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COMMONWEALTH v. HAMILTON (12/20/71)

decided: December 20, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
HAMILTON, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Aug. T., 1964, Nos. 1109 and 1112, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Hamilton.

COUNSEL

Harold L. Randolph, for appellant.

James T. Owens, Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 445 Pa. Page 293]

On March 20, 1968, appellant William Hamilton was tried before a jury and found guilty of murder in

[ 445 Pa. Page 294]

    the first degree under our felony-murder rule. Following denial of post-trial motions by the court en banc, Hamilton was sentenced to life imprisonment.*fn1 The primary question presented for our consideration is whether, in the absence of any Miranda warning,*fn2 an oral confession made by appellant while in the custody of police officers in response to an accusation by a co-conspirator was properly admitted in evidence over timely objection by defense counsel.*fn3

The transcript of the suppression hearing and the notes of trial testimony in the instant case reveal the following facts:

Bernard Simmons, the proprietor of a small grocery store, was killed during the course of a robbery at his store on the night of July 20, 1963. Appellant was arrested on May 22 of the following year on an unrelated charge of burglary. The police admitted at trial that at the time of this arrest appellant was also a suspect in the Simmons murder.

Following his arrest, Hamilton underwent several hours of interrogation concerning the burglary. The following morning appellant was taken to a small office at police headquarters where he was not questioned, but seated, handcuffed to a chair, and guarded by several officers. At the same time, one Edward Bennett, the prime suspect in the Simmons murder

[ 445 Pa. Page 295]

    case, was being questioned by other police officers in a nearby room. Bennett noted Hamilton's presence, and asked his interrogator why Hamilton was there. The officer replied, "[h]e is telling us things." Upon hearing this, Bennett became excited and proceeded to confess to involvement in the murder. Bennett claimed, ...


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