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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PAUL FISHER (01/29/76)

decided: January 29, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA APPELLANT,
v.
PAUL FISHER, APPELLEE (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Harry Spaeth, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Charles Lowenthal, Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 466 Pa. Page 218]

OPINION OF THE COURT

About 3:59 p. m. on July 22, 1974, Robert Clanton was fatally shot on Catherine Street in Philadelphia. Paul Fisher suffered a gunshot wound of the knee in the same incident and following the injury made his way to Graduate Hospital. About 4:30 p. m. Fisher was questioned by a Philadelphia police detective, while he was lying on a stretcher in the hallway of the hospital, as to how he

[ 466 Pa. Page 219]

    was shot. Fisher said nothing inculpatory but his explanation of how he was shot included inconsistencies. The detective then phoned police headquarters and was told of the Clanton homicide. Shortly thereafter, Fisher was taken to a ward in the hospital and when "several gang boys" attempted to enter the ward, a police guard was placed at the door. About 7 p. m. Fisher was again questioned by the same detective for "a few minutes" about how he suffered the gunshot wound.

About 6 p. m. on July 24, 1974, the detective returned to the hospital to question Fisher further about how he suffered his injury and also what he knew concerning the Clanton shooting. When the detective told Fisher one Warren Sexton had been named as "the shooter of Robert Clanton," Fisher said, "Warren Sexton wasn't there at all." The detective then said, "Well, if you know Warren Sexton wasn't there, then you must know more about what happened -- You must know who was there." Fisher replied, "Well, Warren Sexton wasn't there. He didn't shoot him. I did." For the first time Fisher was then given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

A few moments later Fisher's mother and an aunt entered the ward to visit him and the detective said to Fisher "he had better tell his mother what he had told me." Then in answer to questions by the detective, Fisher went on to tell that he shot Clanton and also shot himself accidentally with the same gun. The questions and answers were recorded in handwriting by the detective. Fisher refused to sign this writing and was advised by his mother not to say or do anything further until he talked with a lawyer.

Fisher was subsequently indicted for the murder of Clanton and also for possession of instruments of crime (the gun with which Clanton was shot). Fisher's attorney then filed a motion to suppress the evidence of "all

[ 466 Pa. Page 220]

    statements, both oral and written" given by Fisher to the police. An evidentiary hearing ensued wherein the only witness was the police detective who questioned Fisher on three occasions in the hospital. The detective's testimony is the source of the circumstances of Fisher's questioning set out as facts above. At the conclusion of the testimony, the hearing judge entered an order suppressing all evidence of Fisher's inculpatory statements concerning the Clanton killing. At the same time, the judge dictated to the court reporter in open court his findings and conclusions in support of the suppression order.*fn1 The Commonwealth filed an appeal in this Court from the suppression order in so far as it related to the murder indictment pending against Fisher.*fn2 A related appeal was filed in the Superior Court from the ...


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