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COMMONWEALTH v. ROSS (07/02/73)

decided: July 2, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROSS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Union County, No. 151 of 1970, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Leroy Ross.

COUNSEL

Raymond J. Lobos, with him Graham C. Showalter, and Groover & Lobos, for appellant.

A. Thomas Wilson, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 452 Pa. Page 502]

The appellant, James L. Ross, was arrested on December 10, 1970 and charged with murder. A jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, for which he was sentenced to serve two to twelve years in a correctional institution. Post-trial motions were denied, and this direct appeal followed.

One Lester Sampsell, a friend of the appellant, was shot and killed on the night of December 9, 1970 (probably soon after midnight, on the morning of December 10) in a wooded area in West Buffalo Township, Union County, Pennsylvania. The scene of the shooting was not far from the home of appellant and the trailer home of appellant's father. The police were alerted to the fact that someone had been shot by telephone calls which Ross made to the office of the sheriff and of the state police from his father's trailer. To the sheriff he declared he had "shot a man and he isn't moving". A little later the victim's father, Herman Sampsell, telephoned to Ross to inquire what was going on. Ross replied, "I got a hell of a lick'n and I know I shot a man".*fn1 The police in due course arrived at the trailer of

[ 452 Pa. Page 503]

Ross, Sr., having first located the scene of the shooting and found Sampsell's body. Immediately upon their arrival, appellant blurted out that he had shot someone, but did not know who. This was repeated several times despite admonition by the police to keep quiet until he had been informed of his constitutional rights. After Miranda warnings had been given, appellant again declared that he had shot a man, this time to the county coroner, a medical doctor, who gave Ross a physical examination. Appellant was placed under arrest and taken to the police station within an hour and a half of his arrest.

A number of trial errors are asserted on this appeal. We find none of them meritorious, and will affirm. The points are considered seriatim.

(1) Appellant contends that his statements to the police officers at his father's trailer and those to the coroner should be suppressed because he had not received the warnings mandated by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed 2d 694 (1966).*fn2 Appellant fails to note that it is custodial interrogation which is prohibited by Miranda, 384 U.S. at 478. Even were we to assume that Ross became "in custody" the moment the police reached the trailer, at no time did the policemen attempt any questioning. To the contrary, Ross was

[ 452 Pa. Page 504]

    warned to "keep quiet", not merely that he had a right to silence. As we had occasion to repeat recently, "'Volunteered statements of any kind are not barred by the Fifth Amendment . . .' and are fully admissible even when not preceded by warnings. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1630 (1966); Commonwealth v. McKinnon, 443 Pa. 183, 186, 278 A.2d 878, 879 (1971); Commonwealth v. Brown, 438 Pa. 52, 56, 265 A.2d 101, 104 (1970); Commonwealth ex rel. Vanderpool v. Russell, 426 Pa. 499, 502, 233 A.2d 246, 247 (1967)." Commonwealth v. Koch, 446 Pa. 469, 476, 288 A.2d 791 (1972). The ...


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