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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. KENNETH IRVIN (07/07/75)

decided: July 7, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
KENNETH IRVIN, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Gilbert B. Abramson, Joseph Danella, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Spector, Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Nix

[ 462 Pa. Page 385]

Opinion

Appellant was charged and indicted along with four (4) other youths for the fatal stabbing of one Isaac Saltzman which occurred in the City of Philadelphia on or about July 30, 1970. In a separate trial, appellant was found guilty by a jury of murder in the second degree and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than five (5) years nor more than fifteen (15) years.*fn1 This direct appeal follows.

In the instant appeal, the appellant seeks a reversal of the judgment of sentence on the ground that incriminatory statements made by him to police officials were improperly introduced into evidence at trial. We agree and for the reasons that follow reverse the judgment of sentence and award a new trial.

[ 462 Pa. Page 386]

Appellant was arrested on August 1, 1970, at or about 8:30 A.M. At the time of his arrest, he was seventeen (17) years ten (10) months of age. Appellant arrived at police homicide headquarters at 9:40 A.M.; the interrogation process commenced at 9:40 A.M. and resulted in a signed statement at 3:55 A.M. on August 2, 1970.

During this span of nineteen (19) hours and twenty-five (25) minutes there were ten (10) custodial interrogation periods ranging in duration from twenty (20) minutes to almost three (3) hours. The questioning was conducted by four (4) investigating detectives. Between these periods of questioning appellant was at liberty to move about in the room where he had been placed. The room was approximately twelve (12) feet by twelve (12) feet containing a desk and chairs. He was fed on three (3) occasions and permitted to have water and use the lavatory facilities when requested.

In determining the validity of a confession, it must be established that the decision to speak was the product of a free and uncoerced choice of its maker.

"The ultimate test remains that which has been the only clearly established test in Anglo-American courts for two hundred years; the test of voluntariness. Is the confession the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice by its maker ? If it is, if he has willed to confess, it may be used against him. If it is not, if his will has been overborne and his capacity for self-determination critically impaired, the use of his confession offends due process. Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534. The line of distinction is that at which governing self-direction is lost and compulsion, of whatever nature or however infused, propels or helps to propel the confession." Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 602, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 1879, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961). (Emphasis Added)

See also, Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 460 Pa. 516, 333 A.2d 892 (1975); Commonwealth ...


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