Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. COLLINS

April 25, 1975

THE UNITED STATES
v.
HENRY CLAY COLLINS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEALON

 Now before the Court are defendant's post-trial motions for a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial which were filed subsequent to his conviction by a jury on January 10, 1975 of second-degree murder in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. *fn1" Defendant, an inmate at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, together with Harold Thomas Smith, also an inmate at the Lewisburg Penitentiary, were indicted on September 24, 1974 for the first-degree murder of another inmate, Robert Artemus Burkeen, on July 25, 1974. On January 3, 1975, this Court granted the defendant Collins' motion for a severance of parties, and on January 6, 1975, Mr. Collins' trial commenced at the United States Courthouse in Lewisburg. On the fifth day of that trial, January 10, the aforementioned verdict was returned by the jury. According to the government's evidence, defendant fatally stabbed Burkeen in a homosexual dispute over the attentions of Smith. The murder weapon was a piece of metal, approximately 10 inches long, that had been honed to a point and one end covered with masking tape to resemble a handle. The evidence revealed that Smith and the defendant met Burkeen in the prison library in order to tell him to stay away from Smith but that Burkeen protested. As the trio left the library and descended the stairs, the defendant stabbed Burkeen in the back and in the abdomen. Burkeen was rushed to Geisinger Medical Hospital, Danville, Pennsylvania, where he died less than two hours later. Inmate eyewitnesses testified to seeing defendant raise the knife in his right hand and plunge it into Burkeen. Two other inmates testified that subsequent to the offense and while in segregation, defendant admitted that he "made my move" as they went down the steps and ". . . jumped on the guy and killed him." Without reviewing the evidence in detail, it is noted that there was an abundance of corroborative and incriminating testimony in support of the government's case. In his testimony, the defendant admitted that he did the stabbing but contended it was done in self-defense. The jury obviously rejected this defense and found the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree.

 Defendant has assigned two grounds in support of his motion for judgment of acquittal and several bases for his motion for a new trial. They will be addressed in the approximate order raised by defendant, with the facts relevant to each issue being recited in conjunction with the discussion of the issue at hand.

 JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL

 In support of his motion for judgment of acquittal, defendant argues first that the government failed to prove an essential element of the offense, namely, that the crime was committed "(within) the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States," 18 U.S.C. § 1111(b), or, as phrased in the indictment in this case, "on lands acquired for the use of the United States of America and under the exclusive jurisdiction thereof (.)" Defendant does not argue that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the crime was committed within the jurisdiction of the United States but that the government simply neglected to affirmatively prove that the offense was committed within that jurisdiction. While it is true that the government's attorney did fail to introduce evidence at trial for the specific purpose of establishing the jurisdictional element of the offense, it is also true that jurisdiction was in no way controverted during the trial, *fn2" and that there was abundant circumstantial evidence during the trial that the offense occurred on federal property. *fn3" Under these circumstances, I agree with the Court in Schoppel v. United States, 270 F.2d 413 (4th Cir. 1959), where the identical issue was raised under jurisdictional circumstances substantially the same as those in this case:

 
"Where the fact was in no way controverted at the trial, we think that the testimony of the witness Paul F. Pegelow was adequate to prove the court's jurisdiction over the situs of the offense, if indeed the matter was not one for judicial notice. He testified that he has served as Superintendent of the Lorton Reformatory for thirty-four years and that it is a government reservation. We adopt the all sufficient answer returned by Mr. Justice Holmes when the identical point was raised in Holt v. United States, 1910, 218 U.S. 245, 252, 54 L. Ed. 1021, 31 S. Ct. 2 . . ., namely, that the United States is not called on to try title in a murder case." Id., at 418.

 Defendant misperceives the significance of the disposition of criminal charges by agreement between a prosecutor and an accused. Such a disposition has been termed by the Supreme Court "an essential component in the administration of justice." Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 260, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427, 92 S. Ct. 495 (1971). While the factors that may enter into the decision of either a defendant or a prosecutor to strike a plea bargain are numerous and diverse, essentially such an agreement represents an exchange of benefits by the parties involved. A defendant who enters a plea affords the government an opportunity to insure prompt and certain application of correctional measures while avoiding the costs and uncertainties of a trial. The government, on the other hand, usually offers the defendant a reduction in the charge against him, and often a sentencing recommendation as well. Such an offer by the government is by no means an admission that the underlying crime amounts to nothing more than the charge to which the defendant will be permitted to plead. It is rather an exercise in prosecutorial discretion. Such discretion is "exceedingly broad," United States v. Bell, 165 U.S. App. D.C. 146, 506 F.2d 207, 222 (D.C.Cir. 1974), and may permit the filing of different charges against "two persons [who] may have committed what is precisely the same legal offense (.)" Newman v. United States, 127 U.S. App. D.C. 263, 382 F.2d 479, 481-482 (1967). In the instant case, in view of the evidence adduced at Collins' trial, which indicated that the government's case against Smith was not as strong as its case against Collins, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion represented by the plea agreement with Smith seems particularly appropriate. Moreover, the plea bargain was discussed extensively in open court and there was no indication from either side that additional information had surfaced concerning the circumstances of the crime.

