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COMMONWEALTH v. SHUPP (09/25/50)

September 25, 1950

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SHUPP, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 197, Jan. T., 1950, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Lehigh County, Sept. Sessions, 1949, No. 91, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert Clement Shupp. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

D. M. Garrahan, for appellant.

Kenneth H. Koch, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j.,stern, Stearne, Jones and Bell, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 365 Pa. Page 440]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and the jury fixed the penalty at death. The evidence was clearly and amply sufficient to sustain the verdict; all controversial questions were left to the jury under proper instructions; and no objections were made to the charge of the trial judge, which was fair and adequate. The errors now complained of relate to the admission of statements or so-called confessions allegedly wrung from defendant in violation of his constitutional rights.

The defendant, Robert C. Shupp, 48 years of age, was an accountant and vacuum cleaner salesman. He had been keeping company with Marian Walck, the victim, for approximately a year. On Tuesday evening, September 6, 1949, at about 10:55 p.m., two Allentown police, Hamory and McHugh, discovered defendant slumped over the steering wheel of his Packard sedan in a drunken condition. On the floor in the back of the car they discovered the dead body of Marian Walck. There were three bullet wounds in her body from a .38 calibre revolver. Defendant, whose trousers were blood

[ 365 Pa. Page 441]

    stained, had in his pocket a .38 calibre revolver fully loaded and a box of shells from which an undetermined number had been removed. A ballistics expert testified that a bullet found on the floor of the car near the body and two taken from the body had been fired from the revolver found on defendant's person. Defendant admitted several times before trial and testified at his trial that a bullet from his gun killed Marian at about 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. on September 6th. He admitted several times prior to trial that he deliberately shot and killed his sweetheart because she cheated on him or dared him to shoot her, or that it was the result of a suicide pact; but he contended at the trial that the shooting was accidental or that he was so intoxicated that he could not have had a specific intent to kill. The question of intentional or accidental killing and the degree of intoxication and other questions as to which there was any controversy or conflict were left to the jury under proper instructions from the court; and the jury returned a verdict of guilty.

The sole question involved in this case according to appellant is whether a confession is properly admissible when "the accused was held by the police from September 6th to September 21st without a preliminary hearing; questioned intensively; was without assistance of counsel, relatives or friends, and was... denied the right to procure a lawyer."

Where an individual has been accused of breaking a state law, the courts of Pennsylvania as well as of the United States have been vigilant in enforcing and safeguarding such individual's constitutional rights. In determining these rights the Supreme Court of the United States has in recent years gone far beyond any prior federal or state decisions, especially where an accused has been unlawfully held incommunicado for long periods of time, or there are other facts in the particular case which tend to show that the fundamentals

[ 365 Pa. Page 442]

    of a fair trial have been abridged. In the light of these decisions, which are, of course, binding upon us, we shall review the relevant facts and the pertinent authorities.

When Officer Hamory found Marian's body in the back of defendant's car, he took defendant to a nearby police car and questioned him. Defendant stated to Hamory that he had shot Miss Walck at about 7:30 p.m. that evening; that he had spent about $840.00 on her; that he "went with her for seven months and then she started to cheat on me, either Harry Beltz or Jim Henritzy. I shot her. It was Jim Henritzy". ... "I pulled out the gun and she said I haven't got enough guts to shoot her and I shot her three times". Defendant also alluded several times to a suicide pact. "When I shot her it was a suicide pact. Said she wanted to make a suicide pact. I shot Marian, but I didn't shoot myself yet." Hamory continued to question Shupp in the car for about "a half an hour or -- forty-five minutes", which other officers were completing their ...


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