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May 28, 1964

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania ex rel. George W. CRAIG
James F. MARONEY, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSENBERG

The relator is confined in the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania under a life sentence for the murder of one Clarence Nellis. He now petitions this Court for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

The relator presents thirty-five numbered objections against his prosecution proceedings by which he was convicted of the crime of murder. With the exception of two, his numerous objections refer to trial matters not presenting constitutional questions. As to such questions here raised as may present federal questions, I have examined the record and heard essential witnesses.

 Upon presentation of the petition, I granted a rule upon the District Attorney of Butler County, Pennsylvania and others to show cause why a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted. I thereupon appointed Alvin D. Capozzi, Esq., to represent the relator. He reported to me personally on several occasions and informed me that he had conferred with the relator and had studied the record. He eventually informed me that he could not fairly represent the relator and he was permitted to withdraw his appearance. I thereafter appointed Byrd R. Brown, Esq., as his attorney. Mr. Brown's relationship as counsel in this case paralled that of Mr. Capozzi, and he eventually requested leave to withdraw because of other business pressure. I granted such leave. I then appointed Martin Sheinman, Esq., as his attorney and he represented and continues to represent the relator. I scheduled a day for hearing and brought the relator into court and procured the attendance of such other witnesses as desired by the relator and his counsel.

 The District Attorney of Butler County is now newly elected and I awaited his brief. I now have that brief before me and have given it careful consideration, together with the brief as presented by counsel for the relator.

 The following information is taken from the trial transcript of the Butler County Court. On December 26, 1959, John C. E. Nellis met death when the top of his head was blown off by a shotgun blast at close range. The body was discovered by a constable on the morning of December 27th. On the afternoon of December 27th, sergeant James D. Barger of the Pennsylvania State Police removed a double barrelled shotgun from the home of George W. Craig. This shotgun was later proven to be the murder weapon. On that afternoon Craig, in a highly intoxicated condition, was then taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police. On December 29th, he was charged with murder before an alderman of Butler County. At that time he was advised of his right to counsel and a hearing was continued until January 28, 1960 when he was represented by counsel. After Craig was arrested and before he was formally charged with the crime on December 29th, he was questioned on December 27th by Detective Sergeant Barger for forty-five minutes and by District Attorney Doerr for one hour. On December 28th, he was questioned again for short periods of time. During all of this time, he was uncooperative and his attitude remained belligerent. During these conversations, the record indicates that he did most of the talking. So that during this forty six hour period the relator made no confession to the investigating officers. Attorney Arman R. Cingolani first talked to the relator on December 30, 1959, although he had been contacted in regards to the case some time earlier and advised the relator 'not to make any statements to anybody under any circumstances'. Mr. Cingolani attended the preliminary hearing in the case and was thereafter appointed by the court to represent the relator with Attorney Michael M. Mamula. Both Mr. Cingolani and Mr. Mamula were members of the Butler County Bar. On the night of December 31st the relator broke his eye glasses and cut a writ. He was immediately taken to the Butler County Memorial Hospital where he was treated and returned to the Butler County Correctional Institution. At about 9:00 o'clock on the morning of January 1st, he was visited in his cell by the then District Attorney Doerr and Sergeant Barger, but made no statement of any kind at that time. About 4:00 o'clock of that afternoon District Attorney Doerr and Sergeant Barger were summoned by the relator. He thereupon informed them that 'he wanted to make a clean breast of the whole thing'. (Tr. pg. 170) He indicated that he would be willing to give a signed statement. At that time he was reminded that he had an attorney and he replied, 'I don't need an attorney. I know what is best'. (Tr. pg. 185). The relator then proceeded to dictate to Sergeant Barger the details as are set forth in the typed confession which consisted of seven pages. The relator at that time appeared to be normal and physically fit. He was not under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. At that time the District Attorney reminded him, (Tr. pg. 199), 'do you know that you have certain constitutional rights and are not compelled to say anything?', and the relator answered 'Yes'.

 As to the two objections to consider, the first is that as contained in objection No 19 raising a question under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution of double jeopardy, and the second is that contained in objection No. 23 as it relates to the obtaining of a confession contrary to the provisions of the United States Constitution.

 In support of the relator's contention that his confession was unconstitutionally elicited by the Commonwealth, the relator testified before me that he was arrested on December 27, 1959 in Butler County at a state police roadblock without a warrant, and that he was searched and incarcerated in the Butler State Police Barracks without being informed of the reason for his arrest; that he was very intoxicated at the time of his arrest; that he was interrogated for a period of forty-six to forty-eight hours without sleep; that he was later abused by the then Detective Sergeant James Barger of the Pennsylvania State Police who conducted the interrogation; that he was not able nor permitted to contact or secure an attorney during the forty-six to forty-eight hours; that while he was accused of being a 'murdering so and so' as to the death of Nellis, he was not formally charged for murder until after forty-eight hours of interrogation; that at his arraignment before a squire or alderman at a preliminary hearing, he was not permitted an attorney and advised to plead not guilty by the squire; that during his stay in the Butler County Penal Institution, he had been taking a cactus narcotic called peyote which he had concealed in his socks; that he later consumed phenobarbital which admittedly had been available to prisoners as dispensed by prison guards; that while he could not specifically relate how often or the length of the effect of such drugs, he definitely remained under the influence of such drugs through January 1, 1960, when he attempted suicide and through January 2, 1960 when he issued his confession; that, because of depression and concern for his family he attempted suicide on January 1, 1960 by breaking his glasses and slashing his wrist; that his suicide attempt was discovered and he was taken to the prison hospital and treated; that he remained there four hours and was then returned to his cell; that at 9:00 o'clock the next morning on January 2, 1960, the District Attorney, Donald Doerr, appeared and it was at this time that he made his confession before the District Attorney and Sergeant Barger; that despite the length of his confession the information contained therein was not read to him nor was he informed of his rights prior to his statement; and that he made his confession not because he murdered Nellis, but because of his concern for his family and his concern for one Duffy, an alleged accessory to the crime, who had been committed with Craig, and also because he wanted relief from the interrogation of the police officers.

