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Fisher v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
Jul 21, 1967
231 A.2d 720 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1967)

Opinion

No. 216, Initial Term, 1967.

Decided July 21, 1967.

ARREST — Stolen Check Which Was Not Fruit Of Invalid Search Held Not Rendered Inadmissible By Illegal Arrest. A stolen check given to police by the proprietor of a liquor store in which appellant had tried to cash it was not the fruit of an invalid search and would not be rendered inadmissible by appellant's illegal arrest shortly after he had fled from the store. p. 508

APPEAL — Test Of Sufficiency Of Evidence In Non-Jury Cases. The test, upon review, of the sufficiency of the evidence in a non-jury case is whether the evidence, if believed, either shows directly or supports a rational inference of the facts to be proved, from which the court could fairly be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, of the defendant's guilt of the offense charged. p. 509

CONFESSIONS — Miranda Decision Not Applied Retroactively — Escobedo Rule Inapplicable In Absence Of Allegation Of Request For And Denial Of Counsel. The decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 Sup. Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) is not applied retroactively. p. 509

The rule in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 Sup. Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977 (1964) is not applicable where there is no allegation that appellant requested counsel and that counsel was denied him. p. 509

CONFESSIONS — Test For Admissibility — Confession Not Rendered Inadmissible By Illegal Arrest — Trial Court's Determination As To Voluntariness In Non-Jury Cases. The test for admissibility of a confession is whether it was made freely and voluntarily and at a time when the appellant knew and understood what he was saying. p. 509

Appellant's oral confession to participation in a robbery would not be rendered inadmissible by his illegal arrest, if such arrest were illegal. p. 509

In a non-jury case, it is a matter for the trial court to decide whether a statement was freely and voluntarily given, and its determination thereon will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of a showing of an abuse of that discretion. p. 509

SENTENCE AND PUNISHMENT — Sentence Within Prescribed Statutory Limits Is Not Cruel And Unusual Punishment — Sentence For Common-Law Crime For Which No Sentence Fixed Is Not Invalid Unless It Amounts To Cruel And Unusual Punishment. Any sentence within the limit prescribed by law is valid and does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of constitutional protections, unless dictated by passion, prejudice, ill will, or any other unworthy motive. p. 510

A sentence for a common-law crime for which no sentence is fixed is not invalid unless it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. p. 510

SENTENCE AND PUNISHMENT — Sentence For Attempt Not Controlled By Statutory Penalty For Completed Offense. A sentence in the case of an attempt to commit an offense is not necessarily controlled by the statutory penalty for the completed offense. p. 510

SENTENCE AND PUNISHMENT — One-Year Sentence For Attempt To Obtain Money By False Pretense Held Not Cruel And Unusual Punishment — Consecutive Sentences For Robbery And Attempt To Obtain Money By False Pretense Do Not Make Punishment Cruel And Unusual. A sentence of one year for an attempt to obtain money by a false pretense is not cruel and unusual punishment. p. 510

The imposition of consecutive sentences upon convictions of robbery and an attempt to obtain money by a false pretense does not make the punishment cruel and unusual, where each sentence is within the limit prescribed by law. p. 510 Decided July 21, 1967.

Appeal from the Criminal Court of Baltimore (PRENDERGAST, J.).

John Clyde Fisher, Jr., was convicted in a non-jury trial of robbery and an attempt to obtain money by a false pretense, and, from the judgments entered thereon, he appeals.

Affirmed.

The cause was argued before ANDERSON, MORTON, ORTH, and THOMPSON, JJ., and PRETTYMAN, J., Associate Judge of the First Judicial Circuit, specially assigned.

Melvin N. Siegel for appellant.

Donald Needle, Assistant Attorney General, with whom were Francis B. Burch, Attorney General, Carville M. Downes, Assistant Attorney General, Charles E. Moylan, Jr., State's Attorney for Baltimore City, and Howard Cardin, Assistant State's Attorney for Baltimore City, on the brief, for appellee.


On March 22, 1966 the appellant was convicted of robbery and attempt to obtain money by a false pretense in the Criminal Court of Baltimore, by Judge J. Gilbert Prendergast, presiding without a jury. He was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 10 years for the robbery offense and to imprisonment for a term of 1 year on the attempt to obtain money by a false pretense, the sentences to run consecutively.

Three contentions are raised on this appeal:

1) The arrest of the appellant and subsequent seizure of certain evidence was illegal.

2) The evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction.

