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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CAROLYN SAUNDERS (01/27/75)

decided: January 27, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CAROLYN SAUNDERS, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Joseph Michael Smith, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Nix, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, J., joined.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 459 Pa. Page 679]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Carolyn Saunders was convicted of murder in the second degree following a trial without a jury. Post-trial motions were denied and she was sentenced to two and one-half to ten years imprisonment at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy. This direct appeal followed. Miss Saunders has challenged the admissibility of an inculpatory statement which she gave the police and which was introduced into evidence, over objection, at trial; she also asserts that the sentence imposed was illegal. We affirm.

[ 459 Pa. Page 680]

Briefly stated, the evidence adduced at trial established that on the morning of Sunday, June 24, 1973, shortly before 9:00 A.M., one Gladys Mae Pearson, also known as "Gypsy", went to the apartment of one Earl Archie in order to buy narcotics. Present with Archie in the apartment were the appellant and one Veronica Tucker. Because Gypsy did not have enough money to pay for the narcotics, Archie refused to sell to her. An argument ensued and Gypsy departed.

On the street outside the apartment Gypsy encountered a friend, Fred Jones, and the two stood talking on the sidewalk directly beneath the windows of Archie's apartment, which was on the second floor at the front of the building. Jones then began arguing with Archie and the two women who were standing at the windows of the apartment. As the argument continued, Jones drew a pistol and fired.*fn1 After exchanging a few more angry words with the trio in the window, Gypsy and Jones then crossed the street and entered Jones's automobile. Just as Jones started his car, he was struck by a shotgun blast fired from the apartment window. Jones subsequently died from the wound.

Shortly after the shooting, appellant and Miss Tucker were seen fleeing the apartment building. That evening, at approximately 10:20 P.M., Carolyn Saunders was arrested and charged with Jones' murder. Upon being interrogated at the police administration building, she initially denied being the shooter. She later was given a polygraph test and after being told that she had failed it she gave the statement which was introduced at trial. This occurred between 6:15 and 6:45 o'clock on the morning following her arrest. In the statement appellant admitted firing the fatal shot but claimed that she was merely trying to hit the side of the car when she fired, and that the striking of Jones was accidental.

[ 459 Pa. Page 681]

Appellant contends that this statement was improperly admitted into evidence because it was obtained during an "unnecessary delay" between the time of her arrest and her arraignment in violation of Pa.R.Cr.P. 118 (now Rule 130, 19 P.S. Appendix, and was the product of the delay. Commonwealth v. Futch, 447 Pa. 389, 290 A.2d 417 (1972). Whether or not this is a tenable proposition in light of all the circumstances disclosed by the record, appellant is precluded from asserting it as error.

Carolyn Saunders herself took the stand at trial and gave almost verbatim the same version of the episode as that contained in the statement which was introduced into evidence. We have held a number of times that such corroborative testimony by a defendant disentitles him from claiming that an error in admitting a statement constitutes ground for reversal. Commonwealth v. Greene, 456 Pa. 195, 198, 317 A.2d 268 (1974); Commonwealth v. Collins, 436 Pa. 114, 121-122, 259 A.2d 160, 164 (1969); Commonwealth ex rel. Edowski v. Maroney, 423 Pa. 229, 223 A.2d 749, 752 (1966); Commonwealth ex rel. Adderley v. Myers, 418 Pa. 366, 211 A.2d 481 (1965). See also, Commonwealth v. Witherspoon, 442 Pa. 597, 277 A.2d 827 (1971); Commonwealth v. Diaz, 438 Pa. 356, 264 A.2d 592 (1970); ...


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