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COMMONWEALTH v. GEIGER (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GEIGER, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Oct. T., 1959, No. 87, and April T., 1960, No. 1, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. George Patrick Geiger.

COUNSEL

William J. Ober, with him Meffe & Ober, for appellant.

John J. Driscoll, Assistant District Attorney, with him Henry A. Martin, Assistant District Attorney, and Albert M. Nichols, 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

[ 455 Pa. Page 421]

Appellant, George Patrick Geiger, was tried by a judge and jury and found guilty of murder in the first degree in May of 1960. Post-trial motions were filed, but were withdrawn prior to their argument. In 1970,

[ 455 Pa. Page 422]

    appellant filed a Post Conviction Hearing Act petition, alleging, inter alia, that he had been denied his right to appeal. The court below held a hearing and granted appellant the right to file motions for a new trial, nunc pro tunc. These motions were denied and appellant now comes before us on a direct appeal.

In this appeal, appellant challenges the admissibility of certain incriminating statements given by him to members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who apprehended him after he fled the scene of the homicide in Westmoreland County. Although the Ohio officers advised him that he did not have to give a statement, that if he did give a statement, it would be used against him in court, and that he could have an attorney if he desired one, the warnings given to him did not comport with the warnings required by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Even though Miranda was not decided until six years after his trial, appellant argues that since his case is before us on direct appeal, he is entitled to the benefits of the Miranda decision. We do not agree. See Commonwealth v. Willman, 434 Pa. 489, 255 A.2d 534 (1969).

In the case of Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966), the court decided that Miranda, as well as Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964), should apply only to cases commenced after those decisions were announced. As the court explained in an opinion by Chief Justice Earl Warren: "All of the reasons set forth above for making Escobedo and Miranda nonretroactive suggest that these decisions should apply only to trials begun after the decisions were announced. . . ."

As for appellant's contention that his pretrial statements were not voluntary, this, too, must fail. The record indicates that on December 20, 1971, a hearing was held on the voluntariness of appellant's confessions, as

[ 455 Pa. Page 423]

    is required by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), which has been given retroactive effect. See Commonwealth ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, 429 Pa. 141, 239 A.2d 426 (1968). At that hearing, the court found that appellant was given an opportunity to eat and smoke, was advised that he need not give a statement, but that if he chose to give one, it would be used against him in court, and was not subjected to any abuse or threats of abuse. Since the record amply supports the court's finding, it will not be disturbed on appeal. The fact that the Jackson-Denno hearing did not precede submission of the statements to the jury, because the need for such a ...


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