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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CZAKO v. MARONEY. (11/12/63)

November 12, 1963

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CZAKO, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY.



Appeal, No. 191, March T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Greene County, Dec. T., 1962, No. 158, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Steve Czako v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Steve Czako, appellant, in propria persona.

Glenn R. Toothman, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 412 Pa. Page 449]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN

This is an appeal from an order in the court below dismissing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, after hearing. It is without merit.

The appellant, Steve Czako, was indicted and tried for murder. He was convicted by the jury of murder in the first degree on the eye-witness testimony of two of his daughters and a son. Punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. No appeal was filed from the judgment of sentence.

The first reason assigned in the present proceeding for the issuance of the writ is that the appellant was indicted and tried without a corner's inquest first having been held.

The Act of August 9, 1955, P.L. 323, 16 P.S. § 1237, requires the coroner to investigate the facts and circumstances concerning deaths, which appear to have occurred within has county, whenever such deaths are sudden, violent or suspicious, or fall within other specifically enumerated classifications not pertinent herein. The statute states that "the purpose of the investigation shall be to determine whether or not there is any reason may have resulted from the criminal acts such death may have resulted from the criminal acts or criminal neglect of persons other than the deceased." Generally speaking, whether or not an inquest should be held is within the exercise of a reasonable discretion by the coroner. See Marvin v. Monroe County, 154 Pa. Superior Ct. 75, 35 A.2d 781 (1944).

[ 412 Pa. Page 450]

At common law, the verdict of a coroner's jury could be used for prosecuting the offenders without and instead of an indictment by a grand jury. However, in modern times in the United States, the finding of a coroner's jury is merely advisory to the public authorities charged with the administration of the criminal law. It is only a preliminary investigation and not a trial on the merits. Its finding is binding on no one as a judgment. Its main purpose is to ascertain, if possible, if the death were due to other than natural causes. See, 13 Am. Jur., Coroners §§ 6, 11 (1938); 18 C.J.S. Coroners § 15 (1939); 8 P.L.E. Coroners § 2 (1958).

It is quite clear, therefore, that a coroner's inquest is required to be held only where the circumstances of the death are suspicious in nature and only where the cause of death is problematical or in doubt. If it is evident that the death ...


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