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January 7, 1952


Appeals, Nos. 6 and 7, May T., 1952, from judgments and sentences of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Dauphin County, June Sessions, 1935, Nos. 7 and 8, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Guerino Carluccetti. Judgments and sentences affirmed.


William H. Saye, for appellant.

Carl B. Shelley, District Attorneys, with him Huette F. Dowling, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Jones

[ 369 Pa. Page 193]


The appellant, Guerino Carluccetti, was tried upon two indictments charging him, respectively, with the murder or Emilio and Laura Giovannetti, a husband and wife. The defense was insanity at the time of the killings. The jury found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree on each indictment and fixed the penalty at death. Motions for a new trial were filed and overruled; and the defendant took these appeals from the judgments of sentence entered on the verdicts.

The homicides were committed in the early morning of April 2, 1935, in the village of Swatara Station, Dauphin County, which adjoins the town of Hershey on the west. Carluccetti was then thirty-eight years old, married and living with his wife and two minor daughters in a dwelling at Swatara Station. for at least fifteen years next preceding the day in question, he had been employed by the Hershey Chocolate Corporation.

The defendant was arrested by police officers shortly after the killings and was placed in the custody of the Pennsylvania State Police at their training school in Hershey. While there, he made a full and complete statement on the afternoon of the same day, under interrogation by police officers, as to his perpetration of

[ 369 Pa. Page 194]

    the homicides and the attendant as well as the immediately antecedent circumstances. A State policeman typed the statement which Carluccetti signed and swore to before a local justice of the peace, his signature being witnessed by three subscribing State policemen. Further investigation, which the State police promptly undertook, developed the fact that Carluccetti had priorly complained to friends and acquaintances that the victims of his homicidal assault had been making false and slanderous statements concerning him. Because of this information, the State police on the succeeding day (April 3rd) took a second statement from the accused at the State police barracks in Harrisburg in the presence of a county detective and four State policemen. That statement confirmed the first in all respects and contained the additional matter as to the slanders which Carluccetti said had been circulated about him; it was likewise reduced to typewritten form and signed by him. Both of these statements were received in evidence at trial over the defendant's objections. There neither was nor is, however, any suggestion nor intimation that the statements were obtained as a result of intimidation or overreaching on the part of the police. Not only was the accused informed by the police of his right to remain silent, but, in the second statement, he expressly averred that his counsel (identified by name) had instructed him that he did not have to make any statement if he wished not to do so. Nor were the statements otherwise impugned so far as the participation of the police in obtaining them is concerned. After the second statement had been taken, Carluccetti was lodged in the Dauphin County jail at Harrisburg to await trial on anticipated indictments for murder which were duly returned.

On May 1, 1935, at the request of the defendant's family, he was examined in jail by Dr. Irving J. Spear, a neurologist and psychiatrist of Baltimore, Maryland;

[ 369 Pa. Page 195]

    and on subsequent petition of counsel for the defendant, the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Dauphin County on May 24, 1935, appointed a commission to examine into the defendant's current mental capacity. On June 24, 1935, the commission, having heard several witnesses of whom Dr. Spear was the principal one, reported to the court that the defendant then lacked the mental capacity requisite to his standing trial; and, by order of court entered on the same day, he was transferred to the Farview State Hospital at Waymart, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. He remained there until May 20, 1949, when, upon petition of the Superintendent of the hospital, setting forth that Carluccetti was sane, the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Dauphin County entered an order releasing the defendant from the State Hospital to the custody of the Sheriff of Dauphin County to await trial on the two indictments for murder standing against him. The trial was had in September 1949 with result as already stated.

The defendant admits having killed the Giovannettis which, under the evidence, is an indisputable fact. His sole defense was that he was insane at the time of the killings. A recital of the facts is essential to a consideration of the eight reasons which the appellant advances why the convictions should now be set aside and a new trial granted.

On the morning of Sunday, March 31st, two days before the homicides, the defendant went to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he asked his cousin, Warren Cresini, to take him to Philadelphia to see a doctor. Ceresini agreed and the two of them set out in his automobile. En route, the defendant told his cousin that he wanted to see their uncle, Henry Selvaggi, in Philadelphia. When asked why, "He said that there were people around Hershey talking about him [Carluccetti], that he was in the Black Hands." He said that the people who were doing the talking were Emilio and

[ 369 Pa. Page 196]

Laura Giovannetti and one Ottavio Pace and that "If they didn't stop talking about him he would kill them." The defendant saw his uncle upon the latter's return home from work in the late afternoon and, in private, complained to him that people "where he lived" were bothering him and calling him "all kinds of names." Upon the uncle's counseling him to "go home and stay with your family, and don't tangle with them people," the defendant told his uncle that if "them people bother me too much, if they keep on bothering me and calling me Black Hand, some day I will kill somebody." The visit ended shortly thereafter and Ceresini then drove the defendant home. The things that the Giovannettis and Pace, or one or the other of them, were saying about the defendant, according to him, were that he was a member of the Black Hand, that he had tried to have improper relations with Mrs. Giovannetti, and that he had been guilty of some unnatural practices.

About 6:15 a.m. on April 2nd, Ottavio Pace, on his way to work, was walking on the sidewalk in front of the defendant's home. The defendant was in the yard digging a small hole to plant a bush. Pace greeted the defendant and asked him why he was not going to work, receiving a response from the defendant that he was "off today". When Pace had walked on six or seven feet, he heard a shot. He turned around and asked the defendant, "Bill, what are you shooting for?" Pace then ran across the street to where his brother-in-law, Alfonse Carluccetti (a brother of the defendant) and Joe Pompino were standing and urged them to "Do something, he is shooting me." The defendant with revolver in hand, having followed Pace, warned "Let him be, I want to finish him." He then fired three more shots, two of which struck Pace, as had also the first shot, as evidenced by the fact that Pace had three bullet wounds in his body. He recovered, however, and testified at trial.

[ 369 Pa. Page 197]

After shooting Pace, the defendant proceeded a distance of some two hundred feet to a double frame dwelling house the one side of which was occupied by the Giovannettis and the other side by a family named Martini. An alleyway to the rear ran along either side of the house. The defendant, passing in front of the Giovannetti portion of the dwelling, used the alleyway on the Martini side in order to get to the rear of the Giovannetti residence. At the back stoop of the Martini home, Basilio Martini, the father of the family, was bending over brushing some dirt from his trousers. The defendant, "afraid", as he later explained, that Martini "was going to stop [him] from going to the Giovannetti house", shot him. The wound was not serious and Martini recovered but died of natural causes some time before the trial.

Going to the rear door of the Giovannetti home, which was closed and apparently locked, the defendant was closed and apparently locked, the defendant threw his weight against the door and, breaking it open, entered. Mrs. Giovannetti came downstairs, but, seeing the defendant, who had his automatic revolver in his hand, she ran back upstairs and her husband came down with a shotgun. Giovannetti asked the defendant the reason for the commotion. The defendant deceptively told him that someone had shot him which caused Giovannetti to go to the doorway leading to the outside whereupon the defendant shot him several times from behind. Giovannetti wheeled around and the defendant shot him again in the chest. The wounds proved immediately fatal and Giovannetti fell to the floor. The defendant then fired a shot up the stairway but did not hit anyone. He laid his revolver on a table (saying later ...

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