 In rebuttal of these accusations, the Commonwealth then placed Sergeant Barger on the stand who testified that he was a State Trooper for twenty-two years; that he signed the information; that the relator was intoxicated and belligerent during his arrest and commitment; that upon arrest the relator was searched completely, including his socks and shoes and that the search revealed no pills or drugs in his possession; that the relator affirmatively asserted he did not need any attorney; that there was little interrogation due to the relator's belligerency; that the relator was arrested as a suspect in this case because of a motive for revenge based on past criminal cases in Butler County; that no interrogation was taken of the relator without the Sergeant's presence; that the relator's confession was given fully, freely and of his own initiative; that the confession was the account of the relator and substantially the narration in his own words; and that while the confession was given the relator was noticeably clear-minded and understanding and wanted to make a clean breast of the whole thing.

 On cross-examination, Sergeant Barger admitted that at one time he told the relator that his wife could be subpoenaed knowing that a wife cannot be compelled to testify against her husband; that if the defendant stood trial, his wife and children would be brought in as witness (he denied stating that they would have to 'drag' his wife in); that he said, 'If I knew of the suicide, I would have brought a rope'; that he knew the relator had counsel; that he knew the defense attorney either said or would have said the relator should not answer any questions; that he showed papers to the relator indicating them to be statements taken of his wife and children; that he sent two officers to pick up the children (teenage daughters) without warrants for statements at the police barracks; that Duffy was arrested solely because he lived nearby the scene and there was reason to believe he had knowledge of the events; that he testified he received a call from the Warden to come to the prison; that upon arrival at the prison, the relator was very friendly, cooperative and alert; that the statement as typed was a verbatim statement of relator's own words which took about two hours to transcribe; that it was sworn to at Alderman Armstrong's office; that the statements were read to him; and that the relator had an extra paid of glasses on his person.

 The District Attorney, Donald Doerr, also testified, describing the confession and stating that the relator was or appeared perfectly normal; that the relator asked him the consequences of a confession and the relator stated that he did commit the murder; and that he did not mention his wife and children, nor his fear of their arrest. On cross-examination, the District Attorney admitted that he did not ask the relator whether he wanted a lawyer.

 Was the relator coerced into making a confession? The relator stated that he was interrogated without sleep from forty-six to forty-eight hours. Despite the relator's contention, it does not appear from the credible evidence that the relator was subjected to exhaustive and extensive questioning. Although the relator has made damaging accusations, after hearing the testimony and observing the demeanor and believability or credibility of all the witnesses placed on the stand, I cannot accept as matters of fact the version advanced by the relator. I am convicted that the relator was not subjected to extensive interrogation or such abuse as overawed him mentally or psychologically and so as to cause him to make a confession of such detail and length as he did. The relator's contention that he was under sedation and in a weakened condition because of his cutting a wrist is not borne out by the evidence. At the hospital he was retained for four hours and received, at the most, minor first aid. He had been returned from the hospital early in the morning. At 9:00 o'clock, when visited by the District Attorney and Sergeant Barger, no communication resulted. But at 4:00 o'clock of that afternoon when the relator called these two and indicated his desire to make a clean breast of the whole thing, the evidence was that he was not physically incapacitated nor in any weakened condition, and that he was mentally alert so as to volubly gush out a most detailed confession of what had occurred with him from A to Z.

 I am convinced that his attempt or the slashing or cutting of his wrist was not a sincere desire to take his own life, but rather a superficial action intended for show or exhibition and very likely for the purpose of procuring sympathy.

 The relator claims that he was in a state of apprehension that the police were going to drag his wife and family into this matter, but the record does not bear out this contention. At the time of the taking of his confession, the relator showed not the slightest apprehension in regards to his wife or children, nor did he procure any promise from his jailors that he wife and children would be untouched, nor did he indicate any concern about anything. Outside of his own assertion, there was no circumstance which indicated the relator was intoxicated, not alert, or in a dazed or doped condition when he narrated what had happened. On the contrary, the evidence is convincing that his mind was clear and his mental ability such as enabled him to recollect and to relate all his goings and comings with detailed precision.

 As for the relator's contention now that his confession was taken without the presence of his lawyer, there is evidence that Mr. Cingolani, one of his lawyers, hold him not to talk. But it is clear that the relator was a man of sufficient intelligence and understanding of his situation to know whether he wanted or needed the advice of his counsel at the time and under the circumstances. What he did here in asking for the District Attorney and the police officer to come to him appears to be indicative of the fact that he desired ...

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