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People v. Martinez

Court of Appeals of the State of New York
Oct 28, 1975
37 N.Y.2d 662 (N.Y. 1975)


In Martinez, the initial stop was unlawful but the intervening circumstances attenuated the taint attaching to the stop.

Summary of this case from People v. Sanchez


Argued September 3, 1975

Decided October 28, 1975

Appeal from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department, ALBERT H. BOSCH, J.

Gregory G. Jones for appellant.

Nicholas Ferraro, District Attorney (Thomas A. Duffy, Jr., of counsel), for respondent.

Defendant's conviction, following a jury verdict, of the crime of felony murder (Penal Law, § 125.25, subd 3) has been affirmed by an unanimous Appellate Division. As we choose to frame it, the dispositive issue presented on this appeal may be posed as follows: did the illegality of the initial "stop" of the automobile in which defendant was a passenger taint the arrest for illegal possession of a firearm and thus, perforce, the subsequent station house interrogation of the defendant concerning the homicide for which he was ultimately convicted. If this question is answered in the affirmative, the admissions made by him during the interrogation, as well as the incriminating evidence to which those admissions may have led, are subject to the exclusionary rule of Weeks v United States ( 232 U.S. 383) (see, also, People v Rodriguez, 11 N.Y.2d 279, 286) held applicable to the States in Mapp v Ohio ( 367 U.S. 643) and would then have been improperly admitted at trial. We are thus asked to delineate the scope of the exclusionary rule and to define the point at which evidence is sufficiently removed from any questionable police conduct as to survive the "`fruit of the poisonous tree'" doctrine set forth in Wong Sun v United States ( 371 U.S. 471, 488). (See, also, People v Robinson, 13 N.Y.2d 296, 301.)

On April 1, 1971, defendant was a passenger in an automobile, parked at the curb with its motor running, in front of a liquor store in a "high crime" area in the Borough of Queens. Sometime after 11:00 A.M., two New York City police officers, Wilson and Quinlan, approached the vehicle and asked the driver for his license and registration. Later, at the hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Wilson explained that he took such action because he suspected "there was possibly something going on in reference to the liquor store." He further stated that the "time of day" and the "dirty" and "rogue-y" appearance of the vehicle's occupants formed the basis of his suspicions. When the driver made what Officer Wilson characterized as a "quick" motion toward the glove compartment, he opened the door of the automobile and spotted a gun on the floor in the rear of the car. He seized the gun and arrested the occupants of the automobile.

Following defendant's arrest, Patrolmen Wilson and Quinlan took him to the 103rd Precinct. Shortly before noon, detectives investigating the robbery and homicide of one Leonid Manague, which occurred six days earlier near a Lafayette Radio Store in Queens, indicated to Officer Wilson that they wanted to ask defendant some questions about a "homicide". Appellant was adequately informed of his rights including the right to remain silent and the right to the assistance of counsel. During the course of the interrogation by the homicide squad detectives which followed, defendant admitted only (1) that on the night of the mugging he was out with one "Geraldine Neal" and a fellow named "Egghead" and (2) that he, "Egghead" and Miss Neal were "over by the Lafayette Radio Store" on that evening. Defendant did not make a confession but, in fact, explicitly denied involvement in the homicide. In that sense, his statements were intended to be exculpatory. After the interrogation at the 103rd Precinct, defendant was taken to night court for arraignment on the weapons charge for which he was arrested. On the day of defendant's arrest, Detective Green, a member of the homicide squad investigating the Manague murder, brought Miss Neal to the station house. She stated to the police that defendant "told her he had stabbed a white fellow over by Lafayette and mugged him with an 007 knife". The detectives also learned from her the address of the apartment where defendant often spent the night. When investigating detectives went to that address and gained entrance by consent of the occupants, they discovered a leather coat which was later identified as belonging to the victim. In the pocket of the coat a "switchblade knife" was found. These items were introduced against defendant at trial along with the testimony of Miss Neal, her mother and sister to the effect that defendant had these items on the night of the mugging. Defendant's own station house admissions were also introduced against him.

The identity of Miss Neal was apparently known to the police prior to April 1. The record indicates that she had told them earlier of Martinez' involvement in the mugging.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress the gun seized pursuant to the initial stop, the statement made by the defendant during the interrogation and the knife and coat, the court ruled that all the evidence was admissible. The Trial Judge found that the initial stop and arrest were justified. With respect to the statements made by defendant, he concluded that the defendant had been informed of his rights under Miranda v Arizona ( 384 U.S. 436) and that he knowingly and intelligently waived these rights. The court also concluded that the statements were voluntary and not the product of a coercive interrogation.

