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COMMONWEALTH v. D'NICUOLA (06/28/72)

decided: June 28, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
D'NICUOLA, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Nov. T., 1969, No. 313, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Thomas P. D'Nicuola.

COUNSEL

Edwin P. Rome, with him Jerome R. Richter, and Blank, Rome, Klaus & Comisky, for appellant.

Charles H. Spaziani, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Nix. Mr. Chief Justice Jones and Mr. Justice Eagen concur in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 448 Pa. Page 55]

Appellant, Thomas D'Nicuola, was arrested on October 22, 1969, and charged with the murder of Thomas Effting. D'Nicuola had been discovered in his automobile on October 20, 1969, by the Easton police in a comatose condition due to an overdose of the drug Doriden, a tranquilizer. At the time he was found in the vehicle, the police also discovered and seized a revolver that had recently been fired three times. It was later determined that this weapon had fired the bullets found in Effting's body.

On October 21, 1969, while a patient in Easton Hospital, D'Nicuola was questioned extensively by the police for 20 to 30 minutes. Allegedly, the interview was conducted as a routine follow-up to the apparent suicide

[ 448 Pa. Page 56]

    attempt by D'Nicuola. However, even though the police were unaware of Thomas Effting's death at the time of the interview, they knew that Effting and D'Nicuola had not kept a previously scheduled appointment with an attorney the preceding day and that Effting was missing. In addition, the revolver found when D'Nicuola was removed from his car was shown to him during the interview and he was asked if it was his, and if so, where he had obtained it. It was at this point, upon further questioning, that certain incriminating statements concerning Effting were made by appellant causing the officers to leave the room after having "enter into mind what possibly did happen." Record, Vol. 1, at 235a.

At a pre-trial suppression hearing appellant attacked the admissibility of the incriminating statements he made to the police while hospitalized but the trial judge denied the motion. The jury convicted D'Nicuola of first degree murder, and fixed the penalty at life imprisonment. Motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were dismissed in an opinion by the Common Pleas Court of Northampton County. This appeal followed.

The crucial issue before us in deciding whether the oral statements made by D'Nicuola are admissible is whether it was necessary under the circumstances of this case to warn him of his right to remain silent and his right to have a lawyer as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The Commonwealth maintains that it was not necessary to issue the Miranda warnings since the police were neither holding appellant in custody so as to restrain his freedom in any significant way nor were they questioning him concerning any particular crime.

When previously confronted with this issue of whether a "custodial ...


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