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State v. Cartagena

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Oct 1, 1968
161 N.W.2d 392 (Wis. 1968)


In State v. Cartagena (1968), 40 Wis.2d 213, 161 N.W.2d 392, this court indicated that the distinction between a confession and an admission is that in the former there must be acknowledgment of guilt, while in the latter there is no such acknowledgment.

Summary of this case from Woodhull v. State


No. State 24.

Argued September 9, 1968. —

Decided October 1, 1968.

APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Milwaukee county: HERBERT J. STEFFES, Circuit Judge. Affirmed.

For the appellant there was a brief and oral argument by L. William Staudenmaier of Milwaukee.

For the respondent the cause was argued by Terence T. Evans, assistant district attorney of Milwaukee county, with whom on the brief were Bronson C. La Follette, attorney general, and David J. Cannon, district attorney.

Defendant was tried and convicted of robbery in violation of sec. 943.32(1), Stats. After a plea of not guilty a trial was had to the jury and judgment was entered on the verdict on July 3, 1967. Defendant was sentenced to an indeterminate term of not more than ten years in the state prison. An order denying motions after verdict was entered on March 25, 1968. Defendant appeals.

In the early morning of April 14, 1967, a robbery was committed at Curley's Tavern, 1460 South Muskego avenue, in the city of Milwaukee. At the time of the robbery four persons were present in the tavern — the owner, Emily Savatovich, a customer, Andrew Kujawa, and the two perpetrators of the robbery.

Later the same day Mrs. Savatovich signed a complaint charging defendant with having committed the offense. At about 10:30 p. m., on the same day, one Cesario Garza, aged seventeen, was arrested by Milwaukee police officers as a second person involved in the crime. A statement written by Garza at 3:40 a. m., on the 15th of April while he was still in the custody of the police is the crucial item in this appeal.

During the trial Mrs. Savatovich testified that Cartagena and another man entered her tavern about 11:30 p. m., on April 13, 1967. Kujawa, the customer involved, arrived about 12:15 a. m. According to Mrs. Savatovich, the defendant then announced that a holdup was under way and he held what appeared to be a pistol to the head of Kujawa. Meanwhile, the defendant's companion relieved the cash register of $125 and dismantled the telephone. After Mrs. Savatovich and Kujawa were ordered to lie down on the floor, the defendant and his companion left by the side door.

Andrew Kujawa corroborated Mrs. Savatovich's testimony and also specifically identified the defendant as one of the two robbers.

Edward Orne, a taxicab driver, testified that he picked up two men just outside the side door of Curley's Tavern at 12:33 a. m. and conveyed them approximately six blocks to Monreal's Tavern. He watched both men enter Monreal's. Orne identified the defendant as one of the two men who entered his cab.

Delbert Hamburger, a police officer, called as a rebuttal witness, testified that at about 11:35 p. m., on the evening of the robbery he observed the defendant and Cesario Garza at the intersection of Sixteenth and West National avenue, walking south on Sixteenth street toward Curley's and away from Monreal's Tavern.

The defendant sought to establish an alibi. He testified that he arrived at Monreal's after 9 p. m., on April 13, and that he remained there until 1 a. m., when he was confronted by the police.

Del Porter, the doorman at Monreal's, testified that he saw the defendant arrive about 9:30 p. m. and that he never saw him leave until after the police arrived. Edward Cameron testified that he saw the defendant at Monreal's between 10 and 12:30 a. m., but he was unable to state a specific time.

Cesario Garza, called by the defense as an alibi witness, testified that he and the defendant were both at Monreal's the entire evening. He further testified that he had been accused of committing the robbery, that he had been taken into custody, and that he had been forced to give a statement to the police against his will.

Upon cross-examination, the assistant district attorney showed the witness a statement written by him and asked him to read it. The defense objected but was overruled. The court in overruling the objection observed that the evidence regarding the statement was initially elicited by the defense and that it could not "close the door after opening it." The statement was dated April 15, 1967, and stated that it was begun at 3:40 a. m. It was handwritten on a form which contained a typed admission that the party making the statement had been advised of his constitutional rights and that such party was acting freely and voluntarily in making the statement. The statement attempted to throw the whole blame for the robbery on Cartagena.

On redirect examination Garza again emphasized that the statement was coerced, untrue and entirely unworthy of belief.

Two issues are presented by this appeal:

1. Was it prejudicial error for the trial court to receive in evidence the statement of the defense witness Garza; and

2. was it prejudicial error for the trial court to fail sua sponte to instruct the jury that Garza's statement was to be considered by them for an impeachment of Garza only and that it could not be considered as substantive evidence against the defendant?

