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United States v. Lipowitz

decided: February 20, 1969.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LAWRENCE LIPOWITZ, ROBERT WILLIAM MULLER, RICHARD SMITH. RICHARD SMITH, APPELLANT



Biggs, Freedman and Van Dusen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Biggs

Opinion OF THE COURT

BIGGS, Circuit Judge.

Smith appeals from judgments of conviction on a three count indictment charging violations of federal bank robbery statutes, 18 U.S.C. ยง 2113(a), (b) and (d). Smith, Lipowitz and Muller were charged with robbery of the Ivy Hill office of the United States Savings Bank at Newark, New Jersey on March 28, 1967, and were tried together. The Bank was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Smith has alleged abridgement of his constitutional rights by the admission into evidence of "bait bills" seized in a search of an automobile in which he was riding in Cahokia, Illinois, by the means employed to identify him as one of the robbers and by the refusal of the court below to grant him a severance.

Shortly after the robbery, Smith being vehemently suspected, Bileaud and Weaver, FBI agents, saw Smith and Mrs. Smith in an automobile parked before Smith's house. Bileaud checked the registration, found the automobile was registered in Mrs. Smith's name, summoned two other FBI agents to his aid and went back to the house. The car had disappeared but the agents found it in front of a filling station. Mrs. Smith was in the driver's seat and Smith was seated beside her. Smith was immediately arrested on a valid federal warrant issued on the charge of robbing the Bank. He was searched and in his billfold were found three twenty-dollar "bait bills" taken from the Bank at the time of the robbery. The automobile was searched and a brown paper bag containing forty-four two-dollar bills was found. Davenport, a teller at the bank, testified that he had one hundred two dollar bills in his drawer prior to the robbery and that they were missing from his drawer immediately after the robbery.

1. Search of the Automobile.*fn1

Smith argues that the FBI had ample time to obtain a search warrant for the automobile and that therefore the search was illegal. The automobile was registered in the name of Mrs. Smith. Smith did not assert that he owned the car at the trial and of course did not allege any "substantial interest in the money taken from it." Smith's position is that though he did not own the car or have any control over it,*fn2 irrespective of ownership or control, he has the standing to suppress the evidence. Cf. Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 260-267, 80 S. Ct. 725, 4 L. Ed. 2d 697 (1960). But the circumstances were exceptional. Mrs. Smith legally could have driven off with the car immediately following her husband's arrest and such a course could have deprived the United States of substantial evidence of Smith's guilt. Commonwealth ex rel. Craig v. Maroney, 348 F.2d 22, 32 (3 Cir. 1965). Similar situations traditionally have justified a search without a warrant.*fn3,*fn4 We hold that the court committed no error in allowing the bills to be put in evidence with testimony relating to their seizure.

2. Identification. Smith contends that he must be granted a new trial because identification evidence secured by an alleged improper confrontation was admitted against him. While he concedes that he is not entitled to the protection of counsel to be accorded a defendant under United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 87 S. Ct. 1926, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1149 (1967),*fn5 nonetheless he relies upon Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 302, 87 S. Ct. 1967, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1199 (1967), which requires exclusion of evidence obtained from a confrontation "so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identity" as to constitute a denial of due process. Both Davenport and Mogul, another teller at the Bank, identified Smith at trial. Mogul and Davenport had attended Smith's arraignment and were asked at that time, May 19, 1967, if they could identify Smith. Crowley stated that both tellers identified Smith as one of the robbers. Davenport testified that following the robbery he had been asked to make identifications if possible from a random selection of photographs and that he identified Smith as one of the robbers. Davenport stated, "They ['the authorities'] showed me a few pictures and I didn't recognize any of them except for this one [Smith's]." Mogul stated that she had come to the United States Courthouse to identify an individual suspected of being one of the robbers whom she had described to the FBI immediately after the robbery. It is not disputed that proceedings other than Smith's arraignment were taking place while Mogul and Davenport were in the courtroom.

