|Mincey v. Arizona
[ Stewart ]
[ Marshall ]
[ Rehnquist ]
Mincey v. Arizona
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA
MR JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Petitioner was indicted for murder, assault, and three counts of narcotics offenses. He was convicted on all charges. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona reversed all but the narcotics convictions. 115 Ariz. 472, 566 P.2d 273 (1977). In his petition for certiorari, petitioner challenged the introduction of evidence material to his narcotics convictions that was seized during a lengthy warrantless search of his apartment. Petitioner also challenged on voluntariness grounds the introduction of various statements made to the police relating to the murder charge. We granted certiorari, 434 U.S. 902, and the Court today reverses the Supreme Court of Arizona on both issues. While I agree with the Court that the warrantless search was not justifiable on the grounds advanced by the Arizona Supreme Court, I dissent from the Court's holding that Mincey's statements were involuntary, and thus inadmissible.
I join Part I of the Court's opinion. As the Supreme Court of Arizona recognized, the four-day warrantless search of petitioner's apartment did not, on the facts developed at trial, "fit within [any] usual ‘exigent circumstances' exception." 115 Ariz. at 482, 566 P.2d at 283. Instead, the State of [p406] Arizona asks us to adopt a separate "murder scene" exception to the warrant requirement and the Court, for the reasons stated in its opinion, correctly rejects this invitation.
I write separately on this issue only to emphasize that the question of what, if any, evidence was seized under established Fourth Amendment standards is left open for the Arizona courts to resolve on remand. Ante at 395 n. 9. Much of the evidence introduced by the State at trial was apparently removed from the apartment the same day as the shooting. App 40. And the State's brief suggests that some evidence -- for example, blood on the floor -- required immediate examination. Brief for Respondent 70-71. The question of what evidence would have been "lost, destroyed, or removed" if a warrant had been obtained, ante at 394, otherwise required an immediate search, or was in plain view should be considered on remand by the Arizona courts.
In considering whether exigencies required the search for or seizure of particular evidence, the previous events within the apartment cannot be ignored. I agree with the Court that the police's entry to arrest Mincey, followed by the shooting and the search for victims, did not justify the later four-day search of the apartment. Ante at 391-392. But the constitutionality of a particular search is a question of reasonableness, and depends on "a balance between the public interest and the individual's right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers." United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878 (1975). See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 (1968). In Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977), we held that, once a motor vehicle had been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, police officers could constitutionally order the driver out of the vehicle. In so holding, we emphasized that the challenged intrusion was
occasioned not by the initial stop of the vehicle, which was admittedly justified, but by the order to get out of the car. We think this additional intrusion can only be described as de minimis. [p407]
Id. at 111. Similarly, in the instant case, the prior intrusions occasioned by the shooting and the police's response thereto may legitimize a search under some exigencies that, in tamer circumstances, might not permit a search.
The Court, in Part II of its opinion, advises the Arizona courts on the admissibility of certain statements made by Mincey that are relevant only to the murder charge. Because Mincey's murder conviction was reversed by the Arizona Supreme Court, and it is not certain that there will be a retrial, I would not reach this issue. Since the Court addresses the issue, however, I must register my disagreement with its conclusion.
Before trial, Mincey moved to suppress as involuntary certain statements that he had made while confined in an intensive care unit some hours after the shooting. As the Court acknowledges, the trial court found "‘with unmistakable clarity'" that the statements were voluntary, ante at 397 n. 12, and the Supreme Court of Arizona unanimously affirmed. 115 Ariz. at 479-480, 566 P.2d at 280-281. This Court now disagrees, and holds that "Mincey's statements were not ‘the product of his free and rational choice,'" and therefore "cannot be used in any way against [him] at his trial." Ante at 401, 402. Because I believe that the Court both has failed to accord the state court finding the deference that the Court has always found such findings due and also misapplied our past precedents, I dissent.
As the Court notes, ante at 398, past cases of this Court hold that a state court finding as to voluntariness which is "not fairly supported by the record cannot be conclusive of federal rights." Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 316 (1963) (emphasis added). Instead, these cases require the Court to "make an independent determination on the undisputed facts." Stroble v. California, 343 U.S. 181, 190 (1952) (emphasis added); [p408] Malinski v. New York, 324 U.S. 401, 404 (1945). It is well established that,
for purposes of review in this Court, the determination of the trial judge or of the jury will ordinarily be taken to resolve evidentiary conflicts, and may be entitled to some weight even with respect to the ultimate conclusion on the crucial issue of voluntariness.
Haynes v. Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 515 (1963). See Lisenba v. California, 314 U.S. 219, 238 (1941); Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 205, and n. 5 (1960). Such deference, particularly on the resolution of evidentiary conflicts,
is particularly apposite because the trial judge and jury are closest to the trial scene, and thus afforded the best opportunity to evaluate contradictory testimony.
