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Wiggins v. State

Decided: May 28, 1964.

WIGGINS
v.
STATE



Appeal from the Criminal Court of Baltimore (SODARO and HARLAN, JJ.).

The cause was argued before Brune, C.J., and Henderson, Hammond, Horney and Marbury, JJ.

Hammond

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

The appellant Wiggins was convicted by two judges sitting without a jury in the Criminal Court of Baltimore of robbery with a deadly weapon and of murder in the first degree committed during a holdup of a liquor store.

In support of his effort to secure a reversal in this Court, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court's denial of his motion for a judgment of acquittal at the end of the State's case and insufficient to permit the ultimate finding by the triers of fact of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Wiggins, after having been told by his conscientious, capable and experienced lawyer of his rights and privileges in the matter, said to the judges in open court that he had been advised of and knew his rights and would not himself testify either on the issue of the admissibility of his confession -- which he claimed below and claims here was involuntary -- or on the issue of his guilt. He further told the court, at the conclusion of the State's case, that he had freely and voluntarily decided not to call any witnesses in his behalf. It is apparent, therefore, that Wiggins' two contentions are two aspects of the same claim of the insufficiency of the State's evidence.*fn1

The corpus delicti was proved by a woman clerk in the store at the time of the holdup who saw the shooting of the proprietor and by the autopsy physician. The involvement of Wiggins was established to the satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt of the two judges who heard the case by the testimony of one Shirley Dockins, Wiggins' "girl-friend," who had come into the case when she complained to the police that Wiggins had threatened her with a pistol. She testified that about an hour and a half after the holdup of the liquor store Wiggins told her he thought he had killed a man, and soon after took her in a car to the store and pointed it out as "the store where the accident happened." The next morning Wiggins told Miss Dockins to go out and buy two newspapers and then read aloud to her the newspaper accounts of the murder-and nothing else -- and told her the newspapers were wrong in suggesting that two men had been involved. Wiggins told Miss Dockins in detail of going into the store, of demanding and getting money from a young male clerk, that as he went to the rear of the store to look for more money, a man then came down some steps and poked something (later identified as a shotgun) in his back, that he turned around and the man shot the young clerk, that he hit the man hard on the head with his pistol and, fearing recognition, finally shot the man and left.

Late Saturday morning, June 23, 1962, Wiggins was questioned at 2020 Ellsworth Avenue with reference to a pistol and, after admitting pointing it at Shirley Dockins, he was booked at the Western District Police Station for investigation of assault with a pistol upon Miss Dockins. Between 9:55 p.m., June 25, 1962, and 12:10 a.m., June 26, 1962, Wiggins was interrogated by police officers at Western as to the robbery and murder. He voluntarily drew a layout of the store as he recalled it, and gave the officers a statement relative to his participation in that event, which was typed and signed. In this statement, Wiggins confessed, in detailed length substantially identical to his previous intimate revelation to Shirley Dockins, to armed robbery of the store and to the murder, the crimes for which he was convicted.

Appellant says that the Dockins testimony was vague and

unreliable and, because she and Wiggins had a fight in June during which he hit her and threatened her with an iron, she had an animosity towards ...


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