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United States v. Mancusi

decided: April 19, 1971.


Moore, Friendly and Adams,*fn* Circuit Judges. Moore, Circuit Judge (dissenting).

Author: Adams

ADAMS, Circuit Judge:

Relator Stubbs was convicted in Monroe County, New York in 1966 for first degree assault and possession of a firearm. The County Court considered a prior conviction of murder obtained against Stubbs in Tennessee, found him to be a second felony offender, and sentenced him to consecutive terms of imprisonment totaling thirty-two to thirty-four years.*fn1 Stubbs here challenges his sentence, alleging that his prior felony conviction in Tennessee was constitutionally invalid. The Honorable Harold P. Burke, District Judge of the District Court for the Western District of New York, denied Stubbs' application for a writ of habeas corpus, and relator appealed.

Stubbs was first convicted of a vicious murder in Tennessee in 1954. This conviction was vacated in 1964 when the Honorable William E. Miller, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, found Stubbs to have been denied, because of late appointment, the effective assistance of counsel. Stubbs v. Bomar, Civil Action 3585 (M.D.Tenn., filed January 6, 1964). At retrial, the prosecution's primary witness did not appear, but his testimony from the first trial was read over defense objections, and Stubbs was convicted. This conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. Stubbs v. State, 216 Tenn. 567, 393 S.W.2d 150 (1965).

The critical issue before us is whether relator's 1964 Tennessee conviction was obtained in violation of his right -- under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution -- to be confronted with the witnesses against him, and thus was an improper predicate for increased punishment.*fn2

The facts underlying the Tennessee conviction are as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Holm were driving through Tennessee on their way from Texas to Rhode Island for an eventual journey to Sweden. Stubbs asked Mr. and Mrs. Holm at a roadside park for a ride, but was refused. He then forced them at gunpoint to permit him to drive their car while the Holms rode in the back seat. Stubbs claimed that when they were near Bristol, Tennessee, he was suddenly struck on the head and he heard a loud bang, the car hit a tree and Stubbs then fled. The police were called to investigate the wrecked car, and they found Mrs. Holm dead by a gunshot wound, and Mr. Holm shot twice in the face. Stubbs was soon apprehended in a police road-block. From his hospital bed, Mr. Holm identified Stubbs as the man who shot him and his wife. Three days before his trial, three attorneys were appointed to defend Stubbs, and they requested and were refused a continuance to prepare the defense. At trial, Mr. Holm was the state's primary witness, and Stubbs was convicted.

By the time of the 1964 retrial, Mr. Holm had become a permanent resident of Sweden, but had not relinquished his American citizenship. No effort was made by the state to obtain Holm's attendance at this trial. Instead, Holm's son was brought from Texas to testify that his father was presently residing in Sweden whereupon Holm's prior testimony was admitted over objection.*fn3 The propriety of the admission of that evidence, in light of Barber v. Page, 390 U.S. 719, 88 S. Ct. 1318, 20 L. Ed. 2d 255 (1968) and California v. Green, 399 U.S. 149, 90 S. Ct. 1930, 26 L. Ed. 2d 489 (1970), is here in question.*fn4

