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The PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Tracy Allen EDWARDS, Defendant and Appellant.
On March 16, 1982, two fires broke out at the Sunset Boulevard Hyatt Hotel, the first at 9:30 p.m. in a third-floor room, and the second one less than an hour later in the tenth-floor lobby. Each fire triggered a fire alarm. Each alarm caused the hotel elevators to automatically descend to the ground floor with no intervening stops.
Just after the second alarm sounded, a hotel manager saw appellant in the area of the ninth floor where the elevators, soda, and ice machines are located. The manager suspected that appellant had just gotten off the elevator. He followed appellant's footsteps down the fire-exit to the street where appellant was nowhere to be seen.
At some point, another hotel manager saw appellant outside the hotel, looking in. Prompted by someone else, he questioned appellant, and found that appellant was not a guest or employee of the hotel. Appellant looked briefly towards the third floor, then walked down the street in the rain. He crouched down below a cement barrier.
Reserve Deputy Sheriff William Erickson was driving by the hotel at 9:45 or 10:15. Seeing fire trucks, he stopped and offered aid. Erickson showed appellant his sheriff's department badge and identification, and proceeded to question him. When asked to identify himself, appellant showed Erickson his driver's license, which listed an East Los Angeles address. He said that he was in the Sunset Boulevard area to visit a friend who was not a hotel guest. Appellant denied having been inside the hotel.
Upon investigation, the fires, both of limited extent, were found to be of incendiary origin. They could have been started by someone holding a match or cigarette lighter to the third-floor curtain and tenth-floor couch. A bus transfer ticket was found by the burnt area of the couch. Mustard and ketchup were found smeared on the walls of the sixth-floor lobby; bottles of mustard and ketchup were in a trashbin down the hall. Sheriffs subsequently saw mustard and ketchup stains on appellant's clothes.1
Appellant was arrested, taken to the station house and interrogated. He stated that after having an argument with his mother in South Los Angeles, he had taken the number 7 bus to Seventh and Broadway, then transferred to the number 2 in order to visit his uncle who lived at Orange and Gower. He got off the bus at Sunset and Sweetzer, and seeing fire trucks around the hotel, stayed around to watch them without going inside.2 Appellant did not respond when asked to explain the stains on his clothes.
When appellant was searched at booking, he was carrying two matchbooks (one of them for the hotel), cigarettes, a cigarette lighter, and a bus schedule.
The bus transfer ticket found on the tenth floor originated from the number 7 line and could have been used to transfer to several lines serving the hotel area, including line number 2. It was dated March 16, and had it in fact been used on the number 2 line, the user would have arrived at Sunset and Sweetzer at around 8 p.m.
Evidentiary Motions 3
When Reserve Deputy Erickson stopped by the hotel, he listened to the fire department personnel on his portable radio receiver. He heard them call for a black-and-white unit and report that they had a “possible arson suspect.” When he asked the Fire Chief if he could be of assistance, the chief told him that there had been two fires in the last couple of hours, arson was suspected, and he was therefore calling for a sheriff's unit and Arson Squad. The chief pointed out appellant, and said he'd appreciate it if Erickson could find some way to have appellant there when the units arrived.
Accordingly, when appellant started to walk away, Erickson followed and stopped him. Erickson identified himself as an off-duty deputy sheriff, and showed appellant both his badge and ID card. He then demanded some identification from appellant and interrogated appellant as reported in the Trial Statement of Facts, ante.
Next, Erickson asked appellant to accompany him back to the hotel to talk to the Fire Chief. There, appellant said he hadn't been inside the hotel, and that he didn't know why Erickson was asking him to remain there for the arrival of the black-and-white. Erickson said that it was because appellant had been seen inside the hotel; he said he'd “appreciate it” if appellant would remain. A few minutes later, he handcuffed appellant and took him into the hotel security office.
Deputy Sheriff Monty Nicholson arrived a few moments later. Erickson filled Nicholson in, then left. Nicholson removed the handcuffs, then asked appellant what he was doing at the hotel and how he had gotten there. Appellant didn't respond to the first question. As to the second, he said he'd used the RTD bus and had the bus pass with him. But when he went through his pockets he couldn't find it.
Deputy Pyles came into the room. Nicholson told him what appellant had said about the bus-transfer ticket. Pyles responded by showing Nicholson a bus pass and stating that it was found near the couch that had been set on fire. Pyles also pointed out that the pass was signed.
At the police station, after appellant was arrested but before he was Mirandized, Pyles confronted appellant with the transfer and asked if it was his. Appellant affirmed that it was.
Sometime that night or early the next morning, Sergeant Humphries gave appellant Miranda warnings, obtained waivers, and interrogated him. Appellant gave a statement as reported in the Trial Statement of Facts, ante. When Humphries told appellant that Sunset and Sweetzer was past Gower and Orange on the bus, appellant did not respond.
We address appellant's first argument regarding the admissibility of the conversation with Reserve Deputy Erickson.
Edwards was properly detained by Erickson for questioning regarding the fires. (Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889.) In addition, the record is clear that he voluntarily remained (however grudgingly) until the “black-and-white” arrived. The most significant (and perhaps the only) indicia of an arrest was the placing of handcuffs on Edwards when moving him inside, away from the crowd. This is in lieu of searching him for weapons. Appellant argues that this action clearly labels the entire encounter an arrest, and that he should have been Mirandized at the outset. The notion that the handcuffing of Edwards escalates the event into an arrest is not without merit.