Reception of Statement into Evidence.

The statement of Garza is properly termed an admission, not a confession.

"I, Cesario Garza, make the following statement . . . On Friday about 12:30 A. M. David Cartegena threating [sic] me at gunpoint to rob a place with him. He told me to take the money from the cash register and tear the phone out or it would be to bad for me. My mind was all mixed up I was scared to do it. But he said he shoot me if I didn't. He gave me $30.00 to keep my mouth shut. And he said if I opened it, it would be too bad. After we robbed the tavern we jumped in the tavern [sic] and went too Monreals, and that was it."

This distinction is not necessary in this decision. It is only included because a dispute arose in appellant's and respondent's briefs over what the statement actually was to be called.

"An admission, in criminal law, is a statement by the accused of a fact or facts pertinent to the issue, and tending, in connection with proof of other facts, to prove his guilt; but an admission is not, alone, sufficient to authorize a conviction." People v. Hobbs (1948), 400 Ill. 143, 150, 79 N.E.2d 202, 206.

In Moore v. State (1936), 220 Wis. 404, 409, 265 N.W. 101, this court quoted from State v. Novak (1899), 109 Iowa 717, 727, 79 N.W. 465, in differentiating between an admission and a confession:

". . . A confession is a voluntary admission or declaration by a person of his agency or participation in a crime. . . . To make an admission or declaration a confession, it must in some way be an acknowledgment of guilt . . . ."

Since Garza did not admit guilt in his statement, it is properly referred to as an admission.

Whether Garza's statement is termed an admission or a confession would make a difference if Garza were the defendant here. The proof needed to substantiate a conviction is greater when an admission is involved than when a confession is involved.

However, when a defendant puts the voluntariness of any statement into issue, be it an admission or a confession, that statement may not be used for any purpose whatsoever against him until it is first held to be voluntary. Gaertner v. State (1967), 35 Wis.2d 159, 173, 150 N.W.2d 370. This court outlined the procedure to be used in determining the voluntariness of statements made by the accused in State ex rel. Goodchild v. Burke (1965), 27 Wis.2d 244, 133 N.W.2d 753. However, Garza was not the accused here.

Defendant now asks this court to extend the Goodchild determination of voluntariness test to statements made by witnesses. It has been admitted that the statement made by Garza was not to be used against Garza for any purpose other than impeachment. Juvenile proceedings against Garza arising out of the alleged armed robbery had already terminated. Garza was not a defendant in this trial; he was an alibi witness for the defendant Cartagena.

In asking this court to extend the Goodchild ruling, defendant overlooks the constitutional basis for the various rulings on the admissibility of confessions. The fifth amendment to the United States Constitution and art. I, sec. 8, of the Wisconsin Constitution provide that no person shall be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself. It is because of this constitutional protection that involuntary statements of an accused may not be used for any purpose, even impeachment. It is because this right of the accused is considered so fundamental and so basic that the United States Supreme Court has held that any violation of this rule necessitates a reversal of a conviction arising from that trial, regardless of any other evidence. Chapman v. California (1967), 386 U.S. 18, 87 Sup.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705. This latest rule was implemented by this court in. McKinley v. State (1967), 37 Wis.2d 26, 154 N.W.2d 344.

However, neither our research nor the defendant's brief discloses any case where the accused's right not to incriminate himself has been extended to prohibit the introduction of a witness' allegedly involuntary statement. Certainly the witness' right not to incriminate himself is not at issue here because all criminal sanctions against him had already terminated.

It is perhaps with the foregoing conclusion in mind that defendant urges this court that his right to compel witnesses on his behalf is abridged if he must be concerned about the state impeaching those witnesses with former involuntary and inconsistent statements.

Again, defendant misinterprets the scope of his constitutional rights. The sixth amendment to the United States Constitution and art. I, sec. 7, of the Wisconsin Constitution guarantee an accused the right to have compulsory process to compel the attendance of witnesses on his behalf. It is somewhat specious to assume that this right is violated by impeaching a witness with an allegedly involuntary statement.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the witness had been forced to give an involuntary statement, the statement was not used, and would not have been admissible, for the purpose of substantive evidence. It was used for impeachment purposes only. The witness had ample opportunity to testify to the alleged involuntariness of the statement. He did so testify. It was up to the jury to decide what weight the statement should be accorded.

