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COMMONWEALTH v. SINGLETON (07/02/70)

decided: July 2, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SINGLETON, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, May T., 1966, Nos. 5809 to 5811, inclusive, in case of Commonwealth v. Ronald Singleton.

COUNSEL

Joseph R. Danella, with him Louis Lipschitz, for appellant.

James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, with him Brian E. Appel and Benjamin H. Levintow, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 439 Pa. Page 186]

Shortly before midnight on April 16, 1966, Ronald Singleton approached a police officer on the street and reported that his mother, sister and grandmother had

[ 439 Pa. Page 187]

    been beaten in their nearby home. It was soon discovered that the three women were dead, and an intensive investigation was launched. The sixteen-year-old Singleton rapidly became the prime suspect as he began to give increasingly conflicting stories concerning his knowledge of the crime. At approximately 1:30 a.m., he was taken to divisional police headquarters for continued interrogation, and some time around 4:00 a.m., he gave an oral incriminating statement. He was then taken to the Police Administration Building, where a written statement was prepared and signed between 7:15 a.m. and 10:10 a.m.*fn1

At Singleton's jury trial the Commonwealth's case consisted primarily of the incriminating statements obtained from him shortly after the slayings. He was convicted on three counts of murder in the first degree and received sentences of life imprisonment.

The issue on this appeal is whether or not Singleton was fully apprised of and knowingly waived his constitutional rights. The Commonwealth argues the affirmative, relying primarily on the fact that the detective who conducted much of the questioning testified that he informed Singleton of his constitutional privileges some time around 2:30 a.m. on the morning of April 17, 1966, and that Singleton declined to take advantage of those constitutional prerogatives. Singleton, on the other hand, argues that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his constitutional rights, basing his assertion on alleged deficiencies in the substance of the warnings given and on the nature of the circumstances under which they were given. We agree with one of Singleton's contentions, and therefore reverse the judgment of sentence and grant a new trial.

[ 439 Pa. Page 188]

I. Specific Deficiencies in the Required Constitutional Warnings.

The standards applicable in this case are those set forth in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 8 ...


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