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COMMONWEALTH v. CANNON (09/19/73)

decided: September 19, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
CANNON, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1967, Nos. 1266 and 1401, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Calvin Cannon.

COUNSEL

Joseph R. Danella and Kenneth S. Harris, for appellant.

Louis A. Perez, Jr., James T. Ranney and Milton M. Stein Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Pomeroy and Mr. Justice Manderino join in this dissenting opinion. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Roberts and Mr Justice Manderino join in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Jones

[ 453 Pa. Page 391]

On June 26, 1970, appellant was convicted of murder in the first degree and assault with intent to kill.*fn1 This appeal is taken from a sentence of life imprisonment on the conviction of murder. No appeal was taken from the judgment of sentence for assault with intent to kill.

The pertinent facts are as follows: appellant, nineteen years of age, and Gail Bray Cannon were married in August of 1967. On September 1, 1967, appellant and his wife became involved in a marital dispute. When appellant physically abused his wife, she left their apartment and went to stay with her parents, Edna and Ezra Bray. Appellant went to the Bray home to see his wife the day she left and three times the following day. On his first three visits he was not permitted to see her. On the last visit, when he was again denied permission to see her, appellant pulled a

[ 453 Pa. Page 392]

    gun from under his sweater and mortally wounded his mother-in-law, Mrs. Edna Bray. He then turned the gun on Ezra Bray, his father-in-law, but the gun misfired. The appellant's wife heard the shots and ran to her mother's bedroom to telephone the police. Appellant pursued and twice wounded her. When she fled to the basement, appellant gave chase and inflicted several more wounds. He then left the Bray residence and was apprehended three blocks away.

Appellant testified at trial that he had no memory of these events. He maintained that he "blacked out" just before Mrs. Bray was shot and did not remember anything until some time the following day.

Appellant charges the court below with the following errors: (1) the court erred in refusing to suppress the appellant's inculpating custodial statement; (2) the court erred in denying a mistrial; (3) the court incorrectly charged the jury on reasonable doubt and intent; (4) the court improperly refused to charge on voluntary manslaughter; and (5) the court below erred in failing to submit to the jury the question of the voluntariness of appellant's statement.

The claim that the court should have suppressed appellant's confession is grounded upon the contention that he did not have the mental capacity to voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive his right to remain silent. In this connection the appellant introduced the psychiatric reports of several qualified medical experts. This evidence indicates that appellant is a chronic schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies, but that his condition, pre-trial, was in "fairly good remission". There was also evidence that appellant was "oriented in all spheres", and there was no indication that appellant was not able to understand the warnings, consonant with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), which were given him prior to the giving of his statement.

[ 453 Pa. Page 393]

The evidentiary use of a defendant's incriminating statement violates due process if it can be shown that the statement obtained is not the product of a rational intellect and a free will. Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528 (1963); Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293 (1963); Commonwealth v. Holton, 432 Pa. 11, 247 A.2d 228 (1968). The determination of whether a confession is the product of a rational intellect necessitates our consideration of the totality of the circumstances. Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737 (1966); Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199 (1960); Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); Commonwealth v. Holton supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Gaito v. Maroney, 422 Pa. 171, 220 A.2d 628 (1966). In this instance, while the appellant exhibits chronic paranoid schizophrenia, there is no evidence that his condition prevented him from understanding the significance of the inculpating statement he made to his interrogators. In addition, there is no evidence that police took unfair advantage of the appellant's condition. (See: Commonwealth v. Willman, 434 Pa. 489, 255 A.2d 534 (1969)). Nor that the appellant's third grade education kept him from appreciating the consequences of his confession. (See: Commonwealth v. Willman, supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968)). The totality of these circumstances supports the conclusion of the court below that the giving of appellant's statement was voluntary, knowing and intelligent, and not constitutionally infirm.

Appellant also argues that questioning which elicited testimony indicating he had attended the Glen Mills School*fn2 was prejudicial because it alluded to the possibility that he had committed other unrelated ...


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