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COMMONWEALTH v. WARE (12/20/71)

decided: December 20, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WARE, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Dec. T., 1963, Nos. 328, 343, 345 and 349, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Paul D. Ware.

COUNSEL

J. Charles Short, for appellant.

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

H. Robert Fiebach, for amicus curiae.

Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Jones concurs in the result. Mr. Justice O'Brien joined in the opinion of the Court and filed a concurring opinion. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice Pomeroy took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 446 Pa. Page 53]

The Commonwealth in this appeal calls upon this Court to hold the federal constitutional standards of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), inapplicable to a 1963 confession sought to be introduced in a post- Miranda trial. This contention must be rejected. It ignores the controlling and unambiguous pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court concerning the extent of Miranda's retroactivity. These pronouncements have been scrupulously followed not only by an unbroken line of decisions of this Court*fn1 but also by virtually every other court in the nation which has dealt with the issue.*fn2

The procedural history of the present appeal is as follows: On October 3, 1963, appellant Paul Ware confessed to the commission of four murders. The statements were elicited from him in the course of custodial interrogation and were not preceded by the warnings of constitutional rights mandated by Miranda. A murder indictment was returned against appellant in December of 1963, but further prosecution was postponed as a result of his commitment to Farview State Hospital pursuant to a court order declaring him to be mentally incompetent to stand trial.

In July of 1967, appellant was found to have regained his competency, and his case was listed for trial. However, on May 23, 1968, the Philadelphia Court of

[ 446 Pa. Page 54]

Common Pleas ordered the 1963 confessions suppressed for the reason that they had been obtained in circumstances violative of Miranda. In light of the suppression order and the absence of other independent evidence of appellant's guilt, the Commonwealth petitioned for the entry of a nolle prosequi. Appellant offered no objection, and the court approved the nolle prosequi.

On August 11, 1969, more than one year after the original suppression order and nine months after the entry of the nolle prosequi, the Commonwealth changed its position and moved for removal of the nolle prosequi. The motion was granted over appellant's objection, and the Commonwealth then petitioned the court to vacate its prior suppression order and allow a rehearing of the matter. This request was likewise granted over objection, and a suppression hearing was held on June 25 and June 26, 1970. On November 13, 1970, the court of common pleas held that the confessions were admissible in evidence notwithstanding the conceded absence of Miranda warnings. This appeal followed.*fn3

The Commonwealth argues in defense of the trial court's suppression order that the standards of Miranda should not apply to a ...


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