We do not agree with the court's determination that the initial "stop" was valid (see People v Ingle, 36 N.Y.2d 413) and, had defendant been prosecuted for illegal possession of the gun, suppression would have been required.

In Wong Sun v United States ( 371 U.S. 471, supra), the Supreme Court recognized the applicability of the exclusionary rule to the verbal fruits of an unauthorized arrest. In that case, the court also held that the Fourth Amendment did not require the summary exclusion of all evidence connected with alleged illegal police conduct and, in terms somewhat opaque, also said that the relevant question is whether the evidence was obtained by exploitation of the illegality or by means "sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint." (Wong Sun v United States, 371 U.S. 471, 488, supra). The court reasoned that the statement of defendant Wong Sun was admissible because it was made voluntarily several days after arraignment following defendant's release on his own recognizance, and thus could be characterized as an act of "free will" (p 486). On the other hand, the statements of defendant Toy were held inadmissible because they were made under coercive conditions, minutes after Federal agents forced their way into his home.

More recently, faced with the precise issue raised in this case, the Supreme Court added further content to the "attenuation" doctrine articulated in Wong Sun. Dealing with a custodial statement made subsequent to an unlawful arrest, the court, in a narrow holding, said that Miranda warnings "alone and per se, cannot always make the act sufficiently a product of free will to break, for Fourth Amendment purposes, the causal connection between the illegality and the confession" (Brown v Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603.) Three factors were deemed relevant in determining whether a confession or admission was produced by exploitation of an illegal arrest: (1) "[t]he temporal proximity of the arrest and confession"; (2) "the presence of intervening circumstances" and (3) "the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct." (Brown v Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603, 604, supra.)

In the intervening period between the Wong Sun and Brown decisions, many of the lower Federal courts focused upon the purpose and character of the challenged police activity in determining whether evidence gleaned from such activity was subject to the exclusionary rule. Thus, in Collins v Beto ( 348 F.2d 823), the court held that a confession should be suppressed where the police had absolutely no reasonable basis for arresting the defendant for a vagrancy charge and the arrest was merely a ruse to detain defendant for questioning. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit suppressed a confession pursuant to an illegal detention, lasting 44 hours, which was aimed at enabling police officers to build a case against the defendant (United States ex rel. Gockley v Myers, 450 F.2d 232). In United States v Edmons ( 432 F.2d 577) the pretext of arresting defendant for Selective Service Act violations was utilized to enable government agents to identify the defendants for another crime and the court held that such a sham arrest could not provide the basis for the detention, and the confession obtained thereby was excluded under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine.

Our own court has had occasion to condemn the device of the sham arrest in the context of the right to counsel. In People v Jackson ( 22 N.Y.2d 446, 451) Chief Judge FULD wrote that "statements taken from a defendant after he has been subjected to a sham arraignment, usually for vagrancy, are inadmissible". (See, also, People v Robinson, 13 N.Y.2d 296, 301, supra; People v Malloy, 22 N.Y.2d 559.)

The requirements that a defendant's statement be voluntary and that Miranda warnings be given have, of course, been deemed essential for the admissibility of a defendant's custodial statements. These requisites satisfy the demands of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination, but also serve the purposes of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, under Brown v Illinois (supra), Miranda warnings are not in themselves sufficient to enable custodial statements to pass Fourth Amendment muster when the propriety of official conduct is in question. We hold today that in addition to the dictates of Miranda and the standard of voluntariness, the controlling consideration for determining the admissibility of "verbal" evidence obtained pursuant to claimed illegal police conduct is whether law enforcement officers acted in good faith and with a fair basis for belief that probable cause existed for an arrest. We will look directly to the substantiality of the claimed violation of the Fourth Amendment standard in applying the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine. The test developed herein is similar to that advocated by the American Law Institute in its "Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure" (1975 Proposed Official Draft). As the rationale for their position, the drafters of the code assert, correctly we think, that "the exclusion of statements following illegal arrests creates formidable problems in devising a method whereby the police can cure the defect. Should the police be required to release and then rearrest the suspect? Is no subsequent statement to be admissible under any circumstances? If no cure is possible, then the illegal arrest will often have the effect of completely immunizing the defendant from any inquiry, and, indeed, prevent the use of even spontaneous statements." (Commentary, ALI Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure, 1975 Proposed Official Draft, § 150.2, p 389.)

See, e.g., CPL 60.45 (subd 1); Brown v Illinois ( 422 U.S. 590, supra); United States v Owen ( 492 F.2d 1100); United States v Davis ( 456 F.2d 1192); United States v Close ( 349 F.2d 841, cert den 382 U.S. 992); People v Spano ( 4 N.Y.2d 256, rev on other grounds 360 U.S. 315).

