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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PURCELL BRONSON (10/27/78)

decided: October 27, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
PURCELL BRONSON, APPELLANT



No. 737 January Term 1977, Appeal from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section of Philadelphia, at Nos. 1732-1737, March Sessions 1977.

COUNSEL

Martin A. Ostrow, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Edward G. Rendell, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Dist. Atty., Glenn Gitomu, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which O'Brien, J., joined.

Author: Eagen

[ 482 Pa. Page 208]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This case involves an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia denying a motion to dismiss and/or quash criminal charges on the basis of double jeopardy.

[ 482 Pa. Page 209]

The controversy arises from the following facts:

Purcell Bronson was arrested on March 12, 1977, and informations were returned as of March Term 1977, for murder, robbery, burglary, conspiracy, possession of instrument of crime generally and concealed weapon specifically, and prohibited offensive weapon. On May 18, 1977, a motion to suppress physical evidence was denied, and a motion to suppress statements was granted in part and denied in part. A motion to suppress identification testimony was reserved until the time of trial.

The jury selection process commenced on July 5, 1977. On that date, Bronson moved for a continuance based on discovery of a potential alibi witness. The motion was denied when it became apparent that Bronson had knowledge of this witness prior to the date the case was listed for trial. In addition, Bronson requested that court-appointed counsel withdraw because he had attempted to obtain a pretrial plea bargain. This motion was also denied when a document authorizing counsel's action and signed by Bronson was produced in court and made part of the record. Bronson then refused to participate further in the proceedings.

On July 6, 1977, Bronson's counsel requested a continuance to obtain a psychiatric evaluation of his client. Although Bronson had not previously claimed to have any mental health problems, he had now submitted to his counsel a pro se memorandum of law in support of such a motion seeking a mental examination and advising he had informed counsel that he was not competent to stand trial. The court denied the motion, and proceeded to take testimony on the motion to suppress identification.

On July 13, 1977, during the jury selection process, Bronson requested medical attention, through counsel, for physical illness. Seven jurors had been selected by that time. Court was recessed so that Bronson could be examined by a physician, but the examination revealed no physical problem. Because of Bronson's behavior, the court ordered a ...


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