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COMMONWEALTH v. MOODY (03/15/68)

decided: March 15, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MOODY, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Lehigh County, April T., 1965, No. 31, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Samuel Moody.

COUNSEL

Gerald I. Roth, with him John E. Backenstoe, for appellant.

George J. Joseph, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 429 Pa. Page 40]

In October 1965, the appellant, Samuel Moody, was convicted by a jury in Lehigh County of murder in

[ 429 Pa. Page 41]

    the first degree and the punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Following denial of a motion for a new trial, judgment of sentence was imposed as the jury directed. This appeal followed.

The single question raised is whether or not the trial court erred in admitting into evidence a written confession given by Moody to the police.

From the testimony offered by the Commonwealth, the following pertinent facts appear:*fn1 At about 6 p.m. on December 31, 1964, Moody killed his wife by firing three bullets from a .38 caliber revolver into her back. At about 6:38 p.m. a city police sergeant, William Glatfeller, received a phone call in his office informing him of the shooting. He proceeded by police car in the direction of the address where the shooting occurred. While en route he received via radio a description of the person suspected of committing the crime. Shortly thereafter he saw Moody, who fitted the description, at a public street intersection. With the assistance of another policeman who arrived on the scene he took Moody into custody. Moody was immediately told that he was "under arrest." He was searched, handcuffed and taken to the police station.

At about 7 p.m., Arthur Allender, a police detective, received a call at home to report to police headquarters immediately. When he arrived, Moody was seated in a "cell corridor" behind a locked door. Admittedly he was not free to leave. Allender escorted Moody into his office and, after asking him his name, address and

[ 429 Pa. Page 42]

    employment, inquired "what happened?" Moody unhesitatingly replied, "I shot my wife." Then Robert E. Sperling, the captain of the city detectives, who also had been summoned from his home, arrived on the scene. After Moody was informed who Sperling was, Sperling asked him what happened. Moody replied, "Mr. Sperling, I'm going to tell you the truth. I shot my wife." Sperling then interrupted Moody and advised him "that anything he said could be used against him; that he need not say anything and he had a right to remain silent." Moody replied, "I want to get it off my chest. I want to tell the truth. I shot my wife."

Shortly thereafter Moody was subjected to questions concerning the details of the crime which, together with his answers, were written down in long-hand and typewritten. The recorded typewritten statement was then read to Moody and signed by him. Immediately before this particular questioning began, Sperling explained to Moody that he need not make a formal statement, but that if he did so "it would be of his own free will, without any promises, inducements or threats, being fully aware anything he said could be used against him. . . ." It is the admission of this statement in evidence that is assigned as error.

Since the instant trial occurred prior to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), the absence of all the procedural safeguards required under that decision in order to secure one's privilege against self-incrimination during police questioning does not in itself constitutionally proscribe evidentiary use of this statement. See Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 86 S. Ct. 1761 (1966); Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S. Ct. 1772 (1966). However, since the trial was subsequent to ...


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