Subdivision (2) of section 150.2 of the Model Code provides: "(2) Statements Made after an Illegal Arrest. If a law enforcement officer, acting without a valid warrant, arrests a person without the reasonable cause required by Section 120.1, and the court determines that such arrest was made without fair basis for the belief that such cause existed, a statement made by such person after such arrest and prior to his release from custody or appearance before a judicial officer pursuant to Subsection 130.2 (1) (b) shall not be admitted in evidence against such person in a criminal proceeding, unless such statement is admissible pursuant to Section 150.3."
In addition, section 150.3 of the code provides: "(1) Substantial Violations or Exclusion Constitutionally Required. A motion to suppress a statement on any of the grounds set forth in Subsection (1) through (7) of Section 150.2 shall be granted only if the court finds that the violation upon which it is based was substantial, or if otherwise required by the Constitution of the United States or of this State."

We turn now to the particular circumstances presented in this case. The stop was improper under the standards we enunciated in People v Ingle ( 36 N.Y.2d 413, supra). However, a reasonable basis did exist for the arrest, once the gun was discovered on the rear floor of the automobile in which defendant was a passenger. The arrest was clearly not investigatory. Therefore, the officers acted in good faith in detaining the occupants of the automobile. Certainly, the arresting officers, Wilson and Quinlan, had no knowledge of the possible involvement of Martinez in the Manague homicide. The officers were not, as in Davis v Mississippi ( 394 U.S. 721) or in certain of the other cases, discussed above, perpetrating a sham arrest for the purpose of detaining defendant Martinez in order to construct a homicide case against him. Indeed, upon discovery of the gun, it is difficult to conceive that a reasonable police officer would not take action with respect to the occupants of the automobile.

In People v Ingle (supra, p 414), we held that "[a] single automobile traveling on a public highway may be stopped for a `routine traffic check' when a police officer reasonably suspects a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law."

As far as the weapons charge is concerned, the taint is not sufficiently attenuated to preclude suppression of the gun seized pursuant to the arrest. However, it is not necessary for us to resolve the status of the weapons charge since we deal here only with the custodial statements which were the "verbal fruits" of the arrest. We emphasize too that the fact that the detectives investigating the homicide had independent evidence linking Martinez to the Manague stabbing prior to his detention, serves to break the causal chain between the allegedly unlawful stop and the station house interrogation of the defendant. It also demonstrates the detectives' good faith basis for questioning the defendant about the homicide. Thus, having found that the arrest and the subsequent interrogation were in good faith, the propriety of the stop becomes irrelevant for purposes of the admissibility of defendant's custodial statements.

Detective Ward testified during the Huntley hearing that "Detective Green said that he had some information from people in the street, other sources, that Benny Martinez was involved in the homicide of Leonid Manague."

The circumstances here do not manifest the direct causal link between the challenged police conduct and the evidence seized present in People v Ingle (supra). In this case we are articulating standards which serve to ascertain the point at which the causal chain has been broken by intervening circumstances which evidence good faith on the part of law enforcement officers. In this context, Ingle was, of course, correctly decided since the crime charged in that case was the direct product of the concededly illegal stop. Here, the appellant was not tried on the weapon charge.

Our holding today derives a substantial measure of support from the underlying basis for the exclusionary rule. The rule was designed to act as a deterrent to unlawful police activity (Michigan v Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 447; United States v Calandra, 414 U.S. 338; Elkins v United States, 364 U.S. 206, 217). The heavy sanction exacted by the exclusionary rule is aimed at the preservation of the safeguard against "unreasonable" searches and seizures. The rule's extension, the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine, represents an attempt "to mark the point at which the detrimental consequences of illegal police action become so attenuated that the deterrent effect of the exclusionary rule no longer justifies its cost" (Brown v Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 609, supra [concurring opn per POWELL, J.]). In light of these considerations of deterrence, we choose to focus upon the factual basis for the police action and on the motive at the root of that action, in evaluating the propriety of police conduct. The abusiveness of the official activity under attack is the key ingredient in the Fourth Amendment formula of "reasonableness". This bench mark of "reasonableness" does not require that all searches and seizures be invalidated per se. Unreasonableness is most clearly demonstrated by a causal connection between the underlying purpose of the challenged arrest and the evidence sought to be excluded (cf. Davis v Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 726, 730, supra; Collins v Beto, 348 F.2d 823, 827, supra). Our decision should not be interpreted as an effort to weaken the exclusionary rule. This court stands steadfastly prepared to condemn bad police conduct and any abuse of constitutionally acceptable standards, as well as to preserve the integrity of the judicial process from investigatory methods which violate constitutional limitations, State and Federal (see, e.g., People v Sanchez, 38 N.Y.2d 72). The exclusionary rule remains a primary tool for accomplishing this task.

