No. 189 March Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, entered September 21, 1979, at No. 7802514A.
John H. Corbett, Jr., Chief, Appellate Div., Public Defender, Mitchell A. Kaufman, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Deputy Dist. Atty., Melinda G. Tell, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Roberts, C.j., concurs in the result.
This is a direct appeal from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County sentencing appellant to life imprisonment upon his conviction of first degree murder.*fn1 Appellant challenges the admissibility of inculpatory statements he gave during custodial interrogation, arguing (1) that he was not given Miranda warnings before making his initial statement, which rendered inadmissible that statement and subsequent post-warning statements thereby tainted, and (2) that his intelligence level and psychological state made him incapable of effecting a valid waiver of his right to remain silent and right to counsel. Having examined the record we are satisfied that neither claim has merit and, accordingly, we affirm the judgment of sentence.
At the time of the homicide appellant, his co-defendant, John Keen, and the victim, Barney Russell, were inmates at
the State Correctional Institute at Pittsburgh. The testimony of fellow inmate Nathan Thomas, the Commonwealth's eyewitness, established the following. On December 26, 1977, appellant, Keen and Thomas were seated together in the prison auditorium watching a movie when Russell approached and sat beside them. Keen became angry and left the auditorium. Appellant, Keen and two other inmates confronted Thomas in the prison laundry the following morning, asking him if he had heard that Russell had threatened appellant. Thomas replied that he had not. Keen then told Thomas that if Russell threatened appellant, Russell would have to leave the prison because there would be "no place in the jail that he could go." Following this conversation Thomas left for his job in the prison butcher shop. At 11:00 a.m. Russell approached Thomas as Thomas left the shop and followed him to his cell. While Russell was in Thomas's cell, appellant and Keen appeared at the door. Keen, after asking to speak with Thomas, entered the cell and stabbed Russell repeatedly. Keen then threw his knife onto Thomas's bed and told appellant to "finish [Russell] off." Appellant entered the cell and, using both Keen's knife and his own, stabbed Russell an additional four to five times. Appellant, Keen and Thomas then left the scene. Russell died on April 17, 1978, as a result of the multiple stab wounds.
The evidence further establishes that at approximately 1:00 p.m. on December 27, 1977, appellant was informed by prison guards that the Major of the Guard, Lawrence J. Weyandt (Major) wished to see him. Appellant walked to the Major's office, entered and sat down. The Major was on the telephone when appellant arrived. The institution's Director of Treatment, James A. Wigton (Director), who was also present, asked appellant if he was involved in the stabbing incident. Appellant replied that he was the one who had stabbed Russell. The ...