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COMMONWEALTH v. BRYANT (03/21/51)

March 21, 1951

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BRYANT, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 286, Jan. T., 1950, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Jan. Sessions, 1949, No. 410, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Edward J. Bryant. Judgment and sentence affirmed.

COUNSEL

Edwin P. Rome, with him W. Bradley Ward, for appellant.

Colbert C. McClain, Assistant District Attorney, with him John H. Maurer, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 367 Pa. Page 136]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

Edward J. Bryant, the appellant, was jointly indicted for murder along with one Joseph Chambers. He was tried separately and convicted of murder in the first degree with the penalty fixed at death. On

[ 367 Pa. Page 137]

    this appeal from the judgment and sentence, he assigns for error the action of the court below in receiving in evidence at trial oral and written statements which he had made to interrogating police officers, while in custody after his arrest, without having been advised of his right to counsel or of his privilege against self-incrimination. There is no suggestion that the statements were the product of any coercion or inducement practiced upon the accused. Nor did he repudiate them or otherwise impugn them such as by charging incommunicado restraint or debilitating questioning.

It is the appellant's contention that, despite the absence of any evidence of coercion in connection with his making the incriminating statements, "... the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania require, at least in a capital case, that an accused from the moment of his arrest be informed of his right to counsel and of his privilege against self-incrimination and, absent some intelligent waiver on his part following his being informed of his right to counsel, that the accused be furnished counsel. The corollary of this requirement is that the deprivation or denial of these rights renders inadmissible any evidence secured thereby from the accused."

Nowhere does it appear that the defendant requested counsel and was refused or that he expressed a desire to remain silent but was compelled to answer. The most that can be said in such connection is that the police officers did not inform him of the rights to which he now lays claim. He was, however, informed of the nature of the charge for which he was arrested, was cautioned that anything he said might be used against him at trial and was given a prompt preliminary

[ 367 Pa. Page 138]

    hearing upon being returned to Pennsylvania.

The following are the material facts. Late in the afternoon of November 8, 1948, Joseph Saturno, sixty-five, was found bloody and unconscious in his first-floor three-room apartment in South Philadelphia where he lived alone. His condition was the result of an extremely brutal beating which he had received, unwitnessed, save by the perpetrators. He was promptly removed to a hospital where he died several hours later without having regained consciousness. There were evidences from the condition of the apartment and the victim's clothing indicating that robbery was the motive of the culprit or culprits. Within an hour or two of the discovery of the crime, the police arrested Chambers, Bryant's co-indictee, who lived but a short distance from the victim's apartment. From information received from Chambers, the police sought Bryant as a suspect but were unable to find him; a search of Chambers' house, where Bryant had been living, failed to uncover him.

A month later (December 8th), Bryant was arrested by the police of Newark, New Jersey, for an offense committed there and was promptly identified by his finger prints as the person wanted in Philadelphia for the murder of Saturno. The police of the latter city were at once notified of Bryant's apprehension and two detectives from Philadelphia went to Newark the same day. There, in the presence of a local officer in the Newark detective headquarters, they interviewed Bryant after having informed him that he was wanted in Philadelphia for murder. Bryant related that he and Chambers, at the latter's suggestion, had gone to Saturno's apartment on the afternoon of November 8th for the purpose of robbing him of money which Chambers claimed to have seen Saturno exhibit earlier that day; that Chambers slugged Saturno into unconsciousness

[ 367 Pa. Page 139]

    and repeated the sordid performance (ultimately with a blackjack he had picked up in the apartment) each time the victim showed signs of reviving; that, in the meantime, the two of them had searched Saturno, removing his shoes, socks and outer clothes for the purpose, and had ransacked bureaus and drawers, turning things topsy-turvy, in their quest for hidden money; that he (Bryant) had not struck Saturno; that, at Chambers' direction, he had left before the robbery was completed and had gone back to Chambers' house; and that, when Chambers returned there, he told Bryant, upon the latter's inquiry, that he had not gotten anything from Saturno or his apartment, -- an assertion which Bryant ...


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