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COMMONWEALTH v. BRITTAIN (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BRITTAIN, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, May T., 1971, No. 207, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Mamie Brittain.

COUNSEL

Louis Lipschitz, for appellant.

James Garrett and David Richman, Assistant District Attorneys, Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 455 Pa. Page 563]

Appellant, Mamie Brittain, was charged with the murder of her friend, Deborah Barley. Following a jury-waived trial, the court found appellant guilty of

[ 455 Pa. Page 564]

    voluntary manslaughter. Post-trial motions were denied, and, on February 27, 1973, sentence of not less than one day nor more than five years imprisonment was imposed. This direct appeal followed.*fn1 We affirm.

On April 10, 1971, the loud playing of a stereo in the Brittain home awakened appellant, who had been taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom. She went downstairs, where Deborah Barley and several mutual friends were listening to music. Deborah was wearing a pair of slacks that she had borrowed without permission from appellant. Appellant recognized her slacks and asked Deborah to remove them. When Deborah refused to comply, an argument ensued. Appellant, who admits she is "very quick tempered," then ran upstairs and got a knife. She returned armed and again demanded her slacks, but Deborah refused. Angered, appellant stabbed Deborah once in the chest. The single wound proved fatal.

Police were immediately summoned. Officer Rogers of the Philadelphia police arrived, saw the victim prostrate on the floor, and asked what had happened. This general inquiry was directed to no one in particular. Mamie Brittain volunteered, "I stabbed her." The officer, without first giving appellant the warnings mandated by Miranda v. Arizona,*fn2 then asked her, "What did you stab her with?" She responded, "A knife; it is upstairs under the bureau." The knife was retrieved and appellant taken to police headquarters.

At police headquarters, a detective advised appellant of her Miranda rights. Appellant indicated her willingness to talk; within one hour a complete oral confession was obtained.*fn3

[ 455 Pa. Page 565]

Prior to trial, defense counsel moved that all statements given both at the Brittain residence and at police headquarters be suppressed. The motion was denied and the statements introduced into evidence over objection. On this appeal, ...


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