Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, No. 1428 Habeas Corpus Docket, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Clyde Shaffer and Elmer Clark v. A. C. Cavell, Superintendent.
Ben F. Wright, with him L. D. McDaniel, for appellants.
Richard D. Cicchetti, Assistant District Attorney, and John R. Hoye, District Attorney, filed a brief, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Chief Justice Bell concurs in the result.
On December 14, 1948, after a joint trial, the appellants, Clyde Shaffer and Elmer Clark, were convicted by a jury in Fayette County of murder in the first degree. Punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Motions for a new trial were filed and later
withdrawn. On May 27, 1949, sentence was imposed in accordance with the jury's verdict. No appeal from the judgment was entered. Throughout the above proceedings, the appellants were represented by court-appointed counsel.
On October 29, 1964, Shaffer instituted an action in habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County attacking the validity of his sentence and confinement, alleging, inter alia, that constitutionally tainted evidence was admitted against him at trial. On November 6, 1964, the court dismissed the petition without hearing. An appeal from this order was timely filed in this Court. In the meantime Clark instituted habeas corpus proceedings, and action thereon was withheld below pending the disposition of the appeal in Shaffer's case. On October 13, 1965, we vacated the dismissal order in the Shaffer action and remanded the record to the trial court with directions to conduct a hearing*fn1 to determine if the challenged evidence, i.e., incriminating statements given by Shaffer to the police and introduced in evidence against him at trial were free and voluntary. See, 419 Pa. 218, 213 A.2d 380 (1965). Subsequently, the trial court held a joint hearing on the Clark as well as the Shaffer petition, and later dismissed both actions.*fn2 An appeal from that order is presently before us.*fn3
In support of its order dismissing the actions, the lower court filed an opinion reciting its findings and conclusions, particularly: (1) that the incriminating statements given to the police by both Shaffer and Clark were free and voluntary; (2) that evidence thereof was properly admitted at trial; and, (3) that the question of voluntariness of the statements was for the jury to resolve. After a studied and thorough examination of the record, we cannot agree with these conclusions. We will, therefore, reverse.
The factual case history is briefly this:
On Sunday, September 12, 1948, about seven o'clock a.m., one John Walek, 61 years of age, was found lying on a lawn in front of a home located at Continental No. 2, Fayette County, in a dying condition, suffering from severe injuries caused by blows to his head. He had worked as a coal miner; received wages on Saturday, September 11th; engaged in some drinking; and, on his way home laid down on the particular lawn to rest. Some individual, or individuals, later came to the scene and beat him ...