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COMMONWEALTH v. PADGETT (01/09/68)

decided: January 9, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PADGETT, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1964, No. 933, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Leroy Padgett.

COUNSEL

Leroy Padgett, appellant, in propria persona.

Walter M. Phillips, Jr. 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, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 428 Pa. Page 230]

All of the implications of Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758 (1964) have yet to be determined by the courts. We are today faced with a problem concerning the relationship Escobedo bears to the recently announced United States Supreme Court decision governing constitutional harmless error, Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S. Ct. 824 (1967), followed by this Court in Commonwealth v. Pearson, 427 Pa. 45, 233 A.2d 552 (1967).

Appellant, Leroy Padgett, after a June 1965 jury trial, was convicted of second degree murder. Post-trial motions were filed and denied, but no appeal was taken. Padgett subsequently filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act alleging only that the trial court erred in allowing the introduction into evidence of a statement obtained in the absence of counsel at a time when representation was constitutionally required. Post-conviction counsel was appointed, an evidentiary hearing held and relief denied. We affirm.

[ 428 Pa. Page 231]

Although the Commonwealth in its brief admits that a statement was obtained from appellant under circumstances violative of Escobedo, it insists that this constitutionally tainted evidence is admissible for the purpose of impeaching credibility*fn1 if certain specified conditions exist. Support for this proposition can be found in Commonwealth v. Wright, 415 Pa. 55, 202 A.2d 79 (1964), a case discussing the admissibility for purposes of impeachment of evidence obtained in violation of the fourth amendment. The issue thus presented is the extent to which Escobedo modifies the Wright doctrine.

A careful reading of Escobedo in light of the gloss placed upon that decision by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966) dictates the conclusion that a statement procured either after failure to give an accused opportunity to consult with counsel or, as in this case, failure to warn an accused of his right to remain silent (under Escobedo), or in the absence of police attempts to advise the accused of his constitutional rights (under Miranda) cannot be employed at trial for any purpose. The Miranda opinion states quite clearly and without limitation that the prosecution " may not use "*fn2 statements obtained in violation of

[ 428 Pa. Page 232]

    places in the law through which a pair of mutually oblivious doctrines run in infinitely parallel contrariety, like a pair of poolhall scoring racks on one or the other of which, seemingly at random, cases get hung up."*fn7 This observation could easily be applied to the harmless error-automatic reversal dichotomy only partially resolved by Chapman. Although Chapman did recognize the existence of the automatic reversal cases, it made no attempt to articulate the rationale separating those constitutional errors requiring automatic reversal from those to which the harmless error doctrine can be applied other than to classify the automatic reversal cases as involving "constitutional rights so basic to a fair trial that their infraction can never be treated as harmless error."*fn8

Apparently the United States Supreme Court was content in Chapman to permit state and lower federal courts to fill the interstices between errors affecting rights basic to a fair trial and those which can be tested by ...


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