Neither does the defendant's citation to Bruton v. United States (1968), 391 U.S. 123, 88 Sup.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476, support his conclusion that Garza's statement was inadmissible. Bruton was discussed by this court in Renner v. State (1968), 39 Wis.2d 631, 159 N.W.2d 618. Bruton held that:

". . . the confession of one defendant inculpating the other defendant was inadmissible in a joint trial Renner v. State, supra, at page 638.

Bruton is not applicable here for two obvious reasons: First, this was not a joint trial; second, the problem involved in Bruton was that the "inculpated defendant" was denied his right of cross-examination. The constitutional area involved was not self-incrimination; it was the right to confront witnesses. In Bruton, the codefendant's confession, which implicated Bruton, was offered and received into evidence. The codefendant never took the stand so Bruton never had a chance to cross-examine the codefendant concerning the truth of the statement. It was this denial of the right of cross-examination which was the basis of the reversal of Bruton's conviction.

In this case, however, Garza took the stand, not as a codefendant but as an alibi witness, and he testified freely concerning the events surrounding his admissions. Bruton does not help the defendant here.

We conclude that defendant's constitutional rights were not violated by the admission of Garza's statement for impeachment of Garza.

Sua Sponte Instruction.

Defendant urges that even if this court finds that Garza's statement was admissible, the court should nonetheless reverse this conviction because the trial court failed to instruct the jury that Garza's confession was not substantive evidence. It is undisputed that the statement was admitted for purposes of impeachment only. However, the prosecution laid this foundation in the absence of the jury. The jury never was instructed as to the distinction either at the time the statement was introduced or in the final instructions. The jury, however, was not permitted to take the statement to the jury room.

The Garza statement was clearly hearsay as to Cartagena. It could only be used to impeach Garza and could not be considered as substantive evidence. State v. Major (1956), 274 Wis. 110, 79 N.W.2d 75. Had counsel for the defendant requested the instruction, it would have been error to refuse it.

The state properly points out that a trial judge is on the horns of a dilemma in this situation. If he instructs the jury without request, he can be accused of calling undue attention to a highly prejudicial statement which might have slipped by the jury relatively unnoticed. If he fails to instruct the jury on his own, he is accused of letting the jury consider incompetent evidence.

The duty of a trial judge to instruct sua sponte was discussed by this court in Johns v. State, (1961), 14 Wis.2d 119, 126, 128, 109 N.W.2d 490. In that case the defendant urged a reversal because the trial court had failed, sua sponte, to instruct the jury that no presumption arose from the failure of the defendant to testify.

"At first blush, one would think, as contended for by Johns, it was the duty of the trial court to invariably give such an instruction in a criminal case when the defendant does not take the stand. The duty is based on the reasoning that such an instruction is favorable to the defendant, is part of the law of the case, and counsel for the accused has a right to expect the trial court to give such an instruction without any request. However, this reasoning finds very little support in the cases which have considered the problem and there exists among trial judges and trial counsel a division of opinion. It is believed the giving of such an instruction might do more harm in directing the jury's attention to the failure of the defendant to testify than not to give an instruction. . . .

"We conclude the trial court did not commit error, in the absence of a request by the accused, in not instructing the jury the omission of the accused to testify on his own behalf created no presumption against him."

The reasoning of Johns is equally applicable here.

This court has often stated that it does not look with favor upon claims of prejudicial error based upon the trial court's failure to act when no action is requested by counsel. Whitty v. State (1967), 34 Wis.2d 278, 290, 149 N.W.2d 557; Kink v. Combs (1965), 28 Wis.2d 65, 72, 135 N.W.2d 789. Nor is this the type of case that was referred to in Price v. State (1967), 37 Wis.2d 117, 130, 154 N.W.2d 222, where "justice would require . . . that such instructions be offered for counsel's consideration." The defendant was very adequately defended here.

We conclude that it was not error to fail, sua sponte, to instruct the jury with reference to Garza's statement.

By the Court. — Judgment affirmed.

Summaries of

State v. Cartagena

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Oct 1, 1968
161 N.W.2d 392 (Wis. 1968)

In State v. Cartagena (1968), 40 Wis.2d 213, 161 N.W.2d 392, this court indicated that the distinction between a confession and an admission is that in the former there must be acknowledgment of guilt, while in the latter there is no such acknowledgment.

Summary of this case from Woodhull v. State
Case details for

State v. Cartagena

Case Details

Full title:STATE, Respondent, v. CARTAGENA, Appellant

Court:Supreme Court of Wisconsin

Date published: Oct 1, 1968


161 N.W.2d 392 (Wis. 1968)
161 N.W.2d 392

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