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COMMONWEALTH v. BIAGIARELLI (11/26/73)

decided: November 26, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BIAGIARELLI, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, Sept. T., 1970, No. 6298, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Peter J. Biagiarelli.

COUNSEL

John H. Corbett, Jr. and John J. Dean, Assistant Public Defenders, and George H. Ross, Public Defender, for appellant.

Robert L. Eberhardt and Louis R. Paulick, Assistant District Attorneys, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien.

Author: O'brien

[ 454 Pa. Page 265]

Appellant, Peter J. Biagiarelli, was tried by a jury and convicted of murder in the first degree. Post-trial motions were filed, but appellant's counsel failed to appear at the argument of the post-trial motions and they were dismissed. No appeal was filed from the judgment of sentence. Appellant then filed a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition, alleging that he was not informed that his counsel failed to appear at the proper time for argument of his post-trial motions and that he was deprived of his right to file an appeal from the judgment of sentence. A hearing was held on the allegations in appellant's Post Conviction Hearing Act petition and an order was entered directing appellant's post-trial motions be reinstated. The post-trial motions were then argued and denied and appellant was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment in a state correctional institution. This appeal followed.

On April 8, 1970, the body of a young Negro male, Alvin Harris, was discovered by Officer William Long, on Nine Mile Point Road in Allegheny County. The body was taken to a morgue, where an autopsy indicated that death was caused by two bullet wounds of the head. In connection with the investigation of the crime, the police arrested appellant on April 10, 1970,*fn1 and

[ 454 Pa. Page 266]

    transported him to the Public Safety Building in Pittsburgh, where some hours after his initial arrest appellant gave a confession that he had participated in the murder.

Appellant first alleges that the court below erred in refusing to suppress his confession at a suppression hearing. Appellant argues that his confession was involuntary due to the fact that he was a drug addict and was suffering withdrawal symptoms at the time he gave his confession.

The testimony given by the police officers at the suppression hearing indicates that appellant was in good physical condition at the time he gave his confession and that he appeared to be lucid and normal in every respect. The officers further testified that appellant fully understood the Miranda warnings that were given to him and that he voluntarily waived those rights. Appellant, at his suppression hearing, presented testimony through himself, his mother and his wife that he was in fact addicted to narcotic drugs. However, neither appellant's mother nor his wife saw him on the day of his arrest or any time immediately preceding his arrest, so that they could not testify as to his condition on the day he was arrested. Appellant, himself, testified that he was addicted to drugs and that the only reason he signed the confession was because of the severe pain he was in due to his narcotics withdrawal symptoms. However, on cross-examination at his suppression hearing, appellant, when asked if he told the officials at the Allegheny County Jail of his pain, admitted that he did not, claiming that he feared mistreatment by the jail personal if they knew that he was a drug addict. It is by this evidence that appellant seeks to prove his confession was involuntary.

In Commonwealth v. Smith, 447 Pa. 457, 461, 291 A.2d 103, 104 (1972), when discussing voluntariness of confessions, we ...


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