 Furthermore, such a view of plea bargaining is not inconsistent with the mandate of Rule 11, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, that "(the) court shall not enter a judgement upon a plea of guilty unless it is satisfied that there is a factual basis for the plea." "(Factual) basis" does not mean factual identity. It means instead that "(the) court should satisfy itself . . . that the conduct which the defendant admits constitutes the offense charged . . . or an offense included therein . . ." Notes of the Advisory Committee to the 1966 Amendment to Rule 11, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In the case at hand, this Court's satisfaction that the conduct admitted by Harold Thomas Smith formed a sufficient factual basis for his plea to being an accessory after the fact to the voluntary manslaughter of Burkeen does not mean that the underlying crime did not exceed voluntary manslaughter, but rather that it was at least voluntary manslaughter. Defendant's argument to the contrary must be rejected.

 The first ground offered in support of the motion for a new trial is that this Court erred in refusing to grant the defendant's pretrial motion for a psychiatrist's reexamination to determine his mental competency to stand trial. By order of this Court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244, the defendant was initially examined by two psychiatrists on November 1, 1974, both of whom submitted reports to the Court indicating that in their opinion the defendant was mentally capable of understanding the proceedings against him and of assisting in his own defense. On the basis of these reports, the Court concluded that the defendant was mentally competent to stand trial. Thereafter, on November 29, 1974, the defendant moved under 18 U.S.C. § 4244 for a reexamination to determine his mental competency to stand trial. The sole ground offered in support of the motion for reexamination was the inadequacy of the examination conducted on November 1. *fn5" The motion alleged no facts, observed since the first examination, indicating possible incompetence. As the Court found no reason to question the adequacy of the two psychiatrists' examination of the defendant, the motion was denied on December 18, 1974. The defendant now argues that the Court erred in denying the motion.

 Once a psychiatric examination pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4244 has been conducted, a motion for reexamination is addressed to the discretion of the Court. United States v. Cook, 418 F.2d 321, 324 (9th Cir. 1969). Whether a second examination is required depends on the factual allegations of the motion and the amount of time that has elapsed since the initial examination. Id. Generally, the courts have been reluctant to grant motions for reexamination under 18 U.S.C. § 4244, particularly where, as in this case, little time has elapsed since the first examination, no new facts indicating possible incompetency are alleged in the motion for reexamination, and the only ground offered in support of the motion is the alleged inadequacy of the first examination. Id. ; United States v. Taylor, 437 F.2d 371, 376 (4th Cir. 1971). *fn6" In addition, defendant's allegation that the examination was inadequate is not persuasive in light of the reports of the two psychiatrists who examined him, both of which indicate that the examination was thorough and sufficient to furnish a basis for determining the defendant's competency to stand trial. Furthermore, there is no representation by defense counsel that defendant was so mentally incompetent during the course of the trial as to be unable to understand the proceedings against him or properly to assist in his own defense. Indeed, defendant testified at great length concerning events leading up to the offense, the offense itself, and matters occurring subsequent thereto. He did not exhibit any traits of mental weakness or incompetency. In sum, the argument with respect to his motion for a reexamination under 18 U.S.C. § 4244 must be rejected.

 Defendant next argues that a new trial is required because the Court erred in denying four of his challenges for cause during the voir dire of the jury array, thereby forcing him to use four of his peremptory challenges to remove those four potential jurors. With respect to the four potential jurors in question, the defense asserts that the voir dire questioning established that one of them knew two of the potential government witnesses (neither of whom actually testified); that two others each had one personal acquaintance who worked at the Lewisburg Penitentiary, and that the other had a son-in-law who was a guard at the penitentiary. *fn7" Nevertheless, all four assured the Court that they would be impartial and unbiased if selected as jurors, and would be able to reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial. Notwithstanding this, defendant maintains that the four potential jurors in question should have been removed for cause, in effect taking the position that their relationship to persons only peripherally involved with the trial constituted a per se cause for their removal.

 The trial court has broad discretion to determine bias of potential jurors on challenges for cause. Frazier v. United States, 335 U.S. 497, 93 L. Ed. 187, 69 S. Ct. 201 (1969); Government of Virgin Islands v. Williams, 476 F.2d 771, 775 (3d Cir. 1973). Particularly where there has been no showing of actual bias, the court's determination will not be upset. No such showing was made with respect to these four witnesses at the time of the voir dire, nor does defendant at this time point to anything indicating actual bias. His argument with respect to the challenges for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.