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COMMONWEALTH v. YOUNT (01/24/74)

decided: January 24, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
YOUNT, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County, May T., 1966, No. 2, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jon E. Yount.

COUNSEL

Francis V. Sabino, with him Harry R. Ruprecht, and Harrison, King, Bowman, Sabino and Gillotti, for appellant.

John K. Reilly, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 455 Pa. Page 306]

In October of 1966, a jury found appellant guilty of the crimes of murder in the first degree and rape. A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. On appeal, this Court reversed the judgment of sentence and granted a new trial because appellant's rights, as mandated by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966), were violated. Commonwealth v. Yount, 435 Pa. 276, 256 A.2d 464 (1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 925, 90 S. Ct. 918 (1970).

On retrial in November, 1970, a jury again found appellant guilty of murder in the first degree,*fn1 and the penalty was again fixed at life imprisonment. Post-trial motions were denied and this direct appeal followed.*fn2 We now affirm.

On April 28, 1966, the body of Pamela Sue Rimer, an eighteen year-old high school student, was discovered in a wooded area near her home in Luthersburg, Pennsylvania. One of her stockings was knotted and tied around her neck. An autopsy revealed that death was caused by strangulation. Further examination disclosed

[ 455 Pa. Page 307]

    three slashes across the victim's throat and cuts of the fingers of her left hand, inflicted by a sharp instrument, and numerous wounds about her head, caused by a blunt instrument.

At approximately 5:45 a.m. on the morning of April 29, 1966, appellant, a teacher at the school the deceased had attended, voluntarily appeared at the state police substation in DuBois, Pennsylvania, and rang the doorbell. An officer opened the door and asked whether he could be of assistance. Appellant stated, "I am the man you are looking for." The officer asked whether he was referring to the "incident in Luthersburg," and appellant responded in the affirmative.

The officer then asked appellant to come into the police station and be seated. Leaving appellant unattended, the officer proceeded to a back bedroom where a detective and another police officer were sleeping, woke them, and informed them that "there was a man in the front that said we are looking for him." He then returned to the front office where appellant, who had removed his coat, hat, and gloves, identified himself as Jon Yount.

After dressing, the detective and the second officer entered the front office. The detective was told by the first officer that appellant's name was Jon Yount. The detective then asked appellant to be seated inside a smaller office adjacent to the front office, where he asked, "Why are we looking for you?" Appellant replied, "I killed that girl." Upon hearing that answer, the detective inquired, "What girl?", and appellant responded, "Pamela Rimer."

In response to the detective's next question, "How did you kill this girl?", appellant answered, "I hit her with a wrench and I choked her." At that point the detective gave appellant admittedly inadequate Miranda warnings, and began interrogation as to the details

[ 455 Pa. Page 308]

    of the crime. A written confession was subsequently obtained.

Prior to appellant's second trial, the question "How did you kill this girl?" and its answer, as well as the written confession were suppressed, on the authority of our prior decision, Commonwealth v. Yount, supra, as violative of Miranda. The admissibility of appellant's initial statements that the police were looking for him in connection with the Luthersburg incident is not challenged, nor could a challenge be successful. See Commonwealth v. Miller, 448 Pa. 114, 121 n.2, 290 A.2d 62, 65 n.2 (1972).

Appellant does contend, however, that the court erred in not suppressing his statement, "I killed that girl," and his identification of the victim as "Pamela Rimer." It is argued that these two admissions were the product of "custodial interrogation" and therefore should have been preceded by Miranda warnings. Appellant argues that warnings were required before the question "Why are we looking for you?" was asked.*fn3

We are asked to determine the precise time when the need for Miranda warnings arose. It is now beyond question that "'whenever an individual is questioned while in custody or while the object of an investigation of which he is the focus, before any questioning begins the individual must be given the warnings established in Miranda. . . .'" Commonwealth v. D'Nicuola, 448 Pa. 54, 57, 292 A.2d 333, 335 (1972) (quoting Commonwealth v. Feldman, 432 Pa. 428, 432, 248 A.2d 1, 3 (1968)). Accord, Commonwealth v. Simala, 434 Pa. 219, 225, 252 A.2d 575, 578 (1969); see Commonwealth v. Hamilton, 445 Pa. 292, 285 A.2d 172 (1971).

[ 455 Pa. Page 309]

It is, however, only that questioning which is interrogation initiated by law enforcement officers which calls for Miranda warnings. Miranda v. Arizona, supra at 444, 86 S. Ct. at 1612. As this Court held in Commonwealth v. Simala, supra at 226, 252 A.2d at 578: "'[I]t is not simply custody plus "questioning," as such, which calls for the Miranda safeguards but custody plus police conduct. . . calculated to, expected to, or likely to, evoke admissions.'" The rationale behind this holding is found in Miranda, where the Court stated: "Confessions remain a proper element in law enforcement. . . . The fundamental import of the privilege . . . is not whether [an individual] is allowed to talk to the police without the benefit of warnings and counsel, but whether he can be interrogated. There is no requirement that the police stop a person who enters a ...


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