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COMMONWEALTH v. BRUNO (06/27/69)

decided: June 27, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BRUNO, APPELLANT



Appeals from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of the Peace of Montgomery County, April T., 1966, No. 279, and order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 67-8338, in cases of Commonwealth v. John Harry Bruno; and Commonwealth ex rel. John Harry Bruno v. Francis Nailon, Warden.

COUNSEL

Daniel L. Quinlan, Jr., for appellant.

Richard A. Devlin, Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton O. Moss, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 435 Pa. Page 202]

These appeals are from an order of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Montgomery County committing the appellant, John Harry Bruno, to Farview State Hospital and from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County dismissing appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Bruno was arrested on April 26, 1966, and was arraigned the following day on five charges of murder. On May 4, 1966, a preliminary hearing was held at which Bruno entered a plea of not guilty. On June 2, 1966, a grand jury indicted Bruno on five charges of murder.

Meanwhile, on May 13, 1966, the Montgomery County district attorney filed a petition for the appointment of a commission to inquire into Bruno's sanity.

[ 435 Pa. Page 203]

Bruno's counsel filed a motion to dismiss the petition. After argument, the court, on July 6, 1966, denied the motion to dismiss and entered an order appointing a sanity commission. An appeal to this Court followed and was quashed. Commonwealth v. Bruno, 424 Pa. 96, 225 A.2d 241 (1967).

Thereafter the sanity commission held extensive hearings. On June 8, 1967, it submitted its report to the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Montgomery County. The report concludes that Bruno is mentally ill and incompetent to stand trial and that he has criminal tendencies.

On June 12, 1967, the court entered an order committing Bruno to Farview State Hospital, but deferred the execution of the order until June 28, 1967, so that Bruno, his counsel or relatives might request a hearing. Thereupon Bruno's attorney excepted to the sanity commission's report on the ground that the record does not support the commission's conclusions and contains hearsay evidence. On June 30, 1967, the Commonwealth's motion to strike the exceptions was sustained on the ground that Commonwealth v. Ballem, 391 Pa. 626, 139 A.2d 534 (1958), disapproves the exception procedure. On the same day the court directed the commitment of Bruno pursuant to its order of June 12, 1967.

Thereafter, Bruno filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. The petition was dismissed without hearing on the ground that the commitment order was appealable and no useful purpose would be served by a hearing.

These appeals followed.

Appellant's statement of the first question presented to this Court is: "May a sanity commission be substituted for a jury trial?" He contends that: "The substitution of a sanity commission [for a jury trial] violates

[ 435 Pa. Page 204]

    appellant's constitutional right to a jury trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment [to the United States Constitution] and [by] Article I, § 9 [and § 6] of the Pennsylvania Constitution."

To support his contention that a sanity commission has been "substituted" for a jury trial, appellant asserts that his commitment to an institution for the criminally insane is a "sentence" as severe as if he were convicted of the crime with which he is charged.

We cannot agree that a commitment to an institution for the criminally insane is tantamount to a prison sentence. Although Farview State Hospital certainly is not a model institution, see Note, 110 U. Pa. L. Rev. 78 (1961), we are not prepared to say that it is equivalent to a prison. Punitive confinement in a prison is not the same as custodial supervision in a hospital. Rehabilitative programs in a prison are not the same as psychiatric treatment in a hospital. In addition to the fact that the consequences of a commitment to a hospital are not the same as the consequences of a prison sentence, a proceeding determining competency to stand trial is not a "substitute" for a trial determining guilt or innocence of a criminal charge because the two proceedings clearly determine different issues.

Appellant cites Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S. Ct. 836 (1966), apparently to support his contention that he is constitutionally entitled to a jury trial. Pate v. Robinson, however, held only that due process requires a hearing on the competency of an accused to stand trial when the circumstances at trial raised a doubt about his competency. Certainly the decision in Pate v. Robinson did not require a trial on the issue of the accused's guilt or innocence -- the accused had already been tried and convicted. Neither did the decision in Pate v. Robinson require that a jury determine whether the accused was competent to stand trial.

