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Griffin v. State

Decided: June 8, 1961.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County (PUGH, J.).

The cause was argued before Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Marbury, JJ.


HORNEY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a consolidated appeal from ten judgments and sentences to pay fines of one hundred dollars each, entered by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County after separate trials, each involving five defendants, on warrants issued for wanton trespass upon private property in violation of Code (1957), Art, 27, § 577.

The first group of defendants, William L. Griffin, Marvous Saunders, Michael Proctor, Cecil T. Washington, Jr., and Gwendolyn Greene (hereinafter called "the Griffin appellants" or "the Griffins"), all of whom are Negroes, were arrested and charged with criminal trespass on June 30, 1960, on property owned by Rekab, Inc., and operated by

Kebar, Inc., as the Glen Echo Amusement Park (Glen Echo or park). The second group of defendants, Cornelia A. Greene, Helene D. Wilson, Martin A. Schain, Ronyl J. Stewart and Janet A. Lewis (hereinafter called "the Greene appellants" or "the Greenes"), two of whom are Caucasians, were arrested on July 2, 1960, also in Glen Echo, and were also charged with criminal trespass.

The Griffins were a part of a group of thirty-five to forty young colored students who gathered at the entrance to Glen Echo to protest "the segregation policy that we thought might exist out there." The students were equipped with signs indicating their disapproval of the admission policy of the park operator, and a picket line was formed to further implement the protest. After about an hour of picketing, the five Griffins left the larger group, entered the park and crossed over it to the carrousel. These appellants had tickets (previously purchased for them by a white person) which the Rekab and Kebar had a "protection" contract with the National Detective Agency (agency), one of whose employees, Lt. Francis J. Collins (park officer), who is also a special deputy sheriff for Montgomery County, told the Griffins that they were not welcome in the park and asked them to leave. They refused, and after an interval during which the park officer conferred with Leonard Woronoff (park manager), the appellants were advised by the park officer that they were under arrest. They were taken to an office on the park grounds and then to Bethesda, where the trespass warrants were sworn out. At the time the arrests were made, the park officer had on the uniform of the agency, and he testified that he arrested the appellants under the established policy of Kebar of not allowing Negroes in the park. There was no testimony to indicate that any of the Griffins were disorderly in any manner, and it seems to be conceded that the park officer gave them ample time to heed the warning to leave the park had they wanted to do so.

The Greene appellants entered the park three days after the first incident and crossed over it and into a restaurant operated by the B & B Industrial Catering Service, Inc., under

an agreement between Kebar and B & B. These appellants asked for service at the counter, were refused, and were advised by the park officer that they were not welcome and were ordered to leave. They refused to comply by turning their backs on him and he placed them under arrest for trespassing. Abram Baker (president of both Rekab and Kebar) testified that it was the policy of the park owner and operator to exclude Negroes and that the park officer had been instructed to ask Negro customers to leave, and that if they did not, the officer had orders to arrest them. There was no evidence to show that the operator of the restaurant had told the Greenes they were not welcome or to leave; nor was there any evidence that the park officer was an agent of the restaurant operator. And while a prior formal agreement*fn1 covering the 1957 and 1958 seasons had provided that the restaurant operator was subject to and should comply with the rules and regulations concerning the persons to be admitted to the park and that Kebar had reserved the right to enforce them, the letter confirming the agreement for the 1959 and 1960 seasons fixed the rentals for that period and alluded to other matters, but made no reference whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, to the prior formal agreement -- though there was testimony, admitted over objection, to the effect that the letter was intended as a renewal of the prior lease -- and was silent as to a reservation by Kebar of the right to police the restaurant premises during the 1959 and 1960 seasons.

On this set of facts, both groups of appellants make the same contentions on this appeal: (i) that the requirements for conviction under Art. 27, § 577, were not met; and (ii) that the arrest and conviction of the appellants constituted an exercise of the power of the State of Maryland in enforcing a policy of racial segregation in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Trespass to private property is not a crime at common law unless it is accompanied by, or tends to create, a breach of the peace. See Krauss v. State, 216 Md. 369, 140 A.2d 653 (1958), and the authorities therein cited. And it was not until the enactment of § 21A of Art. 27 (as a part of the Code of 1888) by Chapter 66 of the Acts of 1900 that a "wilful trespass" (see House Journal for 1900, p. 322) upon private property was made a misdemeanor. That statute, which has remained unchanged in phraseology since it was ...

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