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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. FRED E. MOORE (03/17/76)

decided: March 17, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
FRED E. MOORE, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Marjorie A. Weiss, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 466 Pa. Page 512]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On June 20, 1973, after a non-jury trial, appellant Fred E. Moore was convicted of arson and firing personal property. The court imposed a sentence of five years of neuro-psychiatric probation on the arson conviction and a suspended sentence on the firing personal property

[ 466 Pa. Page 513]

    conviction. The Superior Court affirmed by per curiam order, and we granted appellant's petition for appeal.*fn1

Appellant raises four issues: (1) whether there was sufficient evidence to establish the corpus delicti of arson; (2) whether appellant's confession should have been suppressed; (3) whether appellant was denied a separate hearing on the issue of the voluntariness of his confession; and (4) whether appellant was denied effective assistance of counsel. We find the first claim to be meritless, and the second and third claims have been waived. We remand the case to determine whether appellant's fourth claim has merit.

I

Before the Commonwealth may introduce a defendant's confession, it must first establish by independent evidence that a crime has in fact occurred. Commonwealth v. Cockfield, 465 Pa. 415, 350 A.2d 833 (1976); Commonwealth v. Stoltzfus, 462 Pa. 43, 337 A.2d 873 (1975); Commonwealth v. Ware, 459 Pa. 334, 329 A.2d 258 (1974); Commonwealth v. May, 451 Pa. 31, 301 A.2d 368 (1973); Commonwealth v. Leamer, 449 Pa. 76, 295 A.2d 272 (1972); Commonwealth v. Palmer, 448 Pa. 282, 292 A.2d 921 (1972); Commonwealth v. Burns, 409 Pa. 619, 187 A.2d 552 (1963). Thus, before appellant's confession could be properly admitted, the Commonwealth had to establish the corpus delicti of arson -- (1) that a fire occurred, and (2) that it had an incendiary origin. Commonwealth v. Cockfield, supra; Commonwealth v. Leslie, 424 Pa. 331, 334, 227 A.2d 900, 902 (1967). As this Court stated in Ware :

"This rule is rooted in a hesitancy to convict one of crime on the basis of his own statements only. 'The grounds on which the rule ...


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