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COMMONWEALTH v. BROWN (11/14/68)

decided: November 14, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BROWN, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1964, Nos. 1740 and 1741, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Aaron Brown.

COUNSEL

John Packel, Assistant Defender, with him Elizabeth Langford Green and Melvin Dildine, Assistant Defenders, and Herman I. Pollock, Defender, for appellant.

James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert Mozenter, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Hannum, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J.

Author: Jacobs

[ 213 Pa. Super. Page 289]

Appellant Aaron Brown was convicted of aggravated robbery on June 22, 1965, and sentenced to two to

[ 213 Pa. Super. Page 290]

    five years imprisonment. On this appeal, which we allowed nunc pro tunc, he assigns as error the admission of his oral and written confessions into evidence at trial. The record discloses the following pertinent facts:

On the morning of December 14, 1964, a robbery occurred at the Patio Bar in West Philadelphia. Two days later, in response to an anonymous letter stating that "the three Brown brothers" may have been involved in the crime, two police officers were dispatched to the home of appellant's mother. On their second visit Brown was present. The officers told Brown that they would like to question him about the Patio Bar robbery and asked him to accompany them to the police station for that purpose. Brown agreed, and he and his wife were taken via police squad car to West Detective Division.*fn1

Upon their arrival at about 8:00 p.m., Brown was separated from his wife and interrogated intermittently until about 9:50 p.m. During this period he repeatedly denied any knowledge of the robbery. Finally the officers confronted Brown with the letter accusing him of the robbery and questioned him about its contents. Appellant then asked, "What is going to happen to my wife?" The detectives replied: "If your wife is involved as you are involved she'll be arrested as an accessory." Brown repeated this question several times and finally said, "Well, she didn't have anything to do with it." He was then asked, "Does that mean that you did it?" Brown replied, "Absolutely." No warnings were given Brown prior to this incriminating admission, but immediately thereafter he was placed under arrest and advised of his right to counsel

[ 213 Pa. Super. Page 291]

    and his right to remain silent. At about 11:00 p.m., the detectives took an "official" written statement from the appellant which was later admitted into evidence over objection at trial.

Since the trial herein concluded on June 22, 1965, whether or not Brown's constitutional rights were violated at the time his statements were obtained must be determined in light of Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964). See Commonwealth v. Jefferson, 423 Pa. 541, 226 A.2d 765 (1967); Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966). Escobedo requires that a person subject to police questioning be warned of the right to remain silent once "the adversary system" begins to operate. The Supreme Court spoke of the adversary system beginning when the questioning process shifted from the investigatory to the accusatory stage; that is, when it changed from a general inquiry into an unsolved crime to one which "focused" on a particular suspect for the purpose of eliciting a confession. Following the decision in Escobedo, however, the courts experienced considerable difficulty in determining the dividing line between the investigatory and accusatory stages of a police inquiry. See Commonwealth v. Jefferson, supra. In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the court attempted to alleviate this difficulty by saying that an investigation has focused on an accused and the adversary system begins to operate when questioning is ...


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