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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. GREGORY BARNETT (TWO CASES) (02/28/77)

decided: February 28, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
GREGORY BARNETT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., James Garrett, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Stanley M. Shingles, Philadelphia, for appellees.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 471 Pa. Page 36]

OPINION OF THE COURT

These appeals*fn1 were entered by the Commonwealth*fn2 from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia granting Gregory Barnett's motion to suppress certain incriminatory statements*fn3 given to the police. The suppression court granted Barnett's motion because it found from the evidence presented that the statements were the product of an illegal arrest which violated Barnett's fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. We agree that the statements

[ 471 Pa. Page 37]

    were the product of an illegal arrest, and accordingly, affirm the order.*fn4

The relevant facts are as follows:

Vincent Barnett and his wife, Sheryl, were found dead in their residence at 1213 N. 30th Street, Philadelphia. Their bodies were discovered by firemen responding to an alarm concerning a fire at their residence on August 15, 1974. The fire was subsequently determined to have been of an incendiary origin. Although their bodies were partially burned in the fire, the deaths were not the result of the fire. Sheryl had died from a beating and strangulation. Vincent had died as a result of two severe stab wounds of the neck and chest and had suffered numerous other stab woulds. Both bodies were tied at the hands and Vincent's was bound at the feet.

Detective Gilbert of the Philadelphia Police Department was assigned to investigate the killings on the day of the fire. On August 16, 1974, Gilbert met for the first time with Gregory Barnett, Vincent's brother, at his mother's residence next door to the scene of the fire. Gilbert inquired about Vincent's background, but did not pursue the inquiry because Gregory was apparently upset over Vincent's death. Gilbert did not meet with Gregory again until August 29, 1974.

Between August 16 and August 29, the police received an anonymous phone call. The caller suggested Gregory Barnett knew about or was involved in the deaths. Acting on this information alone, Gilbert and other officers went to Barnett's residence at approximately 6:55 a. m. on August 29, 1974. After being voluntarily admitted by Barnett, the police asked Barnett to accompany them to the Police Administration Building for questioning. ...


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