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GASKINS CASE (04/24/68)

decided: April 24, 1968.

GASKINS CASE


Appeal from order of County Court of Philadelphia, Juvenile Division, No. J-109905, in the matter of Dwight Gaskins.

COUNSEL

James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorney, with him Alan J. Davis, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Bernard L. Segal, with him Mary Bell Hammerman, and Needleman, Needleman, Segal & Tabb, for appellee.

William T. Coleman, Jr., with him Robert W. Maris, and Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish, Kohn & Levy, for County Court of Philadelphia, amicus curiae.

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

Author: Bell

[ 430 Pa. Page 300]

The defendant, Dwight Gaskins, 14 years of age, lived permanently with his grandmother. Douglas Minnay, aged 15, had been invited by Gaskins to live temporarily with him in his grandmother's home. During the evening of May 18, 1966, an argument concerning a watch developed between the two boys. According to the testimony of witnesses, Minnay had been pushing Gaskins in front of his grandmother's home. Gaskins then went inside, picked up a knife which he placed in his pocket, and told his grandmother that

[ 430 Pa. Page 301]

Minnay was bothering him. Gaskins's grandmother came outside and told Minnay to leave Dwight alone. While Dwight was standing on the porch, after his grandmother had gone inside her house, Minnay ran up the steps and pushed him. Gaskins then jumped down the steps, took the knife from his pocket, and fatally stabbed Minnay in the chest.

Later that same evening, Gaskins was arrested and charged with homicide by stabbing. The next morning, he appeared before Judge Charles Wright in the Juvenile Court Division of the County Court for a hearing on a petition alleging that he was a "delinquent" child. The petition, signed by one of the investigating officers, averred: "That the said Dwight Gaskins was brought to the Youth Study Center . . . charged with Homicide., by Stabbing. Deceased: Douglas Minnay. . . ." The proceedings were continued, in order to enable Gaskins to obtain counsel, and the Assistant District Attorney, when asked whether the Commonwealth would request certification of the case, answered, "I have not discussed it with anyone. I would feel maybe no."

On May 27, 1966, a further hearing was held, at which time a different Assistant District Attorney appeared and requested that Judge Wright sit as a committing magistrate for the purpose of certifying the case for prosecution as a criminal matter. Gaskins's attorney also requested certification and, upon the refusal of Judge Wright to certify the case, Gaskins's attorney took an exception to this ruling. After hearing testimony from an investigating officer and from several eyewitnesses, the case was continued until June 9, 1966, at which time further testimony was to be taken.

When proceedings were resumed on June 9, 1966, a third representative of the District Attorney's office appeared and reiterated the request that the case be

[ 430 Pa. Page 302]

    certified for prosecution as a criminal case.*fn1 This request and motion was denied.

Two witnesses were then presented on behalf of Dwight Gaskins, and the boy himself also testified with respect to several aspects of the Minnay killing. After hearing the testimony, Judge Wright adjudicated Dwight Gaskins a delinquent, committing him to Glen Mills School until he reached 16 years of age, and then to the State Correctional Institution at Camp

[ 430 Pa. Page 303]

Hill until he becomes 21. Thereafter, the Commonwealth filed this appeal from the refusal of Judge Wright to certify the case for prosecution in the criminal courts. A motion to quash the Commonwealth's appeal was filed by the attorney for Gaskins. A brief was filed by the County Court of ...


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