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COMMONWEALTH v. BECHTEL (02/06/56)

February 6, 1956

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BECHTEL, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 46, Jan. T., 1956, from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Delaware County, March T., 1955, No. 336, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert B. Bechtel. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Albert Blumberg, for appellant.

John R. Graham, Assistant District Attorney, with him Raymond R. Start, District Attorney and Joseph E. Pappano, First Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 384 Pa. Page 186]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

Robert B. Bechtel, a student at Swarthmore College, was arrested on January 11, 1955, charged with the homicide of Francis Holmes Strozier, a fellow student. While awaiting indictment and trial he filed an application for a Commission under § 344 of The Mental Health Act of June 12, 1951, P.L. 533, 50 PS 1224. The Court thereupon appointed a Commission composed of Dr. George Wilson, Dr. Harvey Bartle, Jr., and Charles H. Heidmann. The Commission held hearings on March 8 and March 11, 1955. On March 9, 1955, the Grand Jury returned bills of indictment charging defendant with murder and manslaughter.

The Commission found that Bechtel was mentally ill and was a person of criminal tendency as defined in § 102 of the Mental Health Act, sub-section (4) which reads: "'criminal tendency' shall mean a tendency to repeat offenses against the law or to perpetrate new offenses, or tendency to habitual delinquency". The Commission or tendency to habitual delinquency". The Commission recommended that defendant be committed to Farview State Hospital for the remainder of his life. The Court made an order directing the commitment of the defendant to Farview State Hospital for treatment as a mentally ill person until the further order of the Court, pursuant to § 1225(d) of the Mental Health Act.

[ 384 Pa. Page 187]

Farview State Hospital is an institution for patients convicted of crime or a person who is charged with crime and has criminal tendencies, or a person who has criminal tendencies. From this order of the court Bechtel took this appeal.

Bechtel argues (1) that the Commission had no power or authority to state or recommend that he should be committed to a hospital for the criminal insane for the remainder of his life; and (2) there was no adequate evidence that he was "a person of criminal tendency".

Defendant does not question the finding of the Commission or of the Court that he "is in fact mentally ill and is in such condition to make it necessary that he be cared for in a hospital for mental illnesses" but objects, we repeat, to being committed to Farview State Hospital.

Under the Mental Health Act if a Sanity Commission is appointed, its findings are advisory and not mandatory upon the Court below; it is the Court and not the Sanity Commission which must be satisfied that the person charged with the crime is insane or ...


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