Criticism has been leveled at the efficacity of the exclusionary rule as a deterrent to unconstitutional police activity. We are not prepared to evaluate without empirical evidence the validity of this criticism. (See Commentary, ALI Model Code Pre-Arraignment Procedure, 1975 Proposed Official Draft, § 150.3, p 396; United States v Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, supra, p 348, n 5.)

We are mindful that such an approach as we have embarked upon in this analysis must be developed on a case by case basis upon a careful examination of the particular circumstances of the conduct in question. In this case, all the indicia point to the admissibility of defendant's statements and the "fruits" of these statements. The arrest was made with a fair basis for the judgment that probable cause existed, notwithstanding the questionable validity of the initial contact between the police and the defendant. The interrogation at the precinct was undertaken by detectives who were not involved in the initial stop and who had previously uncovered leads linking defendant to the Manague murder. They were not engaging in a "fishing expedition". Lastly, it should be noted that we are presented with affirmed findings of the court below that Miranda warnings were given to the defendant and that his statements were voluntarily made. We therefore conclude that no deterrent purpose would be served by the exclusion from evidence of defendant's statements. The good faith basis for the arrest attenuated any taint which may have colored the stop.

The record demonstrates that the police were aware of the identity of Geraldine Neal independently of the defendant's station house admissions. Detective Minerva testified at the Huntley hearing that he did speak to Miss Neal prior to the date of defendant's arrest. We choose, however, not to rely on our decision in People v Mendez ( 28 N.Y.2d 94) to sustain the admissibility of Miss Neal's testimony and the knife and the leather coat which were the "fruits" of the information she provided to the police.

We see no need to discuss the other issues raised by defendant which we find lacking in merit. The order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed.

Last term in United States v Peltier ( 422 U.S. 531), the Supreme Court held that its decisions construing the Fourth Amendment so as to place totally new restrictions on police conduct should not be applied retroactively. The court reasoned that when the police had acted in good faith by conducting themselves in a manner which was not then proscribed, application of the exclusionary rule could have no deterrent value. Justice BRENNAN dissented noting that this doctrine created certain practical and conceptual absurdities, but predicted that the primary danger was that this "revision of the exclusionary rule" would not be confined to putative retroactivity cases, but would be pronounced applicable to all search and seizure cases and ultimately mark "the complete demise of the exclusionary rule" (United States v Peltier, 422 U.S. 531, 551, supra).

Today a majority of this court has given life to Justice BRENNAN'S fears by holding that "the controlling consideration for determining the admissibility of `verbal' evidence obtained pursuant to claimed illegal police conduct is whether law enforcement officers acted in good faith and with a fair basis for belief that probable cause existed for arrest." Not only is this holding contrary to established law (see, e.g., People v Grossman, 20 N.Y.2d 346) but it strikes a mortal blow to the exclusionary rule which the Supreme Court itself has held to be "an essential ingredient of the Fourth Amendment" (Mapp v Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 651). In addition it is entirely unnecessary to the resolution of this case since the majority ultimately concludes — and I agree — that the evidence objected to was not, in any event, the "fruit" of the arrest. I am to affirm on the latter ground but I cannot join in the remainder of the opinion.

The majority recognizes that the initial stop was illegal "under the standards we enunciated in People v Ingle ( 36 N.Y.2d 413, supra)" and that the gun seized was tainted. However they pass no judgment on the legality of the arrest following the seizure of the gun, and consider the events leading up to the arrest irrelevant. They conclude that once the gun was found, the police officers had a "reasonable basis" for arresting the defendants and since, at this point, they acted in good faith, there is no reason to exclude the subsequent statement or the fruits of that statement. In other words, in their view whether there was probable cause to make the arrest is irrelevant, since the exclusionary rule does not apply to the fruits of an arrest when the police act in good faith — with a reasonable or "fair basis for belief" that there was probable cause.

If under the circumstances of this case it can be said that the officers acted in good faith then "good faith" must mean ignorance of the law. Ingle, of course, did not announce any new rule and I assume, as apparently the majority has, that there is no question of its "retroactivity" (see, e.g., United States v Peltier, supra). And it is equally well settled that an illegal stop cannot mature into a valid arrest simply because contraband is discovered (Sibron v New York, 392 U.S. 40). If ignorance of such fundamental principles can be characterized as "good faith", and held to be "controlling", in the future the defendant's rights will not depend upon the Constitution, but rather upon the police officer's knowledge of settled constitutional law. Carried to its logical conclusion a citizen will have no rights at all if he encounters an officer suffering from invincible ignorance of constitutional rights.

