ordered Singleton to stand away from the couch. From beneath the seat cushion, Detective Filler recovered a.38 caliber revolver, loaded with a single round of ammunition. Detective Filler also testified that he made the initial four entries on the chronology form documenting action taken by Detective Riehl and Sergeant Hill up to 5:45 a.m.

 Sergeant Hill testified that he saw the defendant being brought into the Northwest Detective Division at approximately 4:45 a.m. He commenced questioning the defendant at 5:15 a.m., after being advised by Detective Riehl of Singleton's oral admission. Sergeant Hill stated that he initially warned Singleton of his rights and questioned the defendant as to his understanding of his rights. He testified that Exhibit G-7 was the actual warning card used by him and he recorded Singleton's answers on this card. Sergeant Hill stated that Singleton orally admitted to perpetrating the bank robbery and utilizing the proceeds to purchase a Ford Thunderbird, but the defendant refused to sign a written statement. Singleton was left alone in a detention room from 6:30 a.m. until approximately 9:15 a.m. when F.B.I. agents arrived. Hill further testified that at no time was Singleton beaten or mistreated following his arrest, but, at the request of defense counsel, he directed that the defendant be taken to a hospital.

 Sergeant Marlin Weaver testified that he arrived on duty at 10:35 a.m. on February 7, 1973, and he recalled coming in at the same time as the defense counsel and Mrs. Singleton.

 Special Agent Larry Doss testified that he was the primary F.B.I. case agent assigned to investigate the robbery in question. He was advised of Singleton's arrest upon arriving at the F.B.I. office on February 7, 1973, and, together with Agent Robert Bazin, proceeded to the Northwest Detective Division. After conferring with Sergeant Hill and Detective Riehl they commenced interviewing the defendant at 9:50 a.m. Singleton was warned of his constitutional rights and subsequently signed an F.B.I. warning and waiver form. Agent Doss stated that the defendant thereafter orally related the details of his involvement in the robbery while Agent Doss simultaneously reduced Singleton's statements to writing. During the course of this narration, Singleton identified himself as the robber in the bank surveillance photograph and signed the back of this picture. The defendant then reviewed the written statement and signed it at 10:35 a.m. Agent Doss testified that shortly after Singleton signed the statement defense counsel entered the room and demanded to speak to the defendant alone. Agent Doss also offered testimony relating to the pretrial identification occurrences. The first of these took place during the course of his interview at the Girard Bank on February 1, 1973, with the victim teller, Eugenia Sutton. He stated that he showed her a photo-spread comprised of seven photographs of bank robbery suspects (Exhibit G-11), and that Miss Sutton selected a photograph. The second occurrence took place on February 20, 1973 when Agent Doss and the bank witnesses were subpoenaed by the State to appear for a local hearing at 1801 Vine Street. Bank witnesses Eugenia Sutton and David Watson had an inadvertent confrontation with the defendant when he was brought before the Juvenile Court Judge for a brief period. Following this five minute confrontation with Singleton, Agent Doss interviewed the two witnesses separately.

 Agent Austin Hamilton testified that during his interview of Assistant Manager David Watson at the Girard Bank on the day of the robbery, he showed Watson a photo-spread comprised of seven photographs of bank robbery suspects (Exhibit G-13). Agent Hamilton described the manner in which this photo-identification was conducted, and he stated that Mr. Watson selected a photograph.

 Mr. David Watson, who on January 29, 1973 was the Assistant Manager of the Girard Bank branch office involved in the robbery, described his recollection of the entire robbery. He indicated he was standing near the victim teller approximately five feet away from the bank robber and observed the robber for about 15 seconds. Mr. Watson gave a physical description of the bank robber including a description of his clothing. He also recalled being interviewed by the F.B.I. on the day of the robbery, and viewing a photo-spread (Exhibit G-13). He recalled selecting a picture from a group of photographs shown to him by Agent Hamilton on the day of the robbery and pointed it out to the Court. Mr. Watson described the procedure he used in selecting the photograph on January 29, 1973 as a "process of elimination" involving his mental recollection of the physical features of the bank robber. At the hearing Mr. Watson positively identified the defendant as being the man who robbed the bank. He further testified to two previous Court appearances on the State charges at 1801 Vine Street. He indicated that on February 20, 1973 he was subpoenaed by the District Attorney's Office to appear as a witness, however, the matter was continued. On this occasion Watson recalled that the defendant was brought into the Courtroom for a brief period of time, and stood approximately 15 feet away from him. Watson recalled being interviewed afterward by Agent Doss of the F.B.I. and stating to Agent Doss that the defendant was definitely the bank robber. He also testified that this determination was made by him based upon his recollection of the physical features of the bank robber during the holdup, which had occurred less than one month before.

 Mrs. Singleton, the defendant's mother, was the first witness called by the defense. She testified that she was upstairs when the police came and that their search lasted about 45 minutes. She stated that an F.B.I. agent gave her a copy of the search warrant. She also stated that she informed the police her son was a minor. She further testified that she went to defense counsel's office at around 8:45 a.m. on the morning of February 7, 1973 and while there heard him call the police and instruct them not to question her son anymore. She stated that she did not see her son until about 11:45 that morning and that she then noticed bruises on his ear and shoulder.

 Doctor Jen Yu testified that he examined the defendant in the screening area of the Philadelphia General Hospital and gave Singleton an appointment to return. He explained that the function of the screening area is to determine whether or not a patient needs emergency treatment. If the patient does not need emergency treatment he is given a future appointment. The doctor's screening examination of Singleton produced no evidence that defendant had been beaten.

 The defendant testified that when the police arrived, Detective Riehl gave him a piece of paper and said it was a search warrant. He further testified that he was told he was being questioned about a bank robbery, but he stated that he only gave the statement to the Philadelphia police after he was kicked, and ...


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