[ 435 Pa. Page 205]

Although the opinion does note in passing that the law of the state which tried and convicted the accused provides for a jury to determine the issue of competency to stand trial, there is no suggestion that due process requires a jury. All the authority which our research has uncovered indicates that the Sixth Amendment does not require that a jury determine the competency of the accused to stand trial. United States v. Davis, 365 F. 2d 251, 256 (6th Cir. 1966), and authorities cited therein. If the Sixth Amendment does not require a jury, certainly the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require it. We have also determined that Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, §§ 6 and 9, does not require a jury trial on this issue. Commonwealth v. Bechtel, 384 Pa. 184, 120 A.2d 295 (1956).

Appellant also submits that his commitment to Farview State Hospital for an indefinite period violates his constitutional right to a "speedy trial."*fn1 All the authorities our research has uncovered indicate that the federal constitutional guarantee of a speedy criminal trial does not require that an incompetent accused be tried. E.g., United States ex rel. Thomas v. Pate, 351 F. 2d 910 (7th Cir. 1965), cert. denied, 383 U.S. 962, 86 S. Ct. 1232 (1966); Howard v. United States,

[ 435 Pa. Page 206261]

F. 2d 729 (5th Cir. 1958); United States v. Miller, 131 F. Supp. 88 (D. Vt. 1955); State v. Violett, 111 N.W. 2d 598 (S.D. 1961). Appellant offers no argument which would lead us to interpret the state constitution differently.

Appellant's statement of the second question presented to this Court is: "May a sanity commission consider 'hearsay' confidential medical records and listen to testimony violative of Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436) and Escobedo v. Illinois (378 U.S. 478)?" He contends that: "The sanity commission's report should have been rejected" because of the alleged errors.

We cannot agree that the sanity commission's inquiry should be restricted as appellant contends.

We have repeatedly said that a sanity commission hearing is not criminal in character. It does not determine whether or not the accused shall be punished. It merely determines, as much for the benefit of the accused as for the benefit of the public, whether or not his mental condition is such that he shall not be tried; and its determination is solely to inform and advise the judge who himself decides whether or not the accused is competent to stand trial and, if he is not, whether or not he should be committed to a hospital pending his recovery. E.g., Commonwealth v. Ballem, supra; Commonwealth v. Bechtel, supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Tate v. Shovlin, 205 Pa. Superior Ct. 370, 208 A.2d 924 (1965).

Given the fact that the sanity commission hearing is not a criminal proceeding, we think that neither the hearsay rule, to the extent that it is mandated by the constitutional right to confrontation, nor Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), are applicable.

Both the decision in Miranda v. Arizona and the right to confrontation derive from constitutional provisions

[ 435 Pa. Page 207]

    which apply only to criminal proceedings. Thus the United States Constitution Provides: "nor shall [any person] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Amend. 5 (Emphasis added.) "In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with witnesses against him . . . and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." Amend. 6 (Emphasis added.) Equivalent provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution also are limited to criminal prosecutions: "In all criminal prosecutions the accused hath a right to be heard by himself and his counsel . . . to meet the witnesses face to face . . . he cannot be compelled to give evidence against himself." Article I, § 9 (Emphasis added.)

Miranda v. Arizona extended the right against self-incrimination and the right to the assistance of counsel from the formal "criminal proceeding," i.e., the trial, to police interrogation. For similar reasons, we long ago indicated that the right against self-incrimination protects a person from being compelled to answer any question propounded to him by those making a mental examination "for the purpose of testifying in regard thereto" at a criminal trial. Commonwealth v. Musto, 348 Pa. 300, 306, 35 A.2d 307, 311 (1944). Both Miranda and Musto simply recognize that the guilt determining process does not begin at trial. The same considerations, however, do not compel us to extend the boundaries of "criminal prosecutions" to include sanity commission hearings which focus on an issue other than the accused's guilt or innocence.

Of course, the constitutional rights which expressly exist in criminal proceedings may also be inherent in the constitutional provisions that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law," which obviously applies in non-criminal as well as in criminal proceedings. We do not believe,

[ 435 Pa. Page 208]

    however, that due process requires the evidentiary restrictions advocated by the appellant. Such restrictions would unnecessarily impede a diagnosis of an accused's mental condition which would be a detriment to the accused as frequently as it would be a detriment to the prosecution. We believe that due process does not mandate these impediments when the purpose of the proceeding is to determine not whether to punish the accused by depriving him of liberty, but whether to help him ...


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