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COMMONWEALTH v. JEFFERSON (01/04/67)

decided: January 4, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
JEFFERSON



Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Chester County, Sept. T., 1964, No. 399, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Elouise Jefferson.

COUNSEL

Norman J. Pine, First Assistant District Attorney, with him A. Alfred Delduco, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Samuel J. Halpren, for appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 423 Pa. Page 542]

The Commonwealth appeals from an order below granting a new trial to Elouise Jefferson who was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree with the punishment fixed at life imprisonment. The new trial was granted solely because the trial court concluded that prejudicial evidence was erroneously admitted at trial.*fn1

The crime involved the fatal stabbing of one Marie Huggins on a public street in Valley Township, Chester County. Shortly after the incident, as a result of a phone call from headquarters, police officer Edward Hollingsworth, who was on patrol, proceeded to the hospital to investigate. In the hospital accident ward, he found several persons, including the defendant, Jefferson, who had a towel over her forehead and left eye. In answer to his inquiry and to questions of Michael

[ 423 Pa. Page 543]

Zevtchin, chief of police, who arrived a short time later, Jefferson made certain inculpatory statements without first being warned she had the right to remain silent or to have the assistance of counsel during the questioning. Testimony of these statements was admitted in evidence at trial; it may be summarized as follows:

Upon entering the hospital accident ward, Hollingsworth asked: "What happened?" Jefferson replied: "There was a fight." . . . . "They jumped me and I stabbed them." Hollingsworth immediately phoned Zevtchin at his home, who responded by coming to the hospital within minutes.

Upon his arrival Zevtchin received a short briefing from Hollingsworth in the hallway of the hospital and then entered the accident ward. He asked, "Who did the stabbing?" Jefferson raised her hand and said, "I did. I think I got the wrong one." Then in response to further questions by Zevtchin, Jefferson detailed the occurrence and its background.

The court below, relying on our decision in Commonwealth v. Negri, 419 Pa. 117, 213 A.2d 670 (1965),*fn2 concluded that since the statements to officer Zevtchin were made absent forewarning of constitutional rights, testimony thereof should have been excluded at trial. Negri has since been reconsidered by this Court and is not now controlling. See, Commonwealth v. Schmidt, 423 Pa. 432, 224 A.2d 625 (1966).

Since the trial herein concluded on April 22, 1965, evidence of the inculpatory statements involved was not rendered constitutionally inadmissible at trial merely because the police did not adhere to the "in-custody" warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966). See, Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966); Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. ...


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