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United States v. Montanye

decided: July 7, 1975.


Appeal from judgment denying writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, John T. Curtin, Judge, relying upon previous denial of writ of habeas corpus in 1969. Appellant alleges that second petition presents new grounds from first, which had challenged admissibility of certain evidence at trial. Held, judgment reversed and remanded for determination whether appellant exhausted state remedies and whether appellant waived his Fourth Amendment defense. While appellant's "new grounds" may be matters of state law and unreviewable, appellant's first petition was not adversely final on the merits since denial of appeal was presumably without prejudice for failure to exhaust. Judgment reversed and remanded.

Smith and Oakes, Circuit Judges, and Jameson,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Oakes

OAKES, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a denial of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by Judge Curtin of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. Appellant, Eugene Frank Irons, currently confined to the Attica Correctional Facility, was convicted on April 6, 1966, after a jury trial in the Onondaga County Court of third degree burglary and first degree larceny from a jewelry store. He was sentenced to a term of 10 to 20 years. He petitions for a writ on the basis that the evidence against him was obtained as the result of an unconstitutional search.

Irons was apprehended at the Syracuse bus terminal at 12:25 a.m. on July 26, 1965. The police were alerted that Irons might try to leave town by bus. The officers had a search warrant dated July 16, 1965, stating that there was probable cause to believe that appellant had in his possession a gun taken from the jewelry store which had been burglarized on both July 16 and 25.*fn1 The officers opened the two suitcases appellant was carrying and found one to contain jewelry, but no gun. Appellant was arrested and later that evening admitted having twice burglarized the jewelry store and having sold the gun. A preliminary hearing was held on December 29, 1965, on the issue whether Irons' confession was voluntary. Following a finding in the State's favor, a trial was held and appellant convicted. Appellant appealed claiming that the trial court erred in its finding of voluntariness and in its charge. The judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, without opinion, on May 9, 1968. Permission to appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals on November 13, 1968.

Appellant filed pro se a writ of habeas corpus on January 16, 1969, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York before Judge Burke claiming that the search was constitutionally invalid as the warrant was based on hearsay. Judge Burke denied the application on July 3, 1969, finding, without a hearing, that admission into evidence of the fruits of the search was not objected to at trial by counsel, and that "The search was a valid and legal search. It was valid as an incident to a lawful arrest. It was also authorized by a valid and legal search warrant." Judge Burke apparently based his decision on the preliminary hearing on voluntariness of the confession and trial records and the Appellate Division briefs. This court denied a certificate of probable cause on October 1, 1969.

Appellant filed a second writ of habeas corpus, which is the object of this appeal, on the grounds that the search warrant was void on its face and that there was a failure by his attorney to object to the evidence obtained from the search. In a supplementary petition appellant alleged that the search warrant was invalid on the grounds that under New York law it illegally authorized a nighttime search and that it was executed beyond the tenth day after its issuance. Judge Curtin referred the petition to a magistrate, who recommended that the writ be denied on the basis of Judge Burke's previous findings. After reviewing the papers submitted, presumably the 1965 and 1966 transcripts and certain correspondence of Irons requesting information, and the magistrate's recommendation, Judge Curtin denied the writ without further opinion.*fn2 This appeal followed and appellant was assigned counsel.

It is unclear whether the claims presented here were made in the state courts. Appellant's brief in this appeal indicates that appellant did file a pro se brief during the initial appeal to the Appellate Division raising the issue of the validity of the search warrant.*fn3 Neither Judge Burke nor Judge Curtin discussed the issue of exhaustion. Given the uncertainty in the record before us, we must remand for consideration whether the issues presented for review have ever been presented to the state courts. See Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 490, 35 L. Ed. 2d 443, 93 S. Ct. 1123 (1973); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275-76, 30 L. Ed. 2d 438, 92 S. Ct. 509 (1971); Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 417-20, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837, 83 S. Ct. 822 (1963).

Even if appellant exhausted his state remedies, the question is open whether he deliberately waived his Fourth Amendment claims by failing to object to the introduction of the evidence at trial.*fn4 Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. at 438-40. It will be relevant to determine whether appellant's claims were presented to the Appellate Division on direct appeal since under New York law "no objection [at trial] is required to preserve for appellate review a deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right, and the failure to object does not waive the defendant's state remedies for the preservation of those rights." United States ex rel. Schaedel v. Follette, 447 F.2d 1297, 1300 (2d Cir. 1971). Failure to raise a constitutional issue on appeal may, however, constitute a waiver of state remedies. Id.

If the issues of exhaustion and waiver are resolved in appellant's favor, or if appellant does exhaust his state remedies without success, then appellant is entitled to a hearing on the issue of the constitutional validity of the search warrant under Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 21 L. Ed. 2d 637, 89 S. Ct. 584 (1969), and Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 12 L. Ed. 2d 723, 84 S. Ct. 1509 (1964), even as modified by United States v. Harris, 403 U.S. 573, 29 L. Ed. 2d 723, 91 S. Ct. 2075 (1971).*fn5 There is nothing whatsoever in the papers presently before us to support a finding of probable cause; indeed the very affidavit supposedly supporting the warrant is altogether missing, as apparently it was before Judge Burke.*fn6 While in 1969 appellant, in a prior habeas corpus petition, presented this issue to Judge Burke, Judge Burke without a hearing, on the basis of the trial transcript and " Huntley "*fn7 hearing transcript, decided that the search warrant was valid and the search was incident to a lawful arrest. Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 15, 10 L. Ed. 2d 148, 83 S. Ct. 1068 (1963), does not favor deciding successive habeas corpus petitions if the first were adversely decided on the merits and the ends of justice would not be served by reaching the merits of the subsequent application.*fn8 For the first decision to be given controlling weight it must also be final on the merits. In Sanders no appeal was taken from the first petition, making it final. Here, in the 1969 proceeding, appellant, proceeding without counsel, moved this court for a certificate of probable cause for leave to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis and for assignment of counsel. That motion was denied without opinion. Since on the merits, assuming exhaustion and waiver have been successfully resolved, we do not find the 1969 appeal to have lacked merit, note 6 supra, we presume the denial of the motion was without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies. Thus, we are not bound by the nonfinal 1969 proceeding.

We do not need to consider appellant's claims that the search warrant did not comply with the then-effective § 801 of the former New York Code of Criminal Procedure*fn9 for nighttime searches because it did not state that the officer was positive that a gun would be found or that the warrant was void when executed because it was older than 10 days.*fn10 We assume, without having to decide, that these claims are matters of state law unreviewable in federal courts.*fn11 See United States ex rel. Terry v. Henderson, 462 F.2d 1125, 1131 (2d Cir. 1972); United States ex rel. Sadowy v. Fay, 284 F.2d 426, 427 (2d Cir. 1960), cert. denied, 365 U.S. 850, 5 L. Ed. 2d 814, 81 S. Ct. 814 (1961).

Judgment reversed and remanded.


Judgment reversed and ...

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