James E. Del Bello, Asst. Public Defender, Media, for appellant.
Stephen J. McEwen, Jr., Dist. Atty., Ralph B. D'Iorio, John M. Kenney, John G. Siegle, Asst. Dist. Attys., Media, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., dissents.
Appellant, Woodie Adams, was tried by a jury and found guilty of murder in the first degree on June 19,
. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. No direct appeal was taken. In 1968, appellant filed a petition under the provisions of the Post Conviction Hearing Act. Relief was denied and an appeal was taken to this Court. On November 12, 1970, we remanded the case to the trial court for the filing of post-verdict motions. In accordance with our remand, post-verdict motions were filed. Following an evidentiary hearing, these motions were denied. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends, as he did in post-verdict motions, that he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel in that two witnesses, known to counsel, were not called to corroborate appellant's trial testimony that he was beaten by the police prior to making oral admissions. We agree and thus reverse the judgment of sentence and award a new trial.
On the morning of March 2, 1952, appellant and several other individuals were taken into custody in Wilmington, Delaware, in connection with the stabbing death of Abraham Hughes in Chester, Pennsylvania, earlier that day. Shortly thereafter four Chester detectives arrived in Wilmington to question the suspects and to transport them back to Pennsylvania. The four suspects were taken to a large gymnasium-like room in the Wilmington police station where they were questioned by the Chester detectives in the presence of two Wilmington police officers. During this questioning, appellant made oral inculpatory statements. The suspects were then transported to Chester, Pennsylvania, where appellant signed a statement admitting that he was the sole perpetrator of the crime. This statement was introduced into evidence by the prosecution at trial. On cross-examination, however, appellant contended that he made the confession in Chester in order "to keep from being beaten any more." He testified that when he was first questioned in Wilmington he was kicked and beaten by two of the four Chester detectives. Appellant did not allege that he was mistreated
during the subsequent interrogation in Chester but rather that he confessed because he was "scared" that the beatings would resume if he did not cooperate with his interrogators. Appellant further testified that as a result of the beating he received in Wilmington, he had been under a doctor's care since his arrest. In rebuttal, the prosecution called two of the four Chester detectives who had been sent to Wilmington as well as the two Wilmington police officers who had been present during the interrogation in Wilmington. All four testified that the appellant had not been mistreated in any way. The prosecution next called the official court reporter for the City of Chester who had stenographically recorded and prepared appellant's formal statement in Chester. The court reporter testified that appellant did not indicate in any way that he was being forced to make the statement nor did he request medical attention or bear any physical signs of mistreatment. The prosecution also called Mary Hughes, the victim's mother, who testified that shortly after appellant's arrival in Chester, she confronted and identified appellant in the Chester police station as the man who threatened her with a knife immediately after her son was stabbed. She further stated that during this confrontation appellant admitted to her that he was in fact the man she had seen. The inference which the prosecution attempted to draw from this testimony was that the appellant's confession was motivated by the confrontation with the victim's mother and not by the fear of physical abuse. Finally, the prosecution called the committing magistrate who took appellant's affidavit and witnessed his signature on the formal statement. The magistrate testified that he specifically questioned appellant as to the voluntariness of his statement and as to whether he had been mistreated in any way. Although defense counsel cross-examined each of the prosecution's rebuttal witnesses, he offered no evidence or testimony on the voluntariness issue.
At the evidentiary hearing, held following our remand of November 12, 1970, appellant presented the testimony of Salina Canon who had been a witness for the prosecution at trial. She testified that she had been taken into custody with the appellant, and that she had been present when appellant was interrogated both in Wilmington and later in ...