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Jones v. State

Decided: July 3, 1962.

JONES
v.
STATE



Appeal from the Criminal Court of Baltimore; Carter, J.

Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Hammond, Horney and Marbury, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Brune, C. J., dissents.

Horney

The defendant-appellant, Alexander (Punky) Jones, was found guilty, by a jury in the Criminal Court of Baltimore, of murder in the first degree, and, from the judgment and sentence entered on the verdict, has appealed to this Court.

Abraham Givner (the victim) was shot to death in his place of business on March 2, 1960, during a holdup perpetrated by the defendant and others. But the defendant, due to the lack of evidence, was not taken into custody on a charge of murder until June 3, 1960, when he was brought to the Central District Station for interrogation from the House of Correction, where he was incarcerated for another offense. Several days prior to the arrest of the defendant, the police received information tending to implicate the defendant in the robbery and murder of the victim in the course of questioning Robert Galloway White about another homicide case.*fn1

On the date he was brought to the police station, the defendant was questioned from time to time from 10:40 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but the interrogations were not continuous. He was

served with food at 11:40 a.m. He was placed in the cellblock from 12:50 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. And he was fed again at about 5 p.m. During the rest of the period the defendant remained in the presence of the interrogating officers, but there were several other interruptions or breaks in the investigative process. As a result of the interrogations the defendant made two statements. The first statement was taken in shorthand beginning at 4:00 p.m. In this statement, the defendant denied having any connection with the killing of the victim. But in the second statement (also taken in shorthand and transcribed along with the first), which was begun at about 5:15 p.m., after he had been confronted with Robert Galloway White, the defendant admitted that he had participated in the commission of the crime. The typed statements were read to him and signed at about 7:00 p.m.

Both statements were admitted in evidence at the trial over objection, but, for some unexplained reason, copies of the statements, and not the originals, were admitted in evidence. Contrary to the practice in Baltimore City, but pursuant to an agreement between the State and the defendant, the preliminary inquiry as to the voluntary character of the statements was held in the presence of the jury. And in the course of the trial when, on cross examination, the prosecuting attorney inquired of the defendant, who professed the Islamic faith, if it was not one of the tenets of that faith "to kill half of the people in this country and take it over," the defendant explained that he was orthodox and did not adhere to any such doctrine and that he had "no intentions of killing nobody," but he did not then claim that he had been prejudiced by the examination, nor did he object to the remarks or move to strike them out, or request a mistrial; and the trial court did not of its own volition advise the jury to disregard what the prosecutor had said. Subsequently, the murder weapon and several cartridges were admitted in evidence after one of the police officers had testified that the defendant had identified the weapon as his.

There were no motions for a directed verdict or objections to the advisory instructions of the trial court.

Five errors have been assigned as the bases for this appeal: (i) that the inculpatory statement or confession was "involuntary and extracted by methods violative of the Fourteenth Amendment"; (ii) that it was reversible error to allow evidence of the voluntary character of the confession to be taken in the presence of the jury; (iii) that the cross examination of the defendant as to the tenets of his religious faith was so prejudicial as to deprive him of his right to a fair trial; (iv) that it was error to admit the murder weapon as an exhibit; and (v) that it was error to admit copies of the statements into evidence without showing why the originals could not be produced.

(i)

The appellant, though admitting that no force or violence was used to induce him to make either of the statements, contends that the inculpatory statement or ...


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