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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. ALEXANDER v. MARONEY (06/29/67)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: June 29, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. ALEXANDER, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY

Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1965, No. 2535, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. William H. Alexander v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

William H. Alexander, appellant, in propria persona.

Edwin J. Martin and Charles B. Watkins, Assistant District Attorneys, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Eagen

[ 426 Pa. Page 187]

In January 1962, the appellant, William H. Alexander, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree, and in accordance with the jury's verdict was sentenced to imprisonment for life.*fn1 At trial, testimony of oral admissions Alexander made to police officers following the occurrence was introduced in evidence against him. Also, a recorded statement given to the police following his arrest, while not introduced in evidence, was referred to and specifically mentioned during his trial cross-examination by the Commonwealth's attorney for the purpose of impeachment. No independent "Jackson hearing" was conducted by the trial court to determine the voluntariness of the admissions or recorded statement.

In 1965, Alexander instituted habeas corpus proceedings which the lower court dismissed after hearing. In this action Alexander contended that his incustody statement to the police was coerced and secured under circumstances which violated his constitutional rights. The hearing court did not specifically determine if the statement involved was the free and voluntary act of Alexander, but concluded that since no objection to the admissibility of the testimony concerning the statement was entered at trial, Alexander was precluded at this day from raising the question.

An examination of the trial record discloses that at the time the admissions and statements were made, Alexander may have been suffering from intoxication due to the overconsumption of intoxicants and also other physical disabilities, which might affect his ability to intelligently and freely say anything. In view

[ 426 Pa. Page 188]

    of the trial testimony in this regard, it is our conclusion that even in the absence of an objection to the testimony involved, an independent determination by the trial court of the voluntariness issue is required. In this determination all of the pertinent circumstances must be considered and evaluated. Compare Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964).

The order of the court below is vacated and the record remanded for further proceedings consonant with this opinion.

Disposition

Order vacated.


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