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Patterson v. Cuyler

decided: March 13, 1984.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Aldisert, Higginbotham, and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

The petitioner, Winfield Charles Patterson, appeals from the district court's denial of his habeas corpus petition. Patterson claims that he was entitled to a hearing in the district court on his claims (1) that he should have been given Miranda warnings before his interview at 7:05 a.m. on February 22, 1977 because he was then in custody and (2) that his waiver of the right to remain silent after he was given Miranda warnings was not knowing and voluntary. We will affirm the district court's decision.


Facts and Procedural History

On February 21, 1977, the Philadelphia police discovered the bodies of Victor and Betty Soto and Mrs. Soto's fourteen-year-old daughter Wanda McKim. The elder Sotos had been bound with electrical cord and stabbed; Wanda had been strangled and subsequently drowned in the bathtub. Police then located Helen McKim, another daughter of Betty Soto, at the home of Ruth Stroman where she had been living since moving out of the Soto home, which police were told followed an argument with her mother. Police asked several people at that house who knew the victims to go to headquarters to provide background information about the family. Those who went included Patterson; his girlfriend, Charlinder Stroman; another friend, William Blannon; and Helen McKim, who was Blannon's girlfriend. None was handcuffed. Patterson was not a suspect at the time, and he does not claim that his trip to police headquarters was other than voluntary. Mrs. Stroman told a detective that Patterson and Blannon had been around the Soto residence that weekend, but the record does not show that the comment was communicated to the detectives who subsequently interviewed Patterson.

In 23 hours at police headquarters, starting at about 6:30 p.m. on February 21, Patterson underwent four interviews. He was first interviewed for 30 minutes in the waiting area by a police detective seeking background information. Patterson received no Miranda warnings. The detective ordered a polygraph test, but it was not conducted because Patterson was too high on marijuana. Patterson concedes that at about 8:30 p.m. he was told by Sergeant Gibbons, the detective in charge of the case, that he was free to leave and was offered transportation home. Instead, he chose to wait for his girlfriend, Stroman, who was still being questioned. He remained in the waiting area overnight and was given breakfast there.

In the meantime, Blannon confessed to the three murders but did not implicate Patterson. Charlinder Stroman, however, had told police that she had been with both Blannon and Patterson all day of the murders. Sergeant Gibbons asked Detective Ansel to interview Patterson. He was not given Miranda warnings because, as the detectives testified, at this point they still did not consider Patterson a suspect but thought he was lying to provide an alibi for Blannon. This interview began at 7:05 a.m. in an interrogation room and continued until 8:45 a.m., during which Patterson again alibied for Blannon, saying they had been together all Saturday evening except for about ten minutes when Blannon went to get beer. After the interview Patterson was returned to the visitors' area.

Following this interview, Sergeant Gibbons reviewed the statements and saw the continued conflict. He instructed a detective to issue Miranda warnings to Patterson about hindering the prosecution if he gave false statements to alibi for Blannon. Patterson was interviewed again at 11:00 a.m., was given Miranda warnings, explicitly waived his Miranda rights, and stated that he had previously confused Friday and Saturday nights and did not know all of Blannon's actions on Saturday night when the murders occurred. The detective testified that Patterson appeared alert and relaxed, App. at 156a, although he had only an hour's sleep overnight. Patterson then agreed to take a polygraph test. When he asked the officer administering the test how he was doing, he was told he was not doing very well. Patterson then agreed to tell what he knew and wrote and signed a confession saying that he helped Blannon tie up the Sotos before Blannon stabbed them, and that he helped choke and drown Wanda McKim. At the fourth interview, again preceded by Miranda warnings, Patterson gave a formal and detailed statement of his confession, which he read and signed at 4:52 p.m.

That evening, Patterson was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He later moved to suppress all statements given to the police. Following a suppression hearing in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the court found that (1) the first two interviews were conducted while Patterson was not "in custody" within the meaning of Miranda, and therefore no Miranda warnings were required, App. at 217a; (2) Patterson was in custody as of 11:00 a.m., when the third interview began, at which point he received Miranda warnings, and "was no longer free to leave", App. at 215a; (3) all statements made while Patterson was in custody were "the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice of the maker", App. at 218a; and (4) the waiver of his right to counsel was knowing, intelligent and voluntary, App. at 217a.

Patterson was convicted following a jury trial. In post-trial motions he again claimed that all of his statements were inadmissible because he had not been given Miranda warnings before his second interview and because his confession made after Miranda warnings was the product of a waiver that was not knowing and intelligent. The trial court denied the motions. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and rejected Patterson's arguments as to the inadmissibility of the statements. Commonwealth v. Patterson, 488 Pa. 227, 412 A.2d 481 (1980).

In his habeas corpus petition filed in the district court, Patterson raised the same two issues. The magistrate found the claims were exhausted in state court, and concluded that petitioner had not overcome the presumption of correctness to be accorded the state court's findings under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(d) and Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 66 L. Ed. 2d 722, 101 S. Ct. 764 (1981). App. at 28a. The district court adopted the magistrate's report and recommendations. Following Patterson's appeal, we remanded to the district court to obtain the state court records and to determine if the state courts' findings were adequately supported by the state court record. The magistrate ...

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