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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. THOMAS J. TAYLOR (07/02/81)

decided: July 2, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
v.
THOMAS J. TAYLOR, APPELLANT



No. 80-1-84, Appeal from the Order Dated April 2, 1980 and From the Derivative Judgment of April 9, 1980 of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, No. 1315 of 1974

COUNSEL

James K. McNamara, Quinn, Gent, Buseck & Leemhuis, Inc., Erie, for appellant.

Michael J. Veshecco, Dist. Atty., Frank Scutella, Asst. Dist. Atty., Erie, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman, and Wilkinson, JJ. Roberts, Nix and Larsen, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Flaherty

[ 494 Pa. Page 401]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from judgment of sentence on a criminal homicide conviction of voluntary manslaughter entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County. After careful review of the record we affirm.

Taylor was convicted of voluntary manslaughter by a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County on February 22, 1975. Post-trial motions were filed, but subsequently withdrawn, and Taylor was sentenced to five to ten years imprisonment. Approximately two years later, Taylor filed a pro se motion with this Court requesting permission to refile post-trial motions. After a review of the record, we granted the petition, Commonwealth v. Taylor, 483 Pa. 60, 394 A.2d 538 (1978) and remanded to the trial court with directions to allow Taylor to file post-trial motions as if timely filed. Taylor's motion for a new trial was filed and argued. On April 2, 1980 the trial court denied the motion for a new trial. Judgment was entered on that order on April 9, 1980. This appeal followed.

The pertinent facts of the case are that on July 10, 1974 the badly decomposed body of Virginia "Baby Jane" Davison was found in her room at Frank's Hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania. Ms. Davison, approximately 62 years of age, lived by herself and frequented the bars in the immediate proximity of her hotel. A coroner's examination fixed the time of death at some time between July 5 and July 7, 1974. Death was caused by a single stab wound to the heart inflicted by a rather small pair of scissors. The body was found virtually naked lying on the bed, but there was no evidence of sexual molestation.

Police investigation established that a witness who lived in the hotel near Ms. Davison's room saw Ms. Davison entering her room in the company of Taylor on July 5, 1974. On July 11, 1974 police questioned Taylor concerning his knowledge of the Davison homicide. Taylor arrived at the Erie police station at approximately 11:00 a.m. and voluntarily signed a

[ 494 Pa. Page 402]

    waiver of rights form at 11:15 a.m. He was questioned generally by three police officers until 11:45 a.m., when he was taken to the identification division of the Erie police department, where he voluntarily gave hair samples, fingernail scrapings, finger and palm prints. At 12:20 p.m. he was returned to the interrogation room, where he remained with the three officers until 1:00 p.m., when he requested coffee, and two of the three officers left the room to get coffee and sandwiches. They returned within ten to fifteen minutes and were told by Officer Rigazzi, who had remained with Taylor, that Taylor had confessed. The confession was subsequently introduced into evidence at the trial. The substance of the confession was that Taylor admitted killing Ms. Davison by stabbing her with scissors and leaving her nude body lying across the bed, but he did not remember the exact day of the killing.

At trial the Commonwealth introduced evidence that Taylor was seen with Ms. Davison at approximately 11:00 a.m. on July 5, 1974 entering the room of Ms. Davison. No other evidence apart ...


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