In short, the inevitable consequence of the rule the majority proposes today, would be to seriously dilute the exclusionary rule and the rights it seeks to foster. For these reasons I reject the notion that when evidence is said to be the fruit of an illegal arrest the "controlling consideration" for determining admissibility is whether the police "acted in good faith with a fair basis for belief that probable cause existed for arrest". That is not, and never has been, the controlling standard. The only proper inquiry in these cases is whether the police had probable cause to make the arrest, and if they did not, was the evidence subsequently obtained "tainted" by the illegality. (Wong Sun v United States, 371 U.S. 471; Brown v Illinois, 422 U.S. 590; cf. Johnson v Louisiana, 406 U.S. 356.)

Here it is apodictic that the arrest of the defendant for possession of a weapon which had been illegally seized was unconstitutional (see, e.g., Johnson v United States, 333 U.S. 10) and the only question is whether the connection between the illegal arrest and the defendant's station house admissions had "become so attenuated as to dissipate the taint" (Nardone v United States, 308 U.S. 338, 341; Wong Sun v United States, supra, at p 491).

Resolution of that issue, the Supreme Court has recently noted, requires an evaluation of the circumstances of the case "in light of the policy served by the exclusionary rule", with special emphasis on three factors: "The temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession, the presence of intervening circumstances * * * and, particularly, the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct" (Brown v Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603-604, supra). (Emphasis added.)

In the case now before us it appears that the defendant's statement was made within six or seven hours of his arrest, and that there were no intervening events of any significance. The defendant had not been arraigned on the weapons charge (Johnson v Louisiana, supra, at p 365) or released from custody (Wong Sun v United States, supra, at p 491) and although he had been advised of his Miranda rights, that is not conclusive (Brown v Illinois, supra).

However the record clearly establishes that the officers who made the arrest on the weapons charge had no intention of exploiting the illegality in order to solve the homicide. It seems evident that they were completely unaware of the defendant's possible involvement in the homicide, and the statements later obtained by other officers were entirely unanticipated at the time the arrest was made. Thus unlike the situation in Brown the arrest here lacked the "quality of purposefulness" (Brown v Illinois, supra at pp 590, 605) and the relationship between the arrest and the statement can be said to be so attenuated as to dissipate the taint. To put it another way, admission of the statement and its fruits is consistent with "the policy served by the exclusionary rule" since admission of this evidence obtained under the peculiar circumstances of this case should not "significantly encourage illicit police conduct in the future" (Pitler, "The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" Revisited and Shepardized, 56 Cal L Rev 579, 589).

In sum I believe it is the court's obligation to decide whether constitutional rights have been infringed and, having found a violation, it is the court's duty to ensure that the fruits of the illegality are excluded at trial. This serves not only to deter future violations but to maintain the integrity of the judicial process (Mapp v Ohio, supra; see, also, Brown v Illinois, supra). To withhold the sanction because the police violated the defendant's rights in good faith, can only encourage a studied ignorance of constitutional guarantees and ultimately prove them worthless. This court has traditionally followed the opposite course, often leading the Nation in defining and enlarging the constitutional rights of the accused. Now that the Supreme Court has signaled a retreat from this field, it is ironic that a majority of this court has chosen to lead the retreat.

The finding that the statements whose admission is at the heart of this appeal were not "the fruits" of the arrest and "stop" here is well-justified by objective criteria and, I, therefore, join in affirming. On the other hand, such subjective matters as good will and misconception of the law can be either so treacherous or so irrelevant that I would not weigh them in the balance other than, at most, as an incidental circumstance in the type of hearing spoken of in Brown v Illinois ( 422 U.S. 590). (Cf. Morales v New York, 396 U.S. 102.)

Chief Judge BREITEL and Judges JASEN and JONES concur with Judge GABRIELLI; Judge WACHTLER concurs in a separate opinion in which Judge COOKE concurs; Judge FUCHSBERG concurs in another separate opinion.

Order affirmed.

Summaries of

People v. Martinez

Court of Appeals of the State of New York
Oct 28, 1975
37 N.Y.2d 662 (N.Y. 1975)

In Martinez, the initial stop was unlawful but the intervening circumstances attenuated the taint attaching to the stop.

Summary of this case from People v. Sanchez
Case details for

People v. Martinez

Case Details


Court:Court of Appeals of the State of New York

Date published: Oct 28, 1975


37 N.Y.2d 662 (N.Y. 1975)
376 N.Y.S.2d 469
339 N.E.2d 162

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