Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Sept. T., 1969, No. 76, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Ronald Jones.
Harold L. Randolph, with him Nix & Randolph, for appellant.
Ralph B. D'Iorio, Assistant District Attorney, with him Anna Iwachiw Vadino, Assistant District Attorney, and Stephen J. McEwen, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Nix took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Manderino joins in this dissenting opinion.
About 8:30 p.m. on April 7, 1969, three young men attempted to rob John Courtney and Joseph O'Brien as they walked along a public street in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Courtney was shot by the felons and suffered wounds which caused his death on May 18th. O'Brien was stabbed and shot but survived.
As a result of information uncovered by the police, Ronald Jones, the appellant herein, Alan Pierce and Wesley Groce, three young black males, were arrested for the crimes. After a jury trial Jones was convicted of murder in the first degree, robbery, aggravated assault and battery, assault with intent to kill and conspiracy.*fn1 On the murder conviction he was sentenced
to life imprisonment as the jury's verdict directed.*fn2 From this judgment the instant appeal was filed.
It is asserted certain errors occurred in the prosecution process which require a new trial. These claims of error will be discussed seriatim.*fn3
At trial, a .38 calibre revolver, which expert testimony established fired a bullet recovered from Courtney's body after the occurrence, was introduced in evidence. It is claimed the trial court erred in refusing a motion to suppress this evidence, because it was the product of a search based on an illegally issued warrant. The pertinent facts in the record are these.
During the investigation of the crimes, the Chief of Police of Media, Thomas Bruton, questioned three boys, Roger Carter, James Carter and David Willard Day, who informed him they passed the crime site in an automobile at or about the time of the occurrence involved and someone yelled, "Hey Roger"; that subsequently they talked with Pierce who said he, Groce and Jones committed the attempted robbery; that he (Pierce) fired the shots which injured Courtney and O'Brien and he was the one who yelled "Hey Roger" to Roger Carter. A search warrant was then obtained for the residence of an uncle of Jones (with whom he resided) and the revolver was uncovered and seized in the search.
In support of the issuance of the search warrant, the Chief of Police of Media, Thomas Bruton, submitted a written affidavit to the magistrate which stated Jones was a participant in the holdup and assault of Courtney and O'Brien. It also included a detailed description of the premises to be searched, plus the following: "He [Bruton] has reason to believe and which he had relied upon making this affidavit, that Ronald Jones lives at the said address and he was a participant in the foregoing holdup in which a gun was used according to the witnesses as well as other testimony given by Chief Bruton and Rocco P. Urella." The foregoing affidavit did not meet constitutional standards (Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 84 S. Ct. 1509 (1964)), however, at the suppression hearing it was established that before the warrant issued, Chief of Police Bruton, while under oath, also supplied the magistrate with the background of the crimes and also told him of the information he received from Roger Carter, James Carter and David Willard Day, all of whom he knew for years and considered "honest." The officer also gave the magistrate a description of the three felons as supplied by witnesses who saw them fleeing from the scene.
The sufficiency of the combined oral and written information supplied to the magistrate to sustain a finding of probable cause is not challenged.*fn4 Jones'
police questioning. The uncontradicted testimony of the police officers shows Jones understood each of the warnings and readily manifested a willingness to cooperate and answer the questions of the police. There were no threats, promises or tricks employed by the authorities, and the two periods of interrogation were relatively short in duration. Moreover, Jones was well fed during the time of his custody and he was not in a state of fatigue. Furthermore, his uncle (his legal guardian) William Jones, was present during the time Jones was given the "Miranda" warnings and throughout the interrogation period. Another member of his family, a Mrs. Bennett, an aunt, was also present during the interrogation. The testimony of the police establishes that ...