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COMMONWEALTH v. MAGEE (12/20/71)

decided: December 20, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MAGEE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Feb. T., 1954, No. 2, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Keith L. Magee.

COUNSEL

Andrew J. Conner, with him Dunn, Wolford & Sesler, for appellant.

Michael M. Palmisano, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: O'brien

[ 445 Pa. Page 369]

This is an appeal from a first-degree murder conviction and a judgment of sentence of life imprisonment entered after a jury trial on February 19, 1954. After a series of proceedings which need not concern us,*fn1 appellant was allowed to file motions for a new trial and/or an arrest of judgment, as if they had been timely filed subsequent to his 1954 conviction. After these motions were denied by a court en banc, this appeal was filed.

Appellant's principal argument concerns what he alleges was the improper admission of an inculpatory statement made by him to the Pennsylvania State Police. Even though this matter comes to us on direct appeal, the fact that appellant was not given the Miranda warnings before he made his statement is of no consequence. The exclusion of statements made in the absence of Miranda warnings has been limited to cases coming to trial after Miranda was announced. Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966). Consequently, in determining whether appellant's pretrial statement was properly admitted into evidence, the issue is whether appellant's statements were the product of a free and unconstrained will. Commonwealth v. Madilia, 439 Pa. 125, 266 A.2d 633 (1970).

In the instant case, after appellant filed his post-trial motions, an evidentiary hearing was held on August 24, 1970, to determine the voluntariness of the alleged confessions. Thus, appellant received an independent determination, outside of the presence of a

[ 445 Pa. Page 370]

    jury, of whether his confession was voluntarily made, as he is entitled to under the law enunciated in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), made retroactive in Pennsylvania in Com. ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, 416 Pa. 321, 206 A.2d 283 (1965), at pages 329 and 330.

The evidence at this hearing showed that appellant was arrested by Pennsylvania State Police on November 16, 1953, at his home in Conneaut, Ohio. He was taken in handcuffs and shackles to the Conneaut, Ohio, City Hall for the purpose of finding a judge to sign extradition papers. When no judge was available, appellant indicated he was willing to return to Pennsylvania. Appellant was then taken to the East Springfield Barracks in Pennsylvania, where he was kept from approximately one-thirty in the afternoon to six-thirty, at which time he was questioned and made his statement. During the period of delay, he was given food, cigarettes, and water, but he was not questioned. According to police testimony, the delay was occasioned by the desire on the part of the police first to obtain the statement of one Fred Saltsgiver, who had originally informed the police that appellant had given him a watch formerly belonging to the victim. The police explained that they wanted to confront appellant with Saltsgiver's statement concerning the watch. Even though it was not required at the time, appellant was warned that any statements made by him would be used against him at trial.

The testimony at the hearing indicates that appellant was relaxed and was at no time threatened in any way. Based on the record at the hearing, considering the totality of the circumstances, we cannot find that appellant's confession was anything but voluntarily made.

Appellant also argues that the court erred in charging that the defendant could be found guilty of first-degree ...


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