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COMMONWEALTH v. BELL (03/16/65)

decided: March 16, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BELL, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, June T., 1961, No. 1551, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Darryl A. Bell.

COUNSEL

Lester J. Schaffer, for appellant.

Gordon Gelfond, Assistant District Attorney, with him Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.

Author: Eagen

[ 417 Pa. Page 292]

The appellant, Darryl A. Bell, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree. Punishment was fixed at death. Following the denial of a new trial and imposition of sentence in accordance with the jury's verdict, this appeal was filed. It is urged that serious trial errors were committed which require the grant of a new trial.

The undisputed evidence established that on December 22, 1960, Bell entered a grocery store in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, operated by one Herman Rosenberg, with the intention of committing a robbery. He had a loaded P-38 German Walther automatic pistol concealed in the pocket of his overcoat. When caught in the act of stealing money from the cash register, he shot Rosenberg in the right forehead

[ 417 Pa. Page 293]

    causing injury from which death resulted in a few minutes. Before fleeing the scene, Bell then stole the remaining money from the cash register, and also a wallet from Rosenberg's person, containing a substantial sum of money.

Bell was arrested by the police on April 20, 1961, for a crime separate and apart from the Rosenberg killing. In searching his apartment, the police found the gun which ballistic tests eventually proved was the Rosenberg death weapon. During the questioning that immediately followed his arrest, Bell admitted to the police that he committed the Rosenberg robbery and killing.

The first assignment of error concerns two statements made by Bell to the police which were recorded on a typewriter. When written, they were given him to read. He initialed every page and signed his name at the end of each statement. The first was made on April 20, 1961, and the second on April 26, 1961. It is admitted that both statements were given voluntarily, and their truthfulness was not refuted or questioned in any manner at trial.

In the statement of April 20th, Bell not only recited the facts concerning the Rosenberg crime, but also told of his participation in other crimes after that occurrence. Therein, he admitted robbing another grocery store, operated by one David Kleeman, with one Bobby Cross on April 7, 1961. In the course of this robbery, Kleeman was hit over the head with a revolver and shot in the arm by Cross. In this statement, Bell also admitted and described his participation in a third armed robbery on April 17, 1961, wherein the owner of a grocery store, Max Kanal, was shot and killed by the ...


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