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United States v. Zelker

decided: April 15, 1975.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. WILLIAM STANBRIDGE, PETITIONER-APPELLEE-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN R. ZELKER, SUPERINTENDENT OF GREEN HAVEN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; RUSSELL OSWALD, COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from order entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Mishler, Chief Judge, granting in part, and denying in part, petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus. Reversed in so far as the writ was granted. Affirmed in all other respects.

Anderson, Mulligan and Van Graafeiland, Circuit Judges.

Author: Van Graafeiland

VAN GRAAFEILAND, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granting in part and denying in part petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus. We have concluded that the district judge erred in his partial grant of the writ. Accordingly, we reverse that portion of his order while affirming his decision in all other respects.

On March 22, 1961, as petitioner William Stanbridge and two other youths, Robert Moll and John Closter, were cruising about Manhasset, New York in petitioner's "hotrod"*fn1, they decided to rob a Food Fair Supermarket. Leaving the auto on a side street adjacent to the shopping center in which the supermarket was located, petitioner and his companions donned masks and entered the rear of the store. Petitioner carried a toy gun taken from the trunk of his car, and Moll brought along a sawed-off shotgun.*fn2 While Stanbridge contends that he was unaware of the presence of the shotgun, it is undisputed that such weapon was in Moll's possession during the entire course of events here described.

The facts surrounding the robbery itself are not at issue. Suffice it to say that the petitioner and his partners threatened and tied up several of the Food Fair employees and departed, carrying paper bags filled with money.

As they were leaving the supermarket, Moll, Closter and petitioner were surprised by Patrolman Joseph Coote of the Nassau County Police Department, who, gun in hand, ordered the three to halt. Petitioner and Closter dropped their bags of money in surrender. Moll, however, fired his shotgun, killing Officer Coote. The three then fled.

Within a matter of hours, a team of Nassau County detectives began searching for the three young men, following the lead provided by several witnesses who had described the unusual auto. This search led initially to the home of a teenage boy who owned a somewhat similar vehicle. He advised the detectives that petitioner had a car fitting their description and accompanied them to the Stanbridge home.

Petitioner was taken into custody about 11:30 P.M. and placed in the detectives' automobile. In response to their inquiries, petitioner directed the detectives to a private garage several blocks away where his green hotrod was parked. The car was searched, and bloodstains were found on the rear seat.*fn3 Subsequent thereto, petitioner and his automobile were taken to the Roslyn, New York police station.

Petitioner, an eighteen year old youth, was interrogated by detectives for about seven and a half hours following his arrival at police headquarters (12:30 A.M. until 8:00 A.M.). He contends that during this interval he was deprived of sleep, food and advice of counsel.*fn4 There is, however, no evidence that petitioner requested any of the three. Indeed, he at no time indicated a desire that the interrogation stop.

Sometime after 8:00 A.M. petitioner confessed to his participation in the robbery. Moll and Closter, apprehended soon after Stanbridge, also confessed.

Following indictment of the three on charges of felony and common-law murder, as well as robbery, grand larceny and assault, a trial was held in Supreme Court, Nassau County, before Justice Frank A. Gulota.*fn5 All three confessions were introduced into evidence although none of the defendants testified. On January 6, 1962, a verdict of guilty was returned against petitioner on charges of first degree manslaughter,*fn6 first degree grand larceny, two counts of first degree assault and two counts of second degree assault.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, the case was remanded for a hearing, pursuant to Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 12 L. Ed. 2d 908, 84 S. Ct. 1774 (1964), on the voluntariness of the confessions.*fn7 On remand, a Huntley hearing was conducted, and all confessions were found to be voluntary. The case returned to the Appellate Division, which then affirmed.*fn8 The New York Court of Appeals likewise affirmed.*fn9

The United States Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for further consideration in light of Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476, 88 S. Ct. 1620 (1969).*fn10 Upon reconsideration, the New York Court of Appeals ...


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