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COMMONWEALTH v. BARNES (06/28/72)

decided: June 28, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BARNES, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, April T., 1968, No. 2052, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Virginia Barnes.

COUNSEL

Steven M. Dranoff, with him Spivack & Dranoff, for appellant.

Judith Dean, Assistant District Attorney, with her 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.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 448 Pa. Page 301]

We are today asked to determine the proper construction of Section 410(c)*fn1 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966.*fn2 The issue presented is this: After having plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, the defendant is committed under Section 410(c) to a state mental hospital for a period not to exceed six years, but before the expiration of six years no longer requires care and treatment for mental disability and is discharged from the mental institution,

[ 448 Pa. Page 302]

    is the defendant entitled to outright release or still subject to the balance of the six-year sentence imposed? We hold that such a defendant is properly transferred to an appropriate penal institution for compliance with the original sentence.

Appellant Virginia S. Barnes plead guilty on January 30, 1969, to an indictment charging her with voluntary manslaughter. Sentence was delayed until August 26, 1969, pending the completion of a pre-sentence report. On that date appellant was committed to the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry under Section 410(c) with a direction that her mental condition be reviewed within six months. On April 9, 1970, the trial court sentenced appellant to serve a term not to exceed six years pursuant to the provisions of Section 410(c).

After appellant was committed for approximately a year, it became the professional judgment of the Superintendent of the Philadelphia State Hospital that she no longer required psychiatric care and treatment at a mental institution. On May 28, 1971, after a hearing, Judge Doty*fn3 vacated the April 9, 1970, decree and ordered appellant to serve the balance of her six-year sentence in the State Correctional Institution at Muncy.*fn4 Appellant appealed.

[ 448 Pa. Page 303]

In contending that she is entitled to outright release after it was determined that she was no longer in need of psychiatric care and treatment at a mental institution, appellant places primary reliance upon the heading to Section 410. The heading reads: "Commitment in lieu of sentence of person adjudged guilty of crime."*fn5 Appellant argues that a literal reading of that heading evidences a legislative intent to have commitment take the place of sentencing. Her purported syllogism goes as follows: Because ...


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