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COMMONWEALTH v. BROWN (03/25/71)

decided: March 25, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BROWN, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, April T., 1964, No. 179, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. David M. Brown.

COUNSEL

Gerald L. Bowen, and Eagan and Bowen, for appellant.

Stewart J. Greenleaf and Paul W. Tressler, Assistant District Attorneys, Parker H. Wilson, First Assistant District Attorney, and Milton O. Moss, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: Bell

[ 443 Pa. Page 22]

On April 16, 1964, defendant-appellant David M. Brown, along with his co-defendants Daniel Patrick O'Neill and Michael F. McCaffrey, agreed to rob an

[ 443 Pa. Page 23]

    establishment for the alleged purpose of obtaining money for their rent. At approximately 7:30 P.M., the three young men left O'Neill's apartment in Lacey Park, Warminster, and drove a short distance to Montgomeryville, where McCaffrey purchased a box of .38-caliber bullets to be used in O'Neill's revolver. Brown and O'Neill purchased a pair of dark gray stockings to be used to cover their faces during the robbery. They then drove to Willow Grove, intending to rob the Seven Eleven grocery store. Upon arriving at the Seven Eleven store, they decided not to rob the store because of a high fence adjacent to the store which would have impeded their flight and the presence of several patrons in the store. Brown and his co-defendants then proceeded to the nearby town of Glenside at approximately 9 P.M., where they drove past the delicatessen owned by Eugene Jordan. They noticed that Jordan was alone in the store, and drove slowly past the store two more times before they stopped and parked in front of it. O'Neill and Brown placed the stockings over their heads and entered the store, while McCaffrey waited outside with the automobile's engine running. O'Neill had a revolver in his possession and Brown had a billy-club with him as they entered the store. O'Neill told Jordan that they intended to rob him, whereupon Jordan attempted to pull the stocking off O'Neill's head. O'Neill fired the revolver three times at pointblank range into Jordan, which naturally caused his death.

O'Neill and Brown ran out to the waiting automobile and the three men sped off to O'Neill's apartment. Later that evening, O'Neill hid the murder revolver in an abandoned automobile near his apartment. The revolver was found the next morning by a child playing in the automobile and was turned over to the police, who determined after a ballistics test that it was the murder weapon.

[ 443 Pa. Page 24]

The following morning, police from Horsham and Warminster Townships obtained a search warrant for O'Neill's apartment arising out of a wholly independent investigation of a burglary in Horsham Township. A search was made and O'Neill and Brown (who was living with O'Neill at that time) were arrested and first taken to the Warminster police station. They were later taken to Horsham Township for further investigation concerning several burglaries in that area. At approximately 7 P.M., Brown and O'Neill came under suspicion for the murder of Jordan and were taken to the office of the Montgomery County District Attorney in Norristown. Two hours later, both appellant Brown and O'Neill signed confessions detailing their participation in the murder-robbery of Jordan.

Two highly respected members of the Bar were appointed to represent appellant. On April 19, 1965, appellant entered a plea of guilty before President Judge Forrest and Judge Ditter, and after a two-day hearing he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.*fn1 Thereafter, appellant had counsel appointed for a Post Conviction Hearing Act hearing which was held on July 26, 1966. The relief requested, which included four of the present grounds and was basically although not identically the same, was denied. On January 8, 1969, a second P.C.H.A. petition was filed and counsel was again appointed. The lower Court denied his petition but found that appellant had not been informed of his ...


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