However, we know of no theory which operates to relate back to the initial encounter. On the contrary. Since a so-called Terry stop is “designed to bring out the person's explanation, or lack of explanation, of the circumstances which aroused the suspicion of the police, and enable the police to quickly determine whether they should allow the suspect to go about his business or hold him to answer charges” (People v. Manis (1969) 268 Cal.App.2d at 653, 665, 74 Cal.Rptr. 423; People v. Carter (1980) 108 Cal.App.3d 127, 130–131, 166 Cal.Rptr. 304; and see People v. Haugland (1981) 115 Cal.App.3d 248, 256, 171 Cal.Rptr. 237 [citing] ), it becomes obvious that the encounter might culminate in either a release or (as in this case) an arrest and that prior to the moment in time when an arrest blossoms, “․ the rule that Miranda warnings are not required when the questioning is incident to detention ․” (People v. Haugland, id., at p. 256, 171 Cal.Rptr. 237) would clearly apply. And see People v. Manis, id., at page 669, 74 Cal.Rptr. 423:
“We conclude that persons temporarily detained for brief questioning by police officers who lack probable cause to make an arrest or bring an accusation need not be warned about incrimination and their right to counsel, until such time as the point of arrest or accusation has been reached or the questioning has ceased to be brief and casual and become sustained and coercive.”
The record is clear that the conversation complained of took place before the application of the handcuffs, or of any other restraints indicative of arrest, and would not render his responses inadmissible for want of the Miranda warning. In addition, the trial court properly suppressed the conversations with Deputies Nicholson and Pyle, both of which occurred after the handcuffing but not the Mirandized statements made to the arson investigator, Deputy Humphries, later on at the station. And this is appellant's second argument on appeal, urging that People v. Jiminez (1978) 21 Cal.3d 595, 147 Cal.Rptr. 172, 580 P.2d 672 is controlling in this area.
Quite simply, Jiminez excluded confessions that are the fruit of other illegally obtained confessions, without a showing by the prosecution, that there has been sufficient attenuation to free the most recent confession of any taint from the original illegality. Further, appellant insists, and we agree, that Miranda warnings alone are not enough to remove the taint of a prior illegality. (Brown v. Illinois (1975) 422 U.S. 590, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416 [and Cal. cases following Brown at People v. Fusaro (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 877, 889, 96 Cal.Rptr. 368 and In re Pablo C. (1982) 129 Cal.App.3d 984], 181 Cal.Rptr. 468.)
Appellant's difficulty lies in the fact that nowhere in the record does a confession appear, although we concede that clearly there exists several statements, some exculpatory, some inculpatory and some mere acknowledgements which are of no significant value.
“A confession is not the equivalent of declarations or statements by the accused, and it is distinguishable from a mere ‘admission,’ which relates to matters of fact not involving criminal intent. A confession is, in effect, an acknowledgment of guilt of the crime charged in all of its elements, and is so intended. A statement that does not admit all the elements of the offense, but admits merely subordinate facts that tend to establish guilt, justification, or innocence, does not amount to a confession, although the subordinate facts admitted, when connected with other facts, may tend to establish guilt.” (19 Cal.Jur.3d, § 1093.)
“With respect to criminal prosecutions, an admission has been defined as any statement by an accused relative to the offense charged. It has been said that, in a criminal case, an admission is an extrajudicial statement by the defendant, an acknowledgment of some fact or circumstance that in itself is insufficient to authorize a conviction and that only tends toward the ultimate proof of guilt. Thus, the declarations or admissions of an accused must be distinguished from confessions. A confession is an acknowledgment of guilt, as distinguished from a statement of a fact from which guilt may be inferred.” (19 Cal.Jur.3d, § 1116.)
We cannot and do not extend the Jiminez theory so as to include simple admissions or denials. The obvious reason for the rule stems from the notion that an earlier confession will prey on the mind of an accused to the extent that later confessions are motivated by the fact that further silence or denial appears futile or hopeless. Quite succinctly, it is the “cat's out of the bag” theory. To hold that some earlier comment which, standing alone, may or may not contribute to an ultimate finding of guilt, pollutes forever some future confession which is otherwise legally acceptable would border on frivolous.
The trial court here, out of an abundance of caution, and resolving all doubts in favor of the accused's position, suppressed the questionable conversations with Nicholson and Pyle, thereby totally protecting the rights of the defendant. Finally, it must be noted that the interview with Humphries is chiefly denials, is rapidly terminated by Humphries due to that fact and most importantly, is devoid of any confession to be suppressed. To carry the protection of the defendant further would have required the trial court to take leave of its senses.
1. A hot-dog stand was located down the street from the hotel.
2. On the bus-route, Sunset and Sweetzer is beyond Orange and Gower.
3. Appellant's Miranda and Penal Code 1538.5 motions were heard together, and are therefore summarized together here, along with relevant portions of the Preliminary Hearing testimony which the court also considered in ruling on the motions.
FIELDHOUSE, Associate Justice.* FN* Assigned by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.
THOMPSON, Acting P.J., and JOHNSON, J., concur.
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Docket No: Cr. 44315.
Decided: May 09, 1984
Court: Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 7, California.
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