Both Mogul and Davenport testified they could identify Smith despite the stocking covering his face at the time of the robbery. Bringing two possible identifying witnesses into a courtroom at an accused's arraignment is not a desirable way of making an identification and a line-up would have been preferable but we must view the "totality" of the circumstances. We conclude that there was no denial of due process. When we refer to the "totality" of the evidence we refer to all the evidence presented on the issue of identification. Certainly we may not say that the admission of the identification evidence in the instant case was in derogation of the rule of Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 21-24, 87 S. Ct. 824, 17 L. Ed. 2d 705 (1967).*fn6

3. Denial of Severance. A motion for severance on behalf of Smith was made prior to the trial and other substantially similar motions were made during the trial.*fn7 Rule 14, Fed.R.Crim.Proc., 18 U.S.C. All the motions were denied. Ordinarily the disposition of motions for severance are within the sound discretion of a trial court but a trial court's ruling in respect to severance, adverse to a defendant, will justify reversal when discretion is abused. Smith asserts that the trial court committed error, no one of the three defendants having taken the witness stand, in charging in respect to this issue: "No one of the defendants in this case took the stand to testify. I instruct you that the law does not compel a defendant to take the stand and testify, and no inference of any kind whatsoever may be drawn from the failure of a defendant to testify, and the fact that a defendant in this case did not take the stand and testify is not to enter into your deliberations in any manner at all."*fn8

A brief history of the proceedings prior to the giving of the charge quoted above is necessary. Smith made no written request respecting a charge as to his failure to take the witness stand in his own behalf. Muller, one of Smith's codefendants in his request No. 10, asked that the court charge that "The defendant, Robert William Muller, in this case did not testify. You are to draw no inference from this either for or against the defendant. The defendant has a constitutional right to remain silent. The government is compelled to establish guilt by evidence independently and freely secured. Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 [84 S. Ct. 1489, 12 L. Ed. 2d 653] (1964)." Lipowitz submitted no request for charge*fn9 and pleaded guilty to Count I of the indictment just prior to the time when the requests for charge were first discussed by the counsel for the defendants and the court.*fn10 The issue of Lipowitz's guilt or innocence, however, was submitted to the jury on Counts II and III.

During the trial Agent Crowley gave damaging evidence against Lipowitz, one of Smith's codefendants, stating to the jury the substance of a confession made by Lipowitz to him but in so testifying Crowley did not mention Smith by name or say anything which would implicate him in the robbery. Crowley's testimony in pertinent part is set out in the footnote below.*fn11

The trial court gave the usual precatory charge that the inculpatory statements made by Lipowitz to Agent Crowley were to be completely disregarded by the jury in considering the guilt or innocence of Smith and Muller. No defendant raised any question as to the sufficiency of the court's limiting statement in this regard. But there was much colloquy between the trial judge and defendants' counsel, out of the presence of the jury, on the issue of defendants' failure to testify and as to what should be the instructions to the jury in the light of that circumstance. Smith's counsel stated that he had not requested any charge on the issue of Smith not testifying on his own behalf "because I am conscious of the fact that the defendant has the right to have no comment made at all." We find no authority supporting this position.*fn12 Lipowitz's counsel then stated to the court that it was his practice not to ask the court to deliver any instruction on the failure of a defendant to testify. Smith's counsel argued that Muller's request, if granted, left Smith in such a position that if Smith did not make a similar request to Muller's the jury might draw an unfavorable inference as to Smith. The points raised by Smith's counsel are not entirely clear, but they were phrased as follows: "I think there is an inference raised that perhaps there * * * [would be] some compulsion * * * [on] Mr. Smith to testify. I realize it is a dilemma, but this is the dilemma I find myself in by this request [Muller's No. 10], and I think it is highly prejudicial to Mr. Smith." The court then stated: "Do you argue that if Mr. D'Alessandro wants this charge he is not entitled to it?" Smith's counsel replied: "I think if it is going to affect my client's rights, as far as I am concerned I will argue that he is not entitled to it." After further discussion the court stated: "* * * I have one request here [for charge on failure to take the stand] * * * [that of] the defendant * * * Muller." The court went on to say that counsel were entitled to the charge, viz., as to no unfavorable inference to be drawn from a defendant not taking the stand, if they requested it but the court would not deliver such a charge if there was no request and that the court could not prevent Muller's counsel in his summation from referring to the fact that no unfavorable inference could be drawn from the fact that his client did not take the stand in his own defense.*fn13

There was further discussion between the court and defendants' counsel which need not be repeated here but near the end of it Smith's counsel again referred to the "dilemma" of his client created, allegedly, by the court's failure to grant a severance and that this was a basis on which he had moved for severance. He went on to say: "Your Honor, I might like to say that the dilemma that the defendant Smith finds himself in now is whether it is the lesser of two evils to have the Court comment on the silence or to remain silent with respect to the [requested] comment of Mr. Muller.", and that "in view of the circumstances I respectfully request your Honor so to charge, [ i.e. ] that there be no adverse inference drawn from Mr. Smith's failure to testify."*fn14 The court then stated there was no disagreement as to the nature of the charge and in effect asked ...


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