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United States v. Comiskey

decided: May 4, 1972.


Hastings, Senior Circuit Judge, and Kiley and Stevens, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hastings

HASTINGS, Senior Circuit Judge.

The primary question before us is whether the defendant was sufficiently advised of his constitutional rights as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), so as to permit the admission into evidence of his statements made to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an interview conducted in defendant's office on February 16, 1970.

Defendant Charles A. Comiskey was indicted on December 17, 1970, by a federal grand jury on two counts of perjury, alleging violation of Title 18 U.S.C.A. § 1621. He was charged with committing perjury concerning his testimony in the trial of a civil case entitled, First Wisconsin National Bank of Milwaukee, plaintiff, versus Charles Comiskey, Joseph R. Vaughn and William Rach, defendants, No. 67-C-1438, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Honorable William J. Lynch, Judge, presiding.

The civil proceeding concerned a loan transaction wherein a promissory note in the amount of $35,000 had been executed and delivered to the plaintiff bank by a corporate borrower. The note bore the personal endorsement of the three defendants, including Comiskey, on the back thereof. At the civil trial, on January 12, 1970, Comiskey testified under oath in substance that he never signed such promissory note and that his name appearing on the back of the note was not his signature. After defendant Comiskey persisted in denying that he signed his name on the back of the note, Judge Lynch warned him that he was under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury. Judge Lynch then stated that he would direct the matter to the attention of the District Attorney for further investigation.

On February 2, 1971, the defendant in the instant perjury action moved to dismiss the indictment, alleging, inter alia, that his statements given to an FBI agent, as well as specimens of his handwriting, were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. Treating the motion to dismiss as a motion to suppress evidence, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss the indictment. However, the trial court held a suppression hearing on April 2, 1971, for the purpose of determining whether the investigating FBI agent properly advised defendant of his constitutional rights. Following the hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress the handwriting specimens but granted defendant's motion to suppress his statements given to the investigating agent.

At the suppression hearing defendant Comiskey did not testify and called as his only witness FBI Agent Robert T. Murphy, Jr. Agent Murphy testified that he telephoned defendant on February 14, 1970 (about a month after the trial), and advised defendant he wanted to interview him concerning his testimony at the civil trial involving the promissory note he was alleged to have signed.

Two days later, on February 16, 1970, Agent Murphy called on defendant at defendant's office in Oak Brook, Illinois. At that time Agent Murphy identified himself to defendant and advised him again that the purpose of his proposed interview was "about his testimony in the civil trial concerning a promissory note which he was alleged to have signed." Murphy further advised defendant that before interviewing him he would have to warn him of certain constitutional rights. The agent furnished defendant with an "Interrogation; Advice of Rights" form and explained to him the rights stated on the form. The defendant then read the form and stated that he understood it; said he was willing to be interviewed concerning the matter; and signed the form. The signed copy of the form was identified by Agent Murphy as Government Exhibit A and was offered and received in evidence by the trial court. A copy of such executed form is set out in the margin herein.*fn1

Agent Murphy then asked defendant to explain the whole story regarding his alleged signing of the promissory note and other information regarding it. Defendant then made statements in which he denied signing the promissory note (the incriminating statements set out in the indictment) and supplied specimens of his handwriting.

In suppressing his statements given by defendant to the investigating agent, the district court based its ruling on a finding that the agent did not sufficiently comply with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), in two respects, viz.: (1) that the agent failed to warn defendant that he was the subject of a criminal investigation; and (2) that the FBI Interrogation; Advice of Rights form was inadequate to so warn the defendant. The Government's motion for reconsideration was denied. The Government appealed pursuant to Title 18 U.S.C.A. § 3731, certifying that the suppressed evidence constituted a substantial proof of the charge alleged against defendant. We reverse.


The Fifth Amendment of the Federal Constitution guarantees the right that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The extended treatment and consideration of this Fifth Amendment privilege is, of course, the subject of Miranda. The dispute concerning the application of Miranda to the case at bar is the burden of this appeal. The progeny of Miranda seems to be never ending. Without comment, we quote the Court's own summarization of its majority holdings.

"To summarize, we hold that when an individual is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and is subjected to questioning, the privilege against self-incrimination is jeopardized. Procedural safeguards must be employed to protect the privilege and unless other fully effective means are adopted to notify the person of his right of silence and to assure that the exercise of the right will be scrupulously honored, the following measures are required. He must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right of the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires. Opportunity to exercise these rights must be afforded to him throughout the interrogation. After such warnings have been given, and such opportunity afforded him, the individual may knowingly and intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement. But unless and until such warnings and waiver are demonstrated by the prosecution at trial, no evidence obtained as a result of interrogation can be used against him." Id. at 478-79, 86 S. Ct. at 1630.

Initially the Government contends that Miranda is not applicable here because "the defendant was interviewed in his own office and was not in custody at the time of the interview, nor was his freedom of movement restricted in any manner." Further, defendant was not under arrest. In addition to Miranda, the Government also cites and relies upon United States v. Gallagher, 7 Cir., 430 F.2d 1222, 1224 (1970); United States v. Cook, 7 Cir., 432 F.2d 1093, 1106 (1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 996, 91 S. Ct. 1224, 28 L. Ed. 2d 535 ...

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