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COMMONWEALTH v. ABRAMS (06/28/71)

decided: June 28, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ABRAMS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Sept. T., 1967, No. 969, in case of Commonwealth v. Thomas E. Abrams.

COUNSEL

Hyman Lovitz, with him Dennis E. Haggerty and Briscoe & Haggerty, for appellant.

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

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 443 Pa. Page 296]

This is an appeal from judgment of sentence following a jury verdict finding Thomas Abrams guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of one George Welhof. Briefly stated, the facts are as follows:

During the early morning hours of August 3, 1967, appellant Abrams called the police to the ramshackle residence of Welhof, a seventy year old derelict. Abrams met the police and directed them to the third floor of the building where the police found Welhof, filthy, disheveled and unconscious. With Abrams at the time was one Dorothy Lorimer, the second floor tenant of the dwelling, whom Abrams had been visiting. The

[ 443 Pa. Page 297]

    police wagon crew treated the case as an ordinary hospital case, interviewing Abrams and Mrs. Lorimer briefly before taking Welhof to the hospital. Welhof was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at the hospital.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Welhof had died as a result of multiple injuries to his head, neck and thorax. Upon determining that a homicide had been committed and receiving a statement from Mrs. Lorimer that tended to implicate Abrams, the police took Abrams into custody for questioning at 8:20 A.M. on the following day, August 4, 1967. Upon his arrival at police headquarters Abrams was given something to eat. At approximately 11:30 A.M. the warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) were read to Abrams, and he was interviewed for the first time. After approximately two hours of oral questioning, Abrams gave an oral exculpatory statement; the burden of that statement was that he had been visiting Mrs. Lorimer in her apartment on the evening in question; that they heard a moan from Welhof's apartment on the third floor; and that upon investigation, they found Welhof, bloody and unconscious, and summoned the police.

After he had given this statement, Abrams requested and was given permission to telephone a lawyer whom he had retained on a prior occasion.*fn1 Following this telephone conversation, Abrams rested for a period of

[ 443 Pa. Page 298]

    time and at approximately 3:30 P.M. asked to take a lie detector test. The test was given, and following its conclusion, Abrams was questioned for a second time beginning at 7:30 P.M. The Miranda warnings were not repeated immediately prior to this interrogation. In the course of this questioning Abrams made an inculpatory statement to police, the substance of which was that he had beaten Welhof when he refused to rent him a room. Thereafter the Miranda warnings were repeated for a second time. Abrams indicated that he had no desire to consult a lawyer, stating that he had already spoken to his lawyer, and the police reduced the substance ...


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