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Bean v. State

Decided: April 28, 1964.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Charles County; Gray, Jr., C. J., and Digges, J.

Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ., and reargued before Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Sybert, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Prescott, J., filed the dissenting opinion, in which Brune, C. J., and Horney, J., concur.


The appellant, John M. Bean, was indicted by a Charles County Grand Jury on a charge of rape, to which he pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. He elected a non-jury trial, and a two-judge court found him guilty, and further found that he was sane at the time of the commission of the crime and at the time of trial. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for life and this appeal ensued.

The victim of the rape was a housewife whose home was on the outskirts of La Plata, the county seat of Charles County. On October 11, 1962, at approximately 12:45 P.M., on entering her basement from an outside stairway, she observed a person (whom she later identified as the appellant, a fifteen year old colored youth) standing in a large closet where food was stored. As she turned and ran up the steps to the outside, she could see that the intruder was following her with a baseball bat. At the top of the stairs she was struck on her head, dragged down the steps, struck again, and gagged with her apron, and her assailant then ravished her. She remained conscious. After the attack the assailant stated his intention to kill her, but she was able to dissuade him after pleading for some time and offering him money. After her assailant departed, the victim went to a neighbor's home, told of the attack, and asked that an ambulance be called to take her to a hospital. The neighbor called the police and an ambulance. The county sheriff arrived at the neighbor's home at about 1:00 P.M. and talked with the victim as she was being placed in the ambulance. As a result, the sheriff put out a lookout for a young colored male wearing a blue plaid shirt. A baseball bat, a torn apron and two sizeable spots of blood were found in the basement of the victim's home.

At 1:45 P.M. the sheriff and a deputy went to the appellant's home in or near La Plata. The appellant told the officers that he had been at home that day except for a short walk. The officers

then returned to the home of the victim. Later that afternoon the sheriff instructed one of his deputies to pick up the appellant and bring him to the victim's home. The deputy found the appellant at a local store and asked him if he would go to the victim's home to talk with the sheriff. The appellant agreed and the two arrived at the home of the victim at about 3:30 P.M. The sheriff told the appellant that he was a suspect and asked whether they could go to his home to look around. The appellant said it would be "okay" and went with the sheriff and the deputy to his home. The appellant remained in the sheriff's car while the officers looked around. About twenty feet from the house they found some fragments of burnt clothing and a buckle in a wood stove. At this point, according to the testimony of both officers, the appellant got out of the car, proceeded to "get mad", and said: "Every time something happens you [so-and-sos] have to pick on me." The three then drove back to the victim's home. After a few minutes the sheriff directed one of his deputies to take the appellant to the courthouse, while the sheriff followed in another car. On the way they stopped at the hospital to see if the victim could identify the appellant, but she was under medication and asleep and could not be disturbed. The sheriff, his deputy and the appellant then went to the sheriff's office in the courthouse, arriving at approximately 5:00 P.M., and the appellant was placed in a small lockup room.

The sheriff then returned to the Bean home and talked with the appellant's sister and another girl there. He thereupon obtained two warrants for the arrest of the appellant, one charging rape and the other assault with intent to murder. At least one of the warrants was read to the appellant about 6:00 P.M. At 7:00 P.M. the appellant was taken to the county jail, located next door to the courthouse, and was placed in the juvenile detention room, which had a bunk and water facilities in it. From that time until 12:00 midnight, the appellant remained in the detention room while the deputies investigated the case. The investigation having been finished, at least for that day, the appellant was taken at or a little after midnight to the sheriff's office, where he was fingerprinted and then taken

into a room for questioning by a deputy. The deputy testified that he told the appellant "I'd like him to get it off his chest", and that he further told him that any statement "could be used either for or against him in a court of law." Shortly thereafter, the appellant gave an oral statement confessing the rape, and relating certain details in connection with the attack which the officers had not yet learned from the victim, because of her condition, but which coincided with her subsequent description of the occurrence. The details were matters of which only the appellant and the victim could have been aware. The deputy testified that when he asked the appellant to reduce the statement to writing, the latter said he'd rather the deputy write it, which was done. Thereupon another deputy was called into the room and the statement was read in its entirety. The appellant, asked whether it was correct, replied that it was, and then signed it, with both deputies signing as witnesses. The statement shows that the deputy who wrote it began at 1:05 A.M. and finished at 2:00 A.M., when the appellant was returned to jail.

The appellant was subsequently identified by the victim, once from a photograph while she was still in the hospital, and once after seeing him in the sheriff's office. In addition, the victim testified that she had seen the appellant on the road in her neighborhood several times prior to the attack. At the trial she identified him as the perpetrator of the rape when (as the trial court commented in reviewing the evidence before verdict) he was sitting with several other young men of about his age.

The appellant's seventeen year old sister testified that he had left their home before she awakened at about 11:30 A.M. to 12:00 noon on the morning of the crime, but that he had come home about a half hour before the sheriff arrived. She said he took white shoe polish (the evidence indicates that he was wearing white canvas shoes) and a glass to a spring near the house, and both she and the sheriff testified that his shoes were cleaned or freshly polished. The sister further testified that he had changed his clothes and started a fire in the outside stove.

One of the psychiatric reports in the case shows that the appellant was six feet and one inch in height, and weighed 140

pounds. In their closing arguments both counsel for the State and for the defense commented on the fact that the appellant appeared to be some years older than his actual age.

The appellant has raised several questions here, the first being that the lower court committed reversible error in admitting his confession in evidence. Two main reasons are asserted: first, the confession was not voluntarily made, and second, the confession was not admissible because it was obtained while the appellant was under illegal detention. We shall first consider the question of voluntariness and then the legality of the detention at the time the confession was made.

The rule as to the admissibility of confessions and review on appeal was recently restated by this Court in Abbott v. State, 231 Md. 462, 465, 190 A.2d 797 (1963), as follows:

"The rule regarding the admissibility of a confession is that the State must prove that it was freely and voluntarily given and that it was not the product of force or of a promise, threat or inducement whereby the accused might be led to believe that there would be a partial or total abandonment of prosecution. * * * Whether the confession was freely and voluntarily made necessarily depends on the facts and circumstances in each case. And whether the confession should be admitted as evidence is ordinarily a matter for the trial court to decide and its determination will not be disturbed on appeal unless there was a clear abuse of discretion." (Citations omitted.)

See also Ralph v. State, 226 Md. 480, 174 A.2d 163 (1961), cert. den. 369 U.S. 813 (1962); Presley v. State, 224 Md. 550, 168 A.2d 510 (1961), cert. den. 368 U.S. 957 (1962); Hall v. State, 223 Md. 158, 162 A.2d 751 (1960); Merchant v. State, 217 Md. 61, 141 A.2d 487 (1958); and Grammer ...

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