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decided: March 18, 1975.



William R. Dimeling, Townsend, Elliott & Munson, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty., David Richman, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., J. T. Ranney, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Jones, C. J., and Pomeroy, J., join. O'Brien, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 461 Pa. Page 180]


In the instant case, the appellant, Roddy Starkes, seeks a reversal of the judgment of sentence on the ground that incriminating statements made by him to police officials

[ 461 Pa. Page 181]

    were improperly introduced into evidence at his trial. After careful consideration of the record before us, we agree with this contention and hold that the judgment of sentence must be reversed and a new trial awarded.

Appellant and a co-defendant, Curtis Redmond, were arrested and charged with the robbery-murder of Mr. Edward Stradling which occurred on February 12, 1970, in the home of the victim. During the course of the robbery the deceased was struck with the butt of a butcher knife and stabbed in the back. Injuries sustained during the course of this attack resulted in his death. The appellant was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree, aggravated robbery, burglary and conspiracy. Post-trial motions were filed and denied, and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on the murder bill of indictment. This direct appeal follows.*fn1

On September 14, 1970, at approximately 2:20 P.M., the investigating officers arrived at the residence of the appellant. They advised appellant's mother that they were conducting an investigation concerning the death of Mr. Stradling and that her son was a suspect. At this time Starkes was fourteen years of age.

At the request of the officers, appellant was taken to the Homicide Unit for questioning. Appellant's mother had been advised that she would be permitted to accompany her son to Police Headquarters, but informed the officers she was unable to go at that time. However, she did state she intended to follow shortly thereafter. Appellant and the police officers arrived at Police Headquarters

[ 461 Pa. Page 182]

    at 3:15 P.M., and at 3:40 P.M., appellant was given the warnings mandated by Miranda v. Arizona.*fn2 The appellant responded to the warnings with monosyllabic responses. No further effort was made on the part of the police officers to determine the extent of Starkes' comprehension of these rights.*fn3 Custodial questioning then began and continued for a period of approximately one hour and twenty minutes, terminating at 5:00 P.M. During this initial period of questioning, appellant denied any knowledge of the incident.

At about 6:00 P.M., appellant's mother joined her son and remained alone with him for a period of time described by her as being "a pretty good while". During the course of the conversation with his mother, she encouraged him to tell the police officers the truth. It is significant to note that she had not been instructed as to the rights of an accused in a criminal case. A second interrogation session commenced at 8:07 P.M., during which appellant's first inculpatory statement was made at approximately 8:45 P.M. The first set of warnings given appellant in the presence of his mother was immediately prior to the commencement of the formal written statement at 12:47 A.M., the following morning.

Prior to trial, a motion to suppress this statement was filed asserting that there was not a knowing and voluntary waiver. After argument, the motion was

[ 461 Pa. Page 183]

    denied. The statement was introduced by the Commonwealth during the trial of the appellant. Objection to the introduction of the statement for the stated reason was again raised in support of post-trial motions, and, thus, has been properly preserved for appellate review.

The Commonwealth has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the accused's confession was obtained after a knowing and intelligent waiver of his constitutional safeguards. Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 460 Pa. 516, 333 A.2d 892 (1975) (J-326 of 1974); Commonwealth v. Ewell, 456 Pa. 589, 319 A.2d 153 (1974); Commonwealth v. Fogan, 449 Pa. 552, 296 A.2d 755 (1972); Commonwealth ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, 429 Pa. 141, 239 A.2d 426 (1968).

Most recently, we observed in Commonwealth v. Goodwin, supra, that:

"The United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) stated that an individual under custodial interrogation, who has been informed properly of his privilege against self-incrimination and the right to counsel, may elect to waive these constitutional rights. However, the Court emphasized that any waiver must be knowing, intelligent and voluntary. Miranda v. Arizona, supra at 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602; Commonwealth v. Purvis, 458 Pa. 359, 326 A.2d 369 (1974); Commonwealth v. Alston, 456 Pa. 128, 317 A.2d 241 (1974); Commonwealth v. Simms, 455 Pa. 599, 317 A.2d 265 (1974); Commonwealth v. Banks, 454 Pa. 401, 311 A.2d 576 (1973); Commonwealth v. Riggins, 451 Pa. 519, 304 A.2d 473 (1973); Commonwealth v. Eiland, 450 Pa. 566, 301 A.2d 651 (1973); Commonwealth v. ...

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