As noted by the Supreme Court in Green, "the particular vice which gave impetus to the [Confrontation Clause] was the practice of trying defendants on 'evidence' which consisted solely of ex parte affidavits or depositions secured by the examining magistrates, thus denying the defendant the opportunity to challenge his accuser in a face-to-face encounter in front of the trier of fact." 399 U.S. at 156, 90 S. Ct. at 1934. A traditional exception to the confrontation requirement has been the introduction of testimony of a witness who is now unavailable, but who previously testified subject to cross-examination at judicial proceedings against the same defendant. E. g., Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 237, 15 S. Ct. 337, 39 L. Ed. 409 (1895). While the scope of the Confrontation Clause is not coextensive with the rules of hearsay and their exceptions,*fn5 "necessity"*fn6 is a factor common to both that may justify the use of prior recorded testimony in limited instances of genuine unavailability. The test for such use is whether "the prosecutional authorities have made a good-faith effort to obtain [the witness'] presence at trial." Barber v. Page, supra 390 U.S. at 725, 88 S. Ct. at 1322. No such effort was made here, and Holm's testimony was improperly admitted into evidence. Where there is no showing that a witness beyond the effective reach of a court's subpoena will refuse to return voluntarily to testify if requested, the prosecution may not introduce prior testimony without demonstrating a reasonable effort to secure his presence. Cf. Gov't of Virgin Islands v. Aquino, 378 F.2d 540 (3rd Cir. 1967); Owens v. Eyman, 434 F.2d 1062 (9th Cir. 1970). Absence from the continental United States is not per se a sufficient reason to broaden the exception to the Confrontation Clause allowing the admission of prior testimony of a presently unavailable witness. Although there is a much greater chance that it will not be possible to bring before the court a witness residing abroad, "'the possibility of a refusal is not the equivalent of asking and receiving a rebuff.'" Barber v. Page, supra, 390 U.S. at 724, 88 S. Ct. at 1322, quoting with approval Judge Aldrich's dissent in the Court of Appeals, 381 F.2d 479, 481 (10th Cir. 1967).

New York urges that even if Holm's testimony was erroneously admitted in the 1964 trial, such error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt within the meaning of Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S. Ct. 824, 17 L. Ed. 2d 705 (1967).*fn7 Relator answers that Judge Miller found Stubbs did not have effective assistance of counsel at his 1954 trial, so that his right of cross-examination may not have been satisfied even initially. Judge Miller's decision, however, even if it were binding on New York, would not establish the ineffectiveness of the cross-examination of Holm, but only the prejudice to the totality of defense preparation from late appointment of counsel.

Nevertheless, it is clear as Stubbs' 1964 counsel recognized that Holm was not questioned regarding the core of Stubbs' defense -- namely, that while Stubbs originally forced himself on the Holms, he gained their sympathy during the course of the trip and in effect became their guest. This claim was significant because even if Stubbs fired his pistol accidentally (he denied firing at all), he might still be found guilty of felony murder unless the felony of kidnapping had ended. Stubbs' story was given some plausibility by his testimony that he forced himself on the Holms from desperation and hunger; they made him welcome when he explained his motivation; Mrs. Holm suggested he put his gun on the seat to avoid it being seen while driving through a town; and they drove past a policeman without the Holms making any outcry. While all of the above may also be explained by the Holms' fear of Stubbs, we cannot declare the absence of any examination of Holm -- the only eye-witness to the alleged crime -- on this point to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Compare Burgett v. Texas, supra 389 U.S. at 115, 88 S. Ct. 258 with United States ex rel. Moore v. Follette, 425 F.2d 925 (2nd Cir. 1970). Whether the test is one of overwhelming evidence or of untainted evidence,*fn8 the error of admitting Holm's testimony at Stubbs' second trial was central to Stubbs' conviction, rather than harmless to his case.

The dissent makes an appealing case for using the Tennessee conviction to augment the New York sentence. It essentially employs the "bad man" approach. However, it fails to cite any cases to support such position and also fails to demonstrate where the cases relied upon here are either improperly reasoned or inapposite.

MOORE, Circuit Judge (dissenting):

Here is presented an extraordinary example of "justice" dispensed by the federal courts. Stubbs, the appellant, released from a Texas penitentiary in June 1954, a few days later kidnapped at gunpoint in Tennessee a Mr. and Mrs. Holm and forced them to accompany him in their car. While on the road he murdered Mrs. Holm apparently "in cold blood" and attempted to murder Mr. Holm, wounding him twice. Stubbs was apprehended shortly thereafter at a roadblock. He tried to explain the blood on his clothing by attributing it to an accident while fishing. Stubbs was taken to the hospital to which Holm had been taken. There, in the presence of police officers and a doctor, Holm identified Stubbs as "the man that killed my wife and shot me."

Stubbs was indicted in the Criminal Court in Tennessee on July 8, 1954 and arraigned the next day, July 9, 1954. The Trial Judge immediately appointed three members of the County Bar to represent Stubbs. Although counsel moved for a continuance for additional time to prepare a defense (a practice not ...

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