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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. FRANCIS JENKINS (12/31/82)

decided: December 31, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
FRANCIS JENKINS, APPELLEE



No. 80-3-560, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Dated April 13, 1980, Granting Motion to Suppress, as of January Session, 1980, No. 1247.

COUNSEL

Eric B. Henson, Deputy Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellant.

Charlotte Nichols, Philadelphia, for appellee.

O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. McDermott, J., files a concurring opinion.

Author: Nix

[ 500 Pa. Page 145]

OPINION

This is an interlocutory appeal*fn1 by the Commonwealth challenging a pretrial order suppressing an inculpatory custodial statement given by appellee, Francis Jenkins, relating to the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Betty Homer. The suppression court concluded that the actions of the Commonwealth constituted "an improper prosecutorial design to circumvent the rule of Commonwealth v. Davenport, [471 Pa. 278, 370 A.2d 301 (1977)], [and as a result] must . . . be held ineffective to preserve the evidentiary utility of defendant's incriminating admissions against suppression." (Record -- 16a). We disagree for the reasons that follow.

The Philadelphia Police were directed to a residence in response to a radio call and found upon their arrival the bruised dead body of the victim in a bedroom in the home. During the course of the ensuing investigation, appellee, who was the only other person in the home at the time of the arrival of the police, was arrested. After being warned of his rights, appellee initially maintained that he found Ms. Homer dead upon returning to the house. Approximately four and one-half hours after his arrest appellee admitted

[ 500 Pa. Page 146]

    striking the victim and causing her to fall and strike her head. When it became apparent that it would be impossible to find an available judicial officer to arraign appellee, he was released from custody at 9:20 a.m. five hours after his arrest. Appellee was re-arrested the following day and arraigned within two and one-half hours.

During the suppression proceedings the Commonwealth attempted to convince the court that the police at the direction of the district attorney's representative had made the decision to release appellee because of the prosecution's uncertainty as to the strength of the case against him at that point. The record of that hearing clearly supports the court's rejection of that view. The suppression court was most astute in concluding that appellee was released primarily to avoid the consequences of our "six hour" rule in view of the difficulty being encountered in arranging for appellee's arraignment within the prescribed time limits.

The error in the suppression court's analysis flowed from the mistaken concept that our rule announced in Davenport established a rigid standard impervious of the purposes it was designed to serve. If such a premise were to be correct then the Commonwealth's complaint that the rule "works to exclude probative, reliable evidence despite the absence of police abuse" would have substantial merit. However, it is clear that the premise is false and the criticism unjustified.

Our concern with unnecessary delay in arraigning criminal defendants after their arrest was first addressed in Commonwealth v. Futch, 447 Pa. 389, 290 A.2d 417 (1972) and its progeny.*fn2 ...


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