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COMMONWEALTH v. JOHNSON (10/16/74)

decided: October 16, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JOHNSON, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, May T., 1972, Nos. 147, 148 and 151, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Nathaniel Johnson.

COUNSEL

Michael J. Stack, Jr., with him O'Halloran, Stack & Smith, P. C., for appellant.

David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, with him Michael R. Stiles, Assistant District Attorney, 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 O'Brien. Mr. Justice Nix concurs in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Chief Justice Jones and Mr. Justice Eagen join in this dissenting opinion.

Author: O'brien

[ 458 Pa. Page 426]

Appellant, Nathaniel Johnson, aged fourteen, was tried by a judge and jury and found guilty of murder in the first degree and two counts of aggravated robbery. Post-trial motions were denied, and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment, to commence after he becomes of age. This appeal followed.

[ 458 Pa. Page 427]

On March 23, 1972, Louis Gentile and David Merrone were approached by four male youths at the corner of Fifty-ninth and Trinity Streets in Philadelphia. The youths asked Merrone and Gentile for money. They refused and were then assaulted. Gentile was punched in the face and Merrone was stabbed. The four youths fled the scene and were apprehended together in a residence located at 5825 Trinity Avenue. Merrone subsequently died as a result of the stab wounds.

Appellant was arrested at 10:10 P.M., on March 23, 1972, and was transported to police headquarters, where his questioning began at 10:50 P.M. At this time appellant was given his Miranda warnings. The interview lasted until 11:30 P.M., during which time appellant denied any involvement in the homicide. Appellant was then left alone until 1:35 A.M., on March 24, 1972, at which time he was interrogated until 2:05 A.M. During this period, appellant orally admitted his involvement in the homicide. Appellant was then questioned from 2:45 A.M., until 3:00 A.M. At 3:30 A.M., appellant's mother arrived at police headquarters, at the request of police. Appellant spoke with his mother. After appellant and his mother spoke, she was told about appellant's Miranda rights, and at 4:53 A.M., appellant, with his mother's consent, was given a polygraph test, which lasted until 6:38 A.M. At 7:00 A.M., appellant was confronted with a co-defendant in the case and returned to the interrogation room. Appellant then gave a formal typewritten statement, admitting that he passed the knife from its owner to Andre, the boy who actually stabbed the victim, after Andre had requested a knife, At 8:40 A.M., this statement was completed and signed by appellant and his mother. Appellant filed a pretrial motion to suppress this confession. The motion was denied and the confession was used as evidence against him at trial.

[ 458 Pa. Page 428]

Appellant now argues, and we agree, that appellant's confession should have been suppressed as the product of an unnecessary delay between his arrest and his arraignment. See Commonwealth v. Futch, 447 Pa. 389, 290 A.2d 417 (1972).

Appellant denied knowledge of the homicide when he was first questioned at 10:50 P.M., on March 23; it was clear that appellant was not willing to co-operate with the police. If appellant had admitted his knowledge of the homicide, it might have been proper to continue the interrogation. See Commonwealth v. Cherry, 457 Pa. 201, 321 A.2d 611 (1974), where we explained that: ". . . it may be permissible to delay the arraignment of an arrested individual if he initially indicates a willingness to co-operate, in order to obtain information from him about co-suspects or other evidence so that such co-suspects or evidence might be speedily located while still in the vicinity . . . ."

Moreover, the fact that appellant did not co-operate with the police and the absence of any intervening events between the initial questioning and the questioning which began at 1:35 A.M., indicate that it was the delay which caused appellant to change his mind and decide to admit his involvement in the killing. We also note that the Commonwealth has advanced no reason for the delay, which leads us to the conclusion that the Commonwealth delayed the arraignment of this fourteen-year-old defendant with the specific intention of obtaining his confession. Rule 118*fn* ...


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