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COMMONWEALTH v. SIMMS (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SIMMS, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Aug. T., 1971, Nos. 598 and 599, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert Simms.

COUNSEL

Albert S. Fein, with him Fein, Criden, Johanson, Dolan & Morrissey, P. C., for appellant.

Louis A. Perez, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Jones took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Mr. Justice Eagen concurs in the result.

Author: Roberts

[ 455 Pa. Page 600]

Prior to his trial on charges of murder and aggravated robbery, appellant Robert Simms moved to suppress an allegedly involuntary written confession. Following a hearing, the motion was denied. At trial the defense unsuccessfully renewed its objection; post-trial motions were also denied.*fn1 Simms was found guilty by

[ 455 Pa. Page 601]

    a jury and sentenced to serve concurrent terms of seven and one-half to fifteen years for second degree murder and five to ten years for aggravated robbery. Upon review of all the circumstances, we find appellant's confession involuntary. We reverse and grant a new trial.*fn2

On April 3, 1971, Patrick Jones died, apparently as a result of injuries sustained when he was robbed four days earlier. On May 17, 1971, appellant was arrested at his home at approximately 8:30 p.m., and transported to the Police Administration Building. Appellant was placed in an "interrogation room," constitutionally-required warnings were administered, and police detectives began questioning him about the death of Patrick Jones. During this initial interview, which lasted from 8:55 to 9:50 p.m., appellant denied any knowledge of the robbery-murder.

Simms was not interrogated again until the early morning hours of May 18. At 2:00 a.m., appellant was taken to a room where a polygraph examination was

[ 455 Pa. Page 602]

    administered. The examination ended at 3:30 a.m., and appellant was returned to the interrogation room. Handcuffed to a metal chair, Simms remained there unattended until 9:30 a.m. when questioning resumed. This time, appellant was questioned for approximately ninety minutes.

One-half hour later appellant was taken to the polygraph room where he was again examined. This second polygraph test began at 11:35 a.m. and lasted until 12:45 p.m. Appellant was then returned to the interrogation room where he remained until 3:55 p.m., when a third polygraph examination was administered. Two sessions were involved in this examination which terminated at 5:55 p.m. Fifteen minutes later appellant was fed a light meal. Immediately following his dinner, he began dictating a formal statement. Since appellant cannot read, the "written" statement was read to him and he signed it at ...


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