George J. Nagle, Shamokin, for appellant.
Samuel C. Ranck, Dist. Atty., Milton, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion. Nix and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result.
This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed upon Frederick "Fritz" Nahodil following his conviction by a jury of murder in the second degree.
The prosecution emanated from the fatal stabbing of one David Hostler in an alley-way adjacent to a bar in Shamokin, Northumberland County. The sufficiency of the trial evidence to warrant the conviction is not challenged, but it is urged four rulings in the trial court require the grant of a new trial. We are not so convinced.
The first complaint is the refusal of the trial court to grant a pretrial motion to suppress an incriminating statement made by Nahodil while in police custody. It is urged the statement was impermissibly obtained after Nahodil had exercised his constitutional privilege to remain silent, but was then cajoled into talking by a police threat to arrest his girl friend. If these were the facts, the motion to suppress should have been sustained (see Commonwealth v. Mercier, 451 Pa. 211, 302 A.2d 337 1973), and Commonwealth v. Hamilton, 445 Pa. 292,
A.2d 172 (1971)), but our review of the record manifests a different factual picture.
Reviewing the trial court's findings and the record in the manner dictated by Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961), and Commonwealth ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, 429 Pa. 141, 239 A.2d 426 (1968), we find these are the facts:
At approximately 9:55 a. m. on December 17, 1972, Officers Wilbur L. Reidinger and Russell Wolfe of the Shamokin Police Department arrested Nahodil at his home in Shamokin on the charge of murder. He was taken directly to Shamokin City Hall where Officer Wolfe read to him the arrest warrant. Shortly thereafter, Officer Reidinger, in the presence of Officer Wolfe, read to Nahodil a statement of his constitutional rights as mandated by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 80 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). A waiver of rights form was then given to Nahodil on which he wrote that he refused to answer questions. At that point, all interrogation ceased. No promises or threats were made; no questions were asked. However, after two or three minutes passed, Nahodil on his own initiative asked, "Was Hostler dead?" Officer Wolfe replied, "That's what we're here for." Nahodil then retorted that if he knew Hostler was dead, the police would never have picked him up in Shamokin, but that, in any case, he would tell about the fight. The Miranda warnings were repeated a second time and an acknowledgement of knowledge of his constitutional rights, plus a waiver form were signed. Nahodil then gave the police the inculpatory statement of which he now complains.
Under the above facts, the trial court did not err in refusing to suppress evidence of the inculpatory statement. After Nahodil indicated he would not answer any questions, the police were required to ...