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United States v. Dushane

decided: December 3, 1970.


Lumbard, Chief Judge and Anderson and Feinberg, Circuit Judges.

Author: Feinberg

FEINBERG, Circuit Judge:

Alfred Thomas DuShane appeals from his conviction for violating the Federal Firearms Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 901-909 (1964), after a jury trial before Walter R. Mansfield, J., in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Appellant, who received a four-year sentence, attacks the findings of the trial court regarding waiver of counsel and consent to a search of his hotel room. Because we think that the court erred regarding the former, we remand for further proceedings.


The alleged waiver of counsel did not take place at appellant's trial in the court below but occurred in the course of an Oklahoma proceeding in 1959, at which time defendant pleaded guilty to second degree forgery. That conviction was a significant element in appellant's later federal conviction under 15 U.S.C. § 902(e), from which this appeal is taken.*fn1 Section 902(e) provides:

It shall be unlawful for any person * * * who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year * * * to ship, transport, or cause to be shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm or ammunition.

The statute is obviously an attempt to control commerce in firearms by felons, so that proof of the latter status is an integral part of the crime. The parties agree that the 1959 Oklahoma conviction was for "a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year."*fn2 What is in dispute is whether the Oklahoma conviction was constitutionally valid. If it was not, the parties assume -- and we believe correctly so -- that it could not be the basis of a conviction under section 902(e).

The crucial question regarding the 1959 conviction is whether DuShane waived his right to counsel at that time. The issue arises in the following context. During appellant's two-day trial in the court below, the Government sought to introduce, as it had to, a certified copy of the Oklahoma conviction. That copy was silent as to whether defendant had been represented by counsel when he pleaded guilty in 1959. After objection by defense counsel, the court held a hearing outside of the presence of the jury, at which defendant testified that he was not represented by counsel in 1959, and that he did not "voluntarily waive any right to counsel." On crossexamination, he admitted that he was told "that I could have an attorney," but asserted that he "told them I couldn't afford one." The district court admitted the conviction into evidence, subject to later reconsideration. After the jury returned a verdict of guilty, the court instructed both counsel to investigate the 1959 proceedings further. The following month, a hearing was held on defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal, at which time the court received a copy of Oklahoma court records submitted by defendant, and two affidavits submitted by the Government: one from the deputy clerk of the Oklahoma court in 1959, and the other from the prosecutor at that time. The records made clear that DuShane was not represented by counsel, but were silent as to what he was advised by the Oklahoma judge or whether defendant waived counsel. The affidavits in haec verba state that the Oklahoma judge "always advised the defendants either with or without an attorney that they were entitled to an attorney and if they could not afford one, that the Court would appoint them one at no expense to them but would be paid for from the court fund * * *." Neither affiant stated any specific recollection of DuShane's case. There are no minutes of what actually transpired because, we are told, court stenographers were not used in arraignments in the Oklahoma courts in 1959. Finally, the parties agree that in 1959 an Oklahoma statute provided:

If the defendant appear for arraignment, without counsel, he must be informed by the court that it is his right to have counsel before being arraigned, and must be asked if he desires the aid of counsel. If he desires and is financially unable to employ counsel, the court must assign counsel to defend him.

22 O.S. § 464.*fn3

Based upon this record, the district judge found that appellant made "an intelligent and knowing waiver" in 1959 of his right to counsel. The court relied on the two affidavits and "the existence of the Oklahoma statute," stating that it "cannot presume that the [Oklahoma] court would not follow the law of the State." The judge also did not accept as credible DuShane's testimony as to nonwaiver.

The issue is thus simply posed. Appellant did not have counsel in 1959, and both parties assume that the validity of the Oklahoma conviction depends upon whether he can be held to have waived his right to counsel at that time. Relying principally on Burgett v. Texas, 389 U.S. 109, 88 S. Ct. 258, 19 L. Ed. 2d 319 (1967), appellant argues that such a holding is not permissible because the official record is silent as to waiver. The Government argues that the two affidavits, the Oklahoma statute, and the trial judge's refusal to credit defendant's testimony are a sufficient basis for the holding of waiver.

In Burgett, defendant was indicted under a multi-offender statute for assault with malice aforethought and with intent to murder. Four counts of the indictment alleged previous felony convictions which, if valid, would have subjected defendant to life imprisonment upon conviction of the principal offense. The indictment was read to the jury over defense counsel's motion to quash those counts relating to the past felonies. The trial court did, however, subsequently charge the jury to disregard the prior offenses for all purposes. Defendant did not receive enhanced punishment on the basis of the prior convictions.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction. It found that the records of prior convictions, which left ambiguous the question whether defendant was offered counsel, could not be introduced at the ...

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