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COMMONWEALTH v. COYLE (09/26/67)

decided: September 26, 1967.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
COYLE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Philadelphia County, June T., 1959, No. 671, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John J. Coyle.

COUNSEL

Mary Alice Duffy, with her Sara Duffy, for appellant.

William H. Wolf, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert H. Finkel and Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, 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.

Author: Eagen

[ 427 Pa. Page 74]

On November 20, 1959, John J. Coyle was convicted by a jury in Philadelphia County of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at death. Following the dismissal of post-trial motions and imposition of sentence in the court below, an appeal was entered and prosecuted in this Court. Lengthy briefs were filed on behalf of Coyle and the Commonwealth, and oral argument presented. After a studied consideration thereof, we filed an opinion on October 14, 1964, overruling the multiple averred assignments of error -- with one exception. Since evidence of incriminating statements made by Coyle to investigating officers following his arrest had been introduced against him at trial, and the trial court had not made an independent judicial determination of the voluntariness of these statements, the record was remanded to the court below for a post-trial hearing and determination of the voluntariness question in accordance with the ruling in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964). We further directed that following this proceeding, the court below file here a report of its findings and conclusions. Until such was received and considered, we reserved final judgment. See 415 Pa. 379, 203 A.2d 782 (1964).

In conformance with our mandate, an extensive "Jackson" hearing followed below and on February 11, 1966, the trial court filed on opinion wherein it concluded that the statements involved were voluntarily made by Coyle and free from any coercive influences which would constitutionally proscribe evidentiary use thereof at trial. Exceptions to these findings were filed and subsequently overruled by the court en banc. Upon

[ 427 Pa. Page 75]

    the filing in this Court of the record of the "Jackson" hearing and the findings resulting therefrom, we ordered that reargument proceed before us, limited to four questions:

(1) Were the incriminating statements of Coyle admitted at his trial secured in violation of his constitutional rights?

(2) Were said incriminating statements inadmissible in evidence at trial under Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964), or under any other decision of the Supreme Court of the United States or of this Court?

(3) Did the "Jackson" hearing conducted in the court below meet the requirements of due process, and the standards required by Jackson v. Denno ?

(4) Were the findings and conclusions reached by the trial court following the "Jackson" hearing and reported to this Court valid and proper ...


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