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COMMONWEALTH v. WILLMAN (06/27/69)

decided: June 27, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WILLMAN, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Erie County, Nov. T., 1963, No. 166, in case of Commonwealth v. John Willman.

COUNSEL

Vedder J. White, with him Will J. Schaaf, for appellant.

Richard F. Brabender, Assistant District Attorney, with him Michael M. Palmisano, Assistant District Attorney, and William E. Pfadt, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 434 Pa. Page 490]

Appellant was arrested on July 13, 1963 on a charge of assault with intent to ravish. During the initial interrogation appellant was asked about a murder in a different case, committed in 1960, and appellant admitted that he had committed that crime. Appellant on July 13 and 14 gave several oral statements and a written confession admitting the murder. On July 18, appellant was taken to the Erie County Jail. On August 31, 1963, appellant gave another written confession. In the period between July 18 and August 31, appellant was questioned intermittently by police.

On January 17, 1964, after a pretrial suppression hearing, appellant's confessions were ruled admissible. On February 9, 1964, appellant was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was taken.

[ 434 Pa. Page 491]

On May 2, 1968, appellant received post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court held the August 31 confession to have been involuntary and thus inadmissible and granted appellant a new trial. The July 13 and 14 statements and confessions of appellant were held voluntary and were admitted at appellant's retrial over objection. On September 23, 1968 a jury convicted appellant of murder in the second degree, appellant's motion for a new trial was denied, and appellant took this appeal.

Since it is conceded that appellant was not given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), before giving the confessions now at issue, appellant argues that those confessions were erroneously admitted at his second trial. Appellant contends that although his first trial took place before Miranda, his retrial took place after Miranda and thus in the second trial, the Miranda rules apply.

Appellant's contention has recently been rejected by the Supreme Court of the United States as a result compelled by the Constitution of the United States as interpreted in Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 86 S. Ct. 1772 (1966), the case which delineated the extent to which Miranda would apply. See Jenkins v. Delaware, 395 U.S. 213, 37 L.W. 4458 (1969). Although both Johnson and Jenkins permit us, as a matter of state law, to apply Miranda more broadly than would the Supreme Court of the United States we choose not to do so.

The opinion in Jenkins indicates that the Court in Johnson was attempting to strike a balance between the need for even-handed administration of justice and administrative burden placed on the law enforcement system by retroactive application. It is ...


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