No. 265 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section, as of No. 889, January Sessions, 1972
Rudolph S. Pallastrone, George A. Bachetti, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Michael R. Stiles, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ. Packel, former J., did not participate in the decision of this case. Manderino, J., concurs in the result.
In October of 1974 appellant, Charles John Oakes, was convicted by a jury for the second time of murder in the first degree in the beating death of Eleanor Sanchez. Post-verdict motions were denied by a court en banc and defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for life. This appeal followed.*fn1 It requires us to consider whether a court en banc, in passing upon post-verdict motions challenging the admissibility of certain evidence following a retrial of a criminal defendant, is bound by the post-trial ruling of a previous court en banc sitting after the first trial to the effect that the evidence in question was admissible. The court of common pleas felt that it was so bound. We disagree, and will remand to the trial court for renewed consideration of those portions of appellant's post-trial motions which it declined to entertain.
The record discloses that on the morning of November 12, 1971, the lifeless body of Eleanor Sanchez was discovered in her home in Philadelphia. Based on information obtained at the scene of the crime, Charles Oakes was arrested at 10:45 A.M. the same morning. He remained in police custody until the time of his arraignment on murder charges some thirty-six hours later. During this period Oakes made three incriminating statements which, prior to his first trial in April of 1973, he moved to suppress on the ground that they were illegally obtained. The motion was denied and all three statements were introduced into evidence during the course of that trial, which resulted in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Oakes then filed post-trial motions alleging that the suppression court had erred in refusing to suppress the three statements. The court en
banc agreed with respect to the third statement and awarded a new trial.*fn2
Prior to retrial, Oakes sought to have the remaining two statements suppressed but the judge hearing that motion refused to consider the issue or to conduct a new suppression hearing. See Commonwealth v. Harmon, 469 Pa. 490, 366 A.2d 895 (1976); Commonwealth v. DeMichel, 442 Pa. 553, 277 A.2d 159 (1971); Commonwealth v. Throckmorton, 241 Pa. Super. 62, 359 A.2d 444 (1976). The two statements were again introduced into evidence at the second trial and again a jury convicted appellant of murder in the first degree. In the new post-trial motions which Oakes then filed he again contended that the two statements were inadmissible.*fn3 Like the hearing judge, the new court en banc refused to consider any issues decided by the court en banc which sat on post-trial motions following the first trial. The remaining allegations of error in Oakes' post-trial motions were rejected and sentence was imposed. This appeal was then filed.
In refusing to consider appellant's post-trial claims relating to the suppression of evidence, the second court en banc reasoned that it was without the power to overrule the previous court en banc since both courts were of equal authority. We disagree; while this consideration ...