3) The sentences imposed constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

There was evidence before the court substantially as follows. On January 21, 1966, about 4:20 P.M. William Schlining was beaten and robbed in the 2200 block Hollins Ferry Road by three youths who knocked him down and took his wallet. The wallet contained his pay check, payable to him in the amount of $81.68 which had not been endorsed by him. About 7:00 P.M. the same day the appellant went to a liquor store in the 500 block Fremont Avenue and presented to the proprietor the check, which he requested be cashed. The proprietor asked the appellant if he was William Schlining and the appellant said he was. The proprietor asked the appellant to endorse the check and in attempting to do so, had difficulty in spelling the name "Schlining." The proprietor took the fingerprints of the appellant on a piece of adding machine tape and then asked him to write the name on a separate piece of paper. The appellant could not spell the name and bolted out of the store, leaving the check in the possession of the proprietor. As the appellant ran from the store, an unmarked patrol car containing two police officers was coming down the street. The appellant ran across the street directly in front of the car, yelled, "run," to two other youths on the scene and ran down the street. One of the police officers pursued him and caught him near the police car when he doubled back. The officer asked him why he had been running and he said he had "just tried to pass a stolen check." Approximately 60 seconds had elapsed from the time the officers first saw the appellant to the time he was caught. The check was turned over to the police by the proprietor of the liquor store. The appellant gave an oral statement to the police, confessing that he and three other boys had robbed a man in the 2200 block Hollins Ferry Road. He denied hitting the man, stating that a co-defendant had hit him, but said he took the wallet while the man was lying on the ground and that the check, which he later tried to cash, in the liquor store, was in the wallet.

The appellant contends that his arrest was illegal and therefore the check was inadmissible in evidence. Although evidence seized by a search, invalid by reason of an illegal arrest, is inadmissible in a state court, Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, the challenged evidence here was not the fruit of an invalid search, as the check was given to the police by the proprietor of the liquor store and not seized by a search of the appellant. Being otherwise admissible, it would not be rendered inadmissible by an illegal arrest. This contention of the appellant is devoid of merit.

With regard to the second contention, the test of the sufficiency of the evidence upon review by this Court has been clearly established.

"* * * the test of the sufficiency of the evidence in a case tried before the court without a jury, when reviewed in this Court, is whether the evidence, if believed, either shows directly or supports a rational inference of the facts to be proved, from which the court could fairly be convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the defendant's guilt of the offense charged." Ponder v. State, 227 Md. 570, 572; quoted in Chittum v. State, 1 Md. App. 205, 209; Jones v. State, 242 Md. 323, 328; Kucharczyk v. State, 235 Md. 334, 337.

From the evidence before the trial court, above detailed, this test was clearly fulfilled and we do not find that the judgment of the court was clearly erroneous. Maryland Rules, 1086. It is noted that the appellant does not contend on appeal that his oral statement was not free and voluntary. The record shows that at his trial, the appellant alleged that he did not make a statement to the police. In any event, as the conviction of the appellant preceded Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, he is not within the ambit of that case as Miranda is not retroactive. Cooper v. State, 1 Md. App. 190, 196. There was no allegation that the appellant requested counsel and that counsel was denied him, so Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, does not apply. The test for the admissibility of the statement was whether it was made freely and voluntarily and at a time when the appellant knew and understood what he was saying. It would not be inadmissible merely because the arrest was illegal, if it was. Koprivich v. State, 1 Md. App. 147, 151. In a trial before the court, sitting without a jury, it is a matter for the trial court to decide whether a statement was freely and voluntarily given and its determination thereon will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of a showing of an abuse of that discretion. Johnson v. State, 1 Md. App. 217, 221-222. The record discloses that the test for the admissibility of the statement was fully met.

With regard to the third contention, any sentence within the limit prescribed by law is valid and does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of constitutional protections, Charles v. State, 1 Md. App. 222, 231, unless dictated by passion, prejudice, ill-will or any other unworthy motive, Logan v. State, 1 Md. App. 213, 216. There is no suggestion of unworthy motive on the part of the trial judge and the record shows that such suggestion, if made, would be without merit. The sentence imposed for the robbery offense did not exceed the maximum penalty of 10 years provided by Maryland Code, Article 27, § 486. With reference to the sentence of 1 year on the attempt to obtain money by a false pretense, an attempt to commit an offense constitutes a common-law misdemeanor. A sentence for a common-law crime for which no sentence is fixed is not invalid unless it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and in the case of an attempt is not necessarily controlled by the statutory penalty for the completed offense. Tillett, v. Warden, 215 Md. 596, 597; Dailey v. State, 234 Md. 325, 329. The maximum sentence for obtaining money by a false pretense is 10 years, Code, Article 27, § 140, and we cannot say that a sentence of one year for an attempt to commit that crime is cruel and unusual. See Roberts v. Warden, 242 Md. 459, 461. Nor do we feel that the imposition of consecutive sentences makes the punishment cruel and unusual, as each sentence was within the limit prescribed by law. Martin v. State, 227 Md. 407, 410.

Judgments affirmed.


Summaries of

Fisher v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
Jul 21, 1967
231 A.2d 720 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1967)
Case details for

Fisher v. State

Case Details

Full title:JOHN CLYDE FISHER, JR. v . STATE OF MARYLAND

Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

Date published: Jul 21, 1967

Citations

231 A.2d 720 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1967)
231 A.2d 720

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