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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. REGINALD HARRIS (12/24/86)

filed: December 24, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
REGINALD HARRIS



Appeal from the Order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, No. 86-03-2570-2572

COUNSEL

Deborah Fleisher, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Karen S. Kelly, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Cavanaugh, Olszewski and Tamilia, JJ.

Author: Tamilia

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 582]

Appellee, a fifteen-year old juvenile, was charged with murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime. Following a not guilty plea to all charges at his arraignment, trial began on May 19, 1986. On that day, the trial judge granted appellee's motion to suppress his confession. The matter before this Court is the Commonwealth's interlocutory appeal from the suppression Order, which the Commonwealth certifies substantially handicaps the prosecution.

Appellee had been arrested at his home for allegedly stabbing an eighteen-year old male. At the police station a

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 583]

    juvenile aid division police officer read appellee his Miranda*fn1 rights in the presence of appellee's mother. The lower court found that "[a]fter the warnings were given but before the questioning began, mother and son were allowed five minutes to confer" and that at this time the mother "was ignorant of the details of the stabbing incident." (Slip Op. Richette, J., 7/24/86, p. 3). While the officer knew of the extremely serious medical condition of the victim, and that the victim was being operated on for two stab wounds located in the back and chest, neither the appellee nor his mother were aware of these facts nor were they aware of the possibility of adult certification under the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 6355.

After their five minute conference the officer interrogated appellee, in his mother's presence, for approximately an hour and a half. Appellee gave an inculpatory statement which was simultaneously typed by the officer and, after being read by appellee and his mother, was signed by both of them. Immediately after the interview the police informed appellee and his mother that the victim had died. The lower court found that it was unclear when either the interrogating officer or other police personnel learned of the death. (Slip Op. at 4). The police then charged appellee with murder and gave appellee and his mother Miranda warnings again. At that time, both appellee and his mother elected not to give further statements and requested a lawyer.

Applying the totality of the circumstances standard, the trial judge suppressed the inculpatory statement finding that the appellee's waiver of his constitutional rights was unknowing and, therefore, invalid because the police had failed to notify appellee and his mother of the possible adult certification. The trial court held that juvenile defendants "must be apprised of possible adult certification." (Slip Op. at 7). It is not contended that the statement was secured through coercive tactics.

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 584]

In order to have a valid waiver of Miranda rights, the suspect must have an awareness of the general nature of the transaction giving rise to the investigation. Commonwealth v. Dixon, 475 Pa. 17, 379 A.2d 553 (1977); Commonwealth v. Richman, 458 Pa. 167, 320 A.2d 351 (1974); Commonwealth v. Hart, 266 Pa. ...


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