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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ANDREW HUNSBERGER (11/03/86)

filed: November 3, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
ANDREW HUNSBERGER



Appeal from the Order in Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Criminal Division, No. 4683/1985.

COUNSEL

Stephen B. Harris, Assistant District Attorney, Warrington, for Com., appellant.

Robert W. Suter, Assistant Public Defender, Doylestown, for appellee.

Cirillo, President Judge, and Cavanaugh and Tamilia, JJ. Cirillo, President Judge, files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Tamilia

[ 358 Pa. Super. Page 209]

A complaint was filed against appellee charging him with first degree murder in the death of his mother, Carol Hunsberger. Subsequently, trial counsel for appellee filed notice of appellee's plans to assert the insanity and mental infirmity defense. After a pre-trial suppression hearing, the lower court granted appellee's omnibus pre-trial motion to suppress certain statements voluntarily uttered by the appellee after Miranda*fn1 warnings and his request for counsel were made, but before appellee's first meeting with counsel. The matter before this Court is the appellant's interlocutory appeal from the suppression Order.

Appellee claims that the Commonwealth has failed to assert jurisdictional grounds for this appeal and that the Commonwealth must demonstrate that the evidence suppressed by the trial court substantially handicaps the Commonwealth's prosecution of this case. We disagree. As this Court stated in Commonwealth v. Benjamin, 346 Pa. Super. 116, 121-122, 499 A.2d 337, 339 (1985):

In Commonwealth v. Dugger, 506 Pa. 537, 486 A.2d 382 (1985), our Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth's appeal from a suppression order was proper as long as the Commonwealth certified in good faith that the order either 'terminates' or 'substantially handicaps' the prosecution. The good faith certification is a precaution to meritless appeals designed solely for delay. It is no longer necessary for this Court to make an independent determination from the record whether the suppression order 'terminates' or 'substantially handicaps' the prosecution.

Since the certification requirement has been satisfied, we find that the Commonwealth has an absolute right of appeal

[ 358 Pa. Super. Page 210]

    to this Court to test the validity of the pre-trial suppression Order.

Our standard of review in an appeal from a suppression Order is limited to determining whether the factual findings of the suppression court are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn therefrom are in error. Commonwealth v. Webb, 491 Pa. 329, 334, 421 A.2d 161, 163 (1980); Commonwealth v. Hubble, 318 Pa. Super. 76, 78, 464 A.2d 1236, 1237 (1983).

The parties stipulated that the statements suppressed were made voluntarily by the appellee after he was read Miranda warnings, had answered that he wished to remain silent, and had answered that he wanted an attorney present during questioning. After the appellee's response to the Miranda warnings was made, the appellee was not subjected to further questioning. The appellant has conceded that those remarks made by appellee immediately following the administration of Miranda warnings concerning his desire to speak to an attorney were inadmissible. However, the appellant maintains that the court below erred in suppressing the following statements:

1. The appellee's question to First District Attorney Alan Rubenstein after being advised that he would be able to receive a public defender, "Are public defenders as good as money lawyers?":

2. The appellee's question to District Justice Kathryn Stump at the time of his preliminary arraignment in which he asked, "How can I get to see the public defender on the sixth floor of the courthouse if I am in jail?"; and

3. The appellee's question to Deputy District Attorney Rea Mabon when she approached him in the Dublin Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police as to whether she was his lawyer, and when she replied in the negative, his statement that he did not want to speak to her.

The importance of the statements becomes apparent when viewed in light of the appellee's raising the insanity defense and the subsequent ...


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