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COMMONWEALTH v. PURVIS (10/16/74)

decided: October 16, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PURVIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, May T., 1971, No. 1186, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Roosevelt Purvis.

COUNSEL

Earl W. Trent, Jr., for appellant.

Benjamin H. Levintow, Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Nix

[ 458 Pa. Page 360]

Appellant, Roosevelt Purvis, was charged with the murder of one Eulie Moss. Following denial of his motion to suppress his written confession as involuntary, appellant was tried and convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree. The jury, subsequently,

[ 458 Pa. Page 361]

    fixed the penalty at life imprisonment. Post-trial motions were filed, argued and denied by a court en banc. Thereafter, appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment, in accordance with the penalty fixed by the jury. Appellant has appealed to this Court from the judgment of sentence. Upon review of all the circumstances, we find appellant's confession involuntary. We reverse and grant a new trial.

On April 13, 1971, at about 6:30 P.M., one Eulie Moss was stabbed in the chest on a street in Philadelphia and from the aforesaid wound he later died. Police were summoned to the scene of the incident where already a crowd had gathered. There, one of the officers heard someone in the crowd say that homicide was committed by "Sugar Bear." The officer was aware that this particular nickname was shared by two individuals in the area and was aware that one of the two persons was at that moment out of town. After having taken the victim to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, the officers were directed to take the deceased's body to the morgue. However, it was necessary that they first file reports of the incident at the police station. At approximately 8:20 P.M. en route to the station, one of the officers, who personally knew the appellant, observed him walking on the street and immediately stopped him. Appellant was taken into custody for investigation in connection with the homicide in question and placed in the rear of the police vehicle which he shared with the body of the deceased. After delivering the body of the deceased to the morgue, the appellant was taken to the homicide unit at the Police Administration Building, arriving there at about 9:00 P.M.

At 9:20 P.M. questioning of the appellant was commenced by Detectives Brown and Bittenbender. Prior to the questioning, appellant's constitutionally required warnings were administered. The initial interview lasted

[ 458 Pa. Page 362]

    until 10:30 P.M. whereupon appellant was taken to the bathroom. The interrogation was thereafter resumed at 10:40 P.M. and finally terminated at 11:10 P.M. During the course of the two interviews, the appellant vigorously asserted that he had no connection with the homicide then under investigation.

At 12:30 A.M., on Wednesday, April 14, 1971, Purvis was given a light meal and an hour later at 1:30 A.M. was taken out of the interrogation room for the first of two polygraph examinations he would experience during his detention. Following the first polygraph examination, the appellant was subjected to a third interrogation by Detective Brown which lasted one hour from 2:50 A.M. until 3:50 A.M. As during his previous interrogations, Purvis denied any connection with the crime then under investigation. Following the termination of questioning, the appellant was left alone in the ...


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