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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RODGER REYNOLDS (05/21/82)

filed: May 21, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
RODGER REYNOLDS



No. 1066 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division of Allegheny County at No. CC8004602.

COUNSEL

Kemal A. Mericli, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Larry P. Gaitens, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Spaeth, Hester and Johnson, JJ.

Author: Spaeth

[ 300 Pa. Super. Page 144]

This appeal is from an order suppressing an inculpatory statement made by appellee while he was in the custody of the police on a charge of arson. The lower court found that appellee's statement was the product of police coercion. We affirm.

On June 24, 1980, the Chief of Police of Findlay Township, Steve Krawchyk, went to appellee's grandmother's home,

[ 300 Pa. Super. Page 145]

    where appellee lived. Chief Krawchyk asked appellee to accompany him to the police station. Appellee complied. At the police station appellee was placed under arrest for an arson that had occurred on June 17, 1980. After he was advised of his Miranda rights, he denied having committed the arson. He was handcuffed and taken to the Allegheny County Detective Office in Pittsburgh. There he was again advised of his Miranda rights, signed a waiver, and made an oral statement inculpating himself in the arson. At the request of the police he reduced this statement to writing. One of the detectives then prepared a typewritten statement and appellee signed it. The lower court suppressed this statement; the handwritten statement was not produced at the suppression hearing; one of the detectives testified that he couldn't find it, N.T. 56, another detective, that he had "discarded it," N.T. 43-44.

One of the witnesses at the suppression hearing was Thomas Michael Eberle, a clinical and forensic psychologist with a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and on the staffs of St. Francis Hospital and Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh. He testified that after an extensive interview, he gave appellee several tests and reviewed his school records. At the time of his arrest, appellee was thirty years old. The lower court accepted Dr. Eberle's evaluation of appellee, and in its opinion it described appellee as follows:

[H]is I. Q. was only seventy-four. He lived with his elderly grandmother in a rural community. He was treated as a dependent child . . . . His mental development was that of a fourth or fifth grader, usually a child of age ten and he did not even have the benefit of being "street wise," that is the acquired legal education that many young urban criminals absorb from the gangs and ghetto[e]s of crowded urban areas.

Slip op. at 4-5.

The court further ...


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