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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLES COCKFIELD (01/29/76)

decided: January 29, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CHARLES COCKFIELD, APPELLANT (THREE CASES)



COUNSEL

Robert B. Mozenter, Donald G. Joel, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., for appellee.

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

Author: Manderino

[ 465 Pa. Page 417]

OPINION

In 1964, appellant Charles Cockfield was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree and arson. Appellant was granted a new trial because of the admission at trial of illegally obtained evidence. Commonwealth v. Cockfield, 431 Pa. 639, 246 A.2d 381 (1968). Upon retrial in 1969, appellant was again convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree. Post-verdict motions were denied and this appeal followed.

Appellant was convicted of the murder of his friend, Ida Quattlebaum, and her two children, all of whom were burned to death in a fire that destroyed their house in 1960. Following his arrest, appellant confessed to having poured gasoline on the porch of Ida Quattlebaum's house, but he denied having ignited the gasoline.

Appellant now argues that his confession should have been suppressed contending that an examination of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the taking of the confession shows that it was not voluntarily given. We do not agree. To be valid, a confession

[ 465 Pa. Page 418]

    must be given free of any physical or psychological coercion which might interfere with one's will to resist. Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961); Commonwealth ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, 429 Pa. 141, 239 A.2d 426 (1968). Appellant does not claim that he was physically abused in any way, but argues that other factors rendered the confession involuntary. Viewing the evidence presented by the Commonwealth and as much of the evidence for the defense as remains uncontradicted, Culombe v. Connecticut, supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Butler v. Rundle, supra, we find that the prosecution has sustained its burden of showing that appellant's confession was voluntarily given.

The facts in the case have been accurately stated by the court en banc as follows:

"Appellant was taken into custody at his home at 1:00 A.M. on April 8, 1960 in connection with the alleged arson-homicide of a Mrs. Quattlebaum and her two children. The defendant was immediately driven to the West Detective Division at 55th and Pine Streets. At 2:00 A.M. until 2:45 A.M. defendant was questioned. He then rested until 3:05 A.M., during which time defendant was offered but declined any food. Questioning resumed at 3:05 A.M. At 4:10 A.M. defendant was given water. Thereafter, from 4:10 A.M. until 6:40 A.M. defendant was again questioned.

"The defendant was later transferred to the Homicide Unit in Room 117 City Hall. Arriving at 9:30 A.M., defendant was given food and rested until 2:00 P.M. at which time he agreed to take a lie detector test, which he subsequently failed. Questioning resumed at 5:30 P.M. Thereafter, at 6:30 P.M., defendant agreed to give a ...


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