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COMMONWEALTH v. BISHOP (04/18/67)

decided: April 18, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BISHOP, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer, General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Philadelphia County, May T., 1963, No. 1437, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Bishop.

COUNSEL

Edwin B. Barnett, for appellant.

Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, with him Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 425 Pa. Page 177]

On August 5, 1963, Charles Bishop was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Post trial motions were overruled and sentence imposed in accordance with the jury's verdict. This appeal followed.

At trial an incriminating typewritten statement (confession) given by Bishop to the police was admitted in evidence over objection. The sole question presented for determination is whether or not this evidence was secured under circumstances which violated Bishop's constitutional rights and its trial use constituted a denial of due process of law.

The pertinent facts established by the Commonwealth's evidence may be summarized as follows: On Sunday night, March 31, 1963, the dead body of sixteen-year old Frances Burrell was found in the trunk of an abandoned automobile on a public street in Philadelphia. The clothes were in disarray and private portions of the body exposed. A medical examination indicated she had been dead at least two days and death was caused by strangulation. Male sperm was found in the vagina.

Police investigation disclosed that she departed from her home alive on Thursday night, March 28th, about eight o'clock and never returned. Also, that for a few days immediately prior thereto, she had received several phone calls from someone nicknamed "Peanut," and these calls terminated after her disappearance.

[ 425 Pa. Page 178]

After checking out several individuals, the police learned on April 5, 1963, that a young man (Charles Bishop) who lived with his aunt, Mrs. Bertha Santos, on Catherine Street, was sometimes referred to as "Peanut." On the morning of April 6th about ten-thirty o'clock, three policemen visited the home of Mrs. Santos and informed her that they were investigating her nephew because he was called "Peanut." No other details were disclosed. They told Bishop they wanted him to go to police headquarters for questioning. He readily assented. Mrs. Santos was invited to accompany Charles but declined.

Bishop was taken by the officers, via automobile, to headquarters for the Special Investigation Police Squad, where he was questioned intermittently for about two and one-half hours. During this period he was told, "You can tell us what you want, it is up to you." No further advice as to his right to remain silent was given.

During this questioning, Bishop made several conflicting statements concerning his whereabouts on the night of Thursday, March 28th, the date of Miss Burrell's disappearance. At first he also denied knowing the victim, but later admitted this was untrue. However, he steadfastly denied any ...


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