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State v. Fauntleroy

Decided: January 22, 1962.


For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jacobs, J.


The defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to death. He appealed to this court as of right. See R.R. 1:2-1(c).

On Thursday, July 28, 1960, shortly before 6:00 P.M. the body of Beatrice Linkhorn was discovered in her apartment at 2 Stratford Place, Newark, by Reverend Wagner, Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Marshall. Mr. Wagner was minister at the church where Miss Linkhorn was employed as teacher and secretary, Mrs. Hamilton was a life-long friend of Miss Linkhorn, and Mr. Marshall was superintendent of the apartment building at 2 Stratford Place. Miss Linkhorn's body was face down on the floor between her bedroom and living room. It was unclothed except for a pajama top which had

been pulled up around her shoulders. A pair of panties, a sanitary napkin and the support for the sanitary napkin were under the body or nearby. When the body was turned over a towel was found wrapped around the neck. It had been used to strangle Miss Linkhorn. The Chief Medical Examiner for Essex County testified that her death "was due to asphyxiation caused by strangulation with a ligature."

After the discovery of the body, Mr. Marshall went to call the police while Reverend Wagner and Mrs. Hamilton waited in the hallway outside Miss Linkhorn's apartment. Mrs. Hamilton was obviously distraught and was sobbing. At that time the defendant, who lived at 2 Stratford Place in an apartment across the hall from Miss Linkhorn's apartment, came over to Reverend Wagner and asked what was wrong and whether he could help. The Reverend told him that nothing was wrong and that Mrs. Hamilton was "just a little upset." At about 6:00 P.M. Officers Harper and Hall, of the Newark Police Department, arrived at the scene and 15 minutes thereafter Detectives Critchley and Adams arrived. Detective Adams spoke to Reverend Wagner and Mrs. Hamilton as well as to the defendant, called the record bureau of the City of Newark, and, after consulting with Detective Critchley, took the defendant into custody. The defendant was told by Detective Adams that he was being held as a "material witness," and on "a possible wanted sticker" from Springfield. At about this time Sergeant Buerle and Detective Leonardis of the Newark homicide squad reached the scene and "took over the investigation."

The defendant was taken to police headquarters at about 7:00 P.M. and was questioned there by Sergeant Buerle. The sergeant testified that his questioning began at 9:00 P.M. and "went to a half hour at the most" and that during its course he asked the defendant to take his clothes off. The defendant testified that his questioning during the evening of Thursday, July 28 lasted about 15 minutes, that he took all of his clothes off, that all of his clothes with the exception of his pants were returned to him, that he was not abused

at that time although he was given nothing to eat, and that after his questioning he was taken to the "detention cell" which he said was occupied by two other prisoners and which he described as a cell 12 by 4 1/2 feet with a sink, toilet and a bench that is strapped to the wall but without a bed. The sergeant disputed the defendant's testimony that his pants were not returned on Thursday evening; he stated that they were returned to him then but that on the following morning the defendant was brought from the detention cell to the interrogation room where his pants were taken for purposes of examination and that the defendant was given another pair of pants to wear in the meantime. The defendant testified that on Friday morning and afternoon he was questioned for several hours, that he was physically mistreated by the police officers and was called vile names, that Detective Leonardis "took a pocket knife and scraped underneath my fingernails," that all he had to eat during the morning was "a cup of coffee and a stale roll," and that all he had to eat for lunch was a cup of coffee and a bologna sandwich and the same for dinner.

The officers denied that they had physically mistreated the defendant or had called him vile names. They acknowledged that on Friday they had interrogated him on several occasions but their testimony indicated that each interrogation was limited in time and was for a specific purpose connected with the furtherance of their investigation. Thus Sergeant Buerle testified that, at the first interrogation on Friday, the defendant's pants were taken for analysis which disclosed bloodstains in the area of the fly and crotch. He testified that during later interrogations on Friday the defendant's shoes were taken for analysis and further inquiries were made with respect to the defendant's "actions and where he worked and background." The sergeant disputed the defendant's testimony that Detective Leonardis had scraped his fingernails; he testified that, pursuant to their request, the defendant scraped them himself and that the fingernail scrapings were placed in an envelope and sent for analysis which disclosed

evidence of blood. The sergeant testified that so far as he could recall nothing significant was found on the defendant's shoes and they were returned to him "some time Friday afternoon."

The defendant testified that on Saturday morning he had "a cup of coffee and a stale roll" and that he was questioned Saturday morning and again during Saturday afternoon. He testified that he was "confronted with the fact that they said that they had found bloodstains on my pants and fingernail scrapings" and that he "suffered the same sort of brutality but a little more of it and a little bit longer that Saturday afternoon." He stated that he had a cup of coffee and a bologna sandwich for lunch and the same for dinner. Sergeant Buerle acknowledged that the defendant was questioned Saturday morning but indicated that he knew nothing about any Saturday afternoon questioning. According to the testimony of Detective Meagher of the Essex County Prosecutor's office, the interrogation of the defendant on Saturday morning lasted about "an hour and a half or two hours." The defendant testified that he was again questioned on Sunday, that this questioning started about 1:00 P.M. and "lasted to well after 3:00 o'clock or going on 4:00 o'clock." The questioning was done by Detectives Leonardis and Scurese. Detective Scurese testified that after an hour and a half of questioning the defendant asked for a piece of paper and pencil and "requested to be left alone." He was left alone and when the detective returned, the defendant gave him a statement, in his own handwriting, which set forth that on Wednesday morning, July 27, he went to see the decedent, she answered the door and they talked for a few minutes, they "got into an argument" and "the next thing I remember is that she was laying on the floor dead and I had a towel in my hand." In explanation of the circumstances preceding this statement the defendant testified that he had "suffered the same sort of brutality" he had suffered during the preceding days and that Detective Scurese had said they were tired of the questioning and

wanted a confession and had placed a cord around his neck and told him that if he didn't write a confession "when I come back I will put this cord around your neck and I will not only hurt you, I will hang you with it" and "call it suicide." In his testimony, Detective Scurese expressly denied this alleged occurrence or that the defendant had in any ...

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