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United States v. Richmond

September 19, 1961

UNITED STATES EX REL. BENJAMIN REID, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
MARK S. RICHMOND, WARDEN OF CONNECTICUT STATE PRISON, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Author: Lumbard

Before LUMBARD, Chief Judge, and CLARK, WATERMAN, MOORE and FRIENDLY, Circuit Judges.

LUMBARD, Chief Judge.

The warden of the Connecticut State Prison appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut which vacated the first degree murder conviction of Benjamin Reid entered in the Superior Court for Hartford County and directed that he be discharged from custody unless given a new trial within a reasonable time. The decision of the district court was made upon remand of the case after we reversed an earlier discharge of the writ of habeas corpus. We instructed the district court to reconsider its determination in light of the complete transcript of the trial and to decide whether the delay in assigning counsel to Reid was so prejudicial as to render his conviction unconstitutional. 2 Cir., 1960, 277 F.2d 702. Judge Smith took testimony with respect to Reid's intelligence and considered the state court record. He then made detailed findings of fact and concluded that "in a capital case involving one of Reid's age, mentality and schooling, provision of counsel was necessary at least as soon as the formal accusation of murder was made in the Police Court and that the use of statements elicited from him thereafter while kept in ignorance of his rights made the trial fundamentally unfair."*fn1 It is from this finding and conclusion of law that the appeal is taken.*fn2

The events having to do with Reid's part in the death of Florine McCluney and his actions thereafter are hardly in dispute. In relating them, we adopt the findings of the district court with such nuances as are most favorable to the relator, but his own testimony at the trial, aside from his admissions which are now complained of, leave no doubt that he was solely responsible for Florine McCluney's death.

About nine o'clock on the night of January 15, 1957, in Hartford, Reid waylaid his neighbor, Mrs. McCluney, struck her on the head with a hammer, dragged her a short distance to her automobile, again struck her with the hammer, and placed her in the rear seat of the car where she was found dead and frozen the next morning. Although he had robbery in mind at first, Reid took no money from Mrs. McCluney.

He disposed of his outer clothing and took an early morning train to New Haven and went to his sister's home where he arrived at 2:45 a.m. on January 16, and it is there that the New Haven police found him at 9:10 p.m. following a request from the Hartford police that he be apprehended. Reid was taken to New Haven headquarters and was questioned briefly. The Hartford police arrived later that night and drove Reid to Hartford. On the way back Reid said he would talk if he could first see his wife with whom he had not been living for some weeks.

Mrs. Reid was at Hartford police headquarters when Reid arrived there at 1:10 a.m. on January 17. After several minutes of conversation with his wife. Reid was interrogated and was told that anything he said could be used against him. Reid then confessed that he had participated in the killing the night before, but he said that a friend of his, one Eddie Green, had struck the blow with the hammer. He stated that Green had told him that he (Green) was broke and needed money, and that he would see whether Mrs. McCluney had any. When Mrs. McCluney came by, Reid then said, Green hit her with a hammer and Reid helped Green drag the body to the car.

The confession was typed in narrative form by a police captain, signed by Reid, and witnessed by his wife, in whose presence it had been given. At 4:30 a.m. Reid was booked for murder and locked in a cell which was equipped with a cot. At about 9:00 a.m. on January 17, he was brought before the Hartford Police Court, where the following colloquy took place:

"Prosecutor James Egan: In this case, if it please Your Honor, there is a request for a continuance for three weeks for further investigation. This man is alleged to have committed a murder in Hartford at 246 Pleasant Street, yesterday.

"The Court: What date do you want? How much time do you need on it?

"Officer: Better give us about three weeks, anyhow, on it.

"The Court: Give you a month on it?

"Officer: All right.

"The Court: Continued to February 14th without bond."

Reid was not required to plead. No counsel was appointed for him, and he was not informed by the court of his right to counsel under Connecticut law, Conn.Rev.Gen.Stat. ยง 6-62 (1958). Reid was of "dull-normal" intelligence and had become 19 years of age on December 27, 1956; the police knew he was a minor, but they did not inform the court of this fact. No guardian ad litem was appointed; the court did not advise him of his right to counsel or of his right to remain silent.

Although Reid had been remanded to the Hartford County Jail, he was taken from the Police Court back to the Detective Bureau. Upon his arrival there, Reid was urged to tell the truth and he had a crying spell which lasted ten or fifteen minutes. He again asked that his wife be present, and when she arrived, at about 10:00 a.m., he volunteered a second confession in which he said that he alone lay in wait for and hit Mrs. McCluney with the intent of robbing her. The statement was elicited without any notice to Reid that he could retain or be assigned counsel and without mention of his right to remain silent.

After the second statement had been transcribed and signed, Reid accompanied the Hartford police on a tour of his movements on the day of the crime. The tour lasted from approximately 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. At 4:00 p.m. he was taken to the Hartford Health Department where a blood sample was taken from ...


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