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COMMONWEALTH v. ROBINSON (03/15/68)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 15, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROBINSON, APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Nov. T., 1965, No. 114, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Leon Robinson.

COUNSEL

I. Leonard Hoffman, for appellant.

Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorney, with him Roger F. Cox, Assistant District Attorney, 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.

Author: Eagen

[ 428 Pa. Page 459]

At a trial which commenced on October 24, 1966, the appellant, Leon Robinson, was convicted by the jury of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Following denial of post-trial motions, sentence was imposed in accordance with the jury's verdict. This appeal was then filed. We reverse and order a new trial.

At trial Robinson testified in his own defense. Over objection, the Commonwealth was permitted to cross-examine him extensively about a written confession

[ 428 Pa. Page 460]

    which he gave to the police during custodial interrogation. The sole purpose of this cross-examination was to impeach the credibility of his trial testimony. On the occasion when the confession was obtained, all of the procedural safeguards required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966) were not employed.*fn1

Our recent decision in Commonwealth v. Padgett, 428 Pa. 229, 237 A.2d 209 (1968) is controlling. Under our ruling, therein, a confession which is constitutionally inadmissible as part of the Commonwealth's case in chief, either under Escobedo, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758 (1964) or under Miranda v. Arizona, supra, may not be used at trial for any purpose.

While the Commonwealth now concedes that under Padgett, supra, the trial use of the confession involved was prejudicial error, in the court below it maintained that the confession could properly be used solely for the purpose of impeachment under Commonwealth v. Wright, 415 Pa. 55, 202 A.2d 79 (1964). In Wright, in line with Walder v. United States, 347 U.S. 62, 74 S. Ct. 354 (1954), we ruled that evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment may be used under certain circumstances to impeach credibility. Wright and Walder are inapposite to situations involving violations of the Fifth Amendment which, unlike the Fourth Amendment, is by its terms directed at excluding evidence rather than at deterring the police from

[ 428 Pa. Page 461]

    official misconduct. The use of a confession obtained under circumstances violative of the Fifth Amendment for impeachment purposes is as much a violation of the privilege against self-incrimination as is its use during the Commonwealth's case in chief.

Judgment reversed and new trial ordered.

Disposition

Judgment reversed.


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