Haynes, supra at 516.
The Court in this case, however, ignores entirely some evidence of voluntariness, and distinguishes away yet other testimony. There can be no discounting that Mincey was seriously wounded, and laden down with medical equipment. Mincey was certainly not able to move about, and, because of the breathing tube in his mouth, had to answer Detective Hust's questions on paper. But the trial court was certainly not required to find, as the Court would imply, that Mincey was "a seriously and painfully wounded man on the edge of consciousness." Ante at 401. Nor is it accurate to conclude that Detective Hust
ceased the interrogation only during intervals when Mincey lost consciousness or received medical treatment, and, after each such interruption, returned relentlessly to his task.
As the Arizona Supreme Court observed in affirming the trial court's finding of voluntariness, Mincey's nurse
testified that she had not given [Mincey] any medication, and that [he] was alert and able to understand the officer's questions. . . . She said that [Mincey] was in moderate pain, but was very cooperative with everyone. The interrogating officer also testified that [Mincey] did not appear to be under the influence of drugs, and that [p409] [his] answers were generally responsive to the questions.
115 Ariz. at 480, 566 P.2d at 281. See App. 50-51 (testimony of Detective Hust), 63 and 66 (testimony of Nurse Graham). [n1] The uncontradicted testimony of Detective Hust also reveals a questioning that was far from "relentless." While the interviews took place over a three-hour time span, the interviews were not "very long; probably not more than an hour total for everything." Id. at 59. Hust would leave the room whenever Mincey received medical treatment "or if it looked like he was getting a little bit exhausted." Ibid. According to Detective Hust, Mincey never "los[t] consciousness at any time." Id. at 58.
As the Court openly concedes, there were in this case none of the "gross abuses that have led the Court in other cases to find confessions involuntary, such as beatings . . . or ‘truth serums.'" Ante at 401. Neither is this a case, however, where the defendant's will was "simply overborne" by "mental coercion." Cf. Blackburn v. Alabama, supra, at 206; Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 741 (1966); Greenwald v. Wisconsin, 390 U.S. 519, 521 (1968). As the Supreme Court of Arizona observed, it was the testimony of both Detective Hust and Nurse Graham "that neither mental or physical force nor abuse was used on [Mincey]. . . . Nor were any promises made." 115 Ariz. at 480, 566 P.2d at 281. See App. 58-59 (testimony of Detective Hust) and 63 (testimony of Nurse Graham). According to Mincey's own testimony, he wanted [p410] to help Hust "the best I could," and tried to answer each question "to the best of my recollection at the time that this was going on." Id. at 8. Mincey did not claim that he felt compelled by Detective Hust to answer the questions propounded. [n2] Cf. Greenwald, supra, at 521.
By all of these standards enunciated in our previous cases, I think the Court today goes too far in substituting its own judgment for the judgment of a trial court and the highest court of a State, both of which decided these disputed issues differently than does this Court, and both of which were a good deal closer to the factual occurrences than is this Court. Admittedly we may not abdicate our duty to decide questions of constitutional law under the guise of wholly remitting to state courts the function of factfinding which is a necessary ingredient of the process of constitutional decision. But the authorities previously cited likewise counsel us against going to the other extreme and attempting to extract from a cold record bits and pieces of evidence which we then treat as the "facts" of the case. I believe that the trial court was entitled to conclude that, notwithstanding Mincey's medical condition, his statements in the intensive care unit were admissible. The fact that the same court might have been equally entitled to reach the opposite conclusion does not justify this Court's adopting the opposite conclusion.
I therefore dissent from Part II of the Court's opinion.
1. The Supreme Court of Arizona also emphasized "the fact that [Mincey] was able to write his answers in a legible and fairly sensible fashion." 115 Ariz. at 480 n. 3, 566 P.2d at 281 n. 3. The Court concedes that "Mincey's answers seem relatively responsive to the questions," ante at 400 n. 16, but chooses to ignore this evidence on the ground that the "reliability of Hust's report is uncertain." Ibid. Despite the contrary impression given by the Court, ibid., the Arizona Supreme Court's opinion casts no doubt on the testimony or report of Detective Hust. The Court is thus left solely with its own conclusion as to the reliability of various witnesses based on a reexamination of the record on appeal.
2. While Mincey asked at several points to see a lawyer, he also expressed his willingness to continue talking to Detective Hust even without a lawyer. See ante at 399-400, n. 16. As the Court notes, since Mincey's statements were not used as part of the prosecution's case in chief, but only in impeachment, any violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was irrelevant. See Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971); Oregon v. Hass, 420 U.S. 714 (1975).