Com. v. Cannon

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore JONES; JONES; ROBERTS; POMEROY, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which ROBERTS; POMEROY; ROBERTS
Citation453 Pa. 389,309 A.2d 384
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Calvin CANNON, Appellant.
Decision Date19 September 1973

Page 384

309 A.2d 384
453 Pa. 389
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v.
Calvin CANNON, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Sept. 19, 1973.

Page 386

[453 Pa. 391] Joseph R. Danella, Kenneth S. Harris, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Milton M. Stein, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Louis A. Perez, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., James T. Ranney, Asst. Dist. Atty., Asst. Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, for appellee.

[453 Pa. 390] Before JONES, C.J., and EAGEN, O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, POMEROY, NIX and MANDERINO, JJ.

[453 Pa. 391] OPINION

JONES, Chief Justice.

On June 26, 1970, appellant was convicted of murder in the first degree and assault with intent to kill. 1 This appeal is taken from a sentence of life imprisonment on the conviction of murder. No appeal was taken from the judgment of sentence for assault with intent to kill.

The pertinent facts are as follows: appellant, nineteen years of age, and Gail Bray Cannon were married in August of 1967. On September 1, 1967, appellant and his wife became involved in a marital dispute. When appellant physically abused his wife, she left their apartment and went to stay with her parents, Edna and Ezra Bray. Appellant went to the Bray home to see his wife the day she left and three times the following day. On his first three visits he was not permitted to see her. On the last visit, when he was again denied permission to see her, appellant pulled a [453 Pa. 392] gun from under his sweater and mortally wounded his mother-in-law, Mrs. Edna Bray. He then turned the gun on Ezra basement, appellant gave chase and inflicted The appellant's wife heard the shots and ran to her mother's bedroom to telephone the police. Appellant pursued and twice wounded her. When she fled to the basement, appellant gave cahse and inflicted several more wounds. He then left the Bray residence and was apprehended three blocks away.

Appellant testified at trial that he had no memory of these events. He maintained that he 'blacked out' just before Mrs. Bray was shot and did not remember anything until some time the following day.

Appellant charges the court below with the following errors: (1) the court erred in refusing to suppress the appellant's inculpating custodial statement; (2) the court erred in denying a mistrial; (3) the court incorrectly charged the jury on reasonable doubt and intent; (4) the court improperly refused to charge on voluntary manslaughter; and (5) the court below erred in failing to submit to the jury the question of the voluntariness of appellant's statement.

The claim that the court should have suppressed appellant's confession is grounded upon the contention that he did not have the mental capacity to voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive his right to remain silent. In this connection the appellant introduced the psychiatric report of several qualified medical experts. This evidence indicates that appellant is a chronic schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies, but that his condition, pre-trial, was in 'fairly good remission.' There was also evidence that appellant was 'oriented in all spheres,' and there was no indication that appellant was not able to understand the warnings, consonant with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), which were given him prior to the giving of his statement.

[453 Pa. 393]

Page 387

The evidentiary use of a defendant's incriminating statement violates due process if it can be shown that the statement obtained is not the product of a rational intellect and a free will. Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 83 S.Ct. 917, 9 L.Ed.2d 922 (1963); Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963); Commonwealth v. Holten, 432 Pa. 11, 247 A.2d 228 (1968). The determination of whether a confession is the product of a rational intellect necessitates our consideration of the totality of the circumstances. Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 86 S.Ct. 1761, 16 L.Ed.2d 895 (1966); Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 274, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960); Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); Commonwealth v. Holten, Supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Gaito v. Maroney, 422 Pa. 171, 220 A.2d 628 (1966). In this instance, while the appellant exhibits chronic paranoid schizophrenia, there is no evidence that his condition prevented him from understanding the significance of the inculpating statement he made to his interrogators. In addition, there is no evidence that police took unfair advantage of the appellant's condition. (See: Commonwealth v. Willman, 434 Pa. 489, 255 A.2d 534 (1969)). Nor that the appellant's third grade education kept him from appreciating the consequences of his confession. (See: Commonwealth v. Willman, Supra; Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968)). They totality of these circumstances supports the conclusion of the court below that the giving of appellant's statement was voluntary, knowing and intelligent, and not constitutionally infirm.

Appellant also argues that questioning which elicited testimony indicating he had attended the Glen Mills School 2 was prejudicial because it alluded to the possibility that he had committed other unrelated crimes. The appellant's stay at Glen Mills was first disclosed [453 Pa. 394] by him during cross-examination by the Commonwealth:

'Q. By the way, I think you did refer to the Testament at one time in your testimony here this afternoon. Who gave you that Testament?

A. Who gave it to me?

Q. Yes.

A. I brought it home from Glen Mills School.

Q. Did Mrs. Bray give you a Testament as a wedding gift?

A. No.'

The fact of appellant's stay at Glen Mills was raised a second time during questioning of the appellant by the court:

'Q. How long had you lived on Archer Street?

A. I think it was the summertime of '66.

Q. That was when you first moved there?

A. Yes.

Q. From Leithgow Street.

A. No.

Q. From where?

A. Orianna Street.

Q. That is the same neighborhood?

A. Three blocks down, two blocks over.

Q. How long did you live on North Orianna Street?

A. I don't know, my mother moved there when I was up at Glen Mills School.

Q. When were you at Glen Mills School?

A. 1964 to 1965.'

Page 388

We do not believe the lower court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial under the instant circumstances. The allusions to Glen Mills were not elicited by the Commonwealth or the court but were offered spontaneously by the appellant during questioning which probed matters unrelated to his stay at Glen Mills. Additionally, even if we assume that it was error to refuse to grant a mistrial on the basis of these disclosures, it was harmless error beyond reasonable doubt. Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967). The reference to appellant's stay at Glen Mills could not vitiate that defense in any significant way and should not have compelled the granting of a mistrial under these circumstances.

Appellant next challenges the charge of the court on reasonable doubt and intent. With respect to reasonable doubt, the court instructed the jury as follows:

'Now, reasonable doubt referred to by both attorneys has been set forth in many of our decisions by the [453 Pa. 395] Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as follows: It is that kind of doubt that would cause you to halt, hesitate, Refuse to take action in affairs of the highest importance to your own lives.

'Now, if, you have that kind of a doubt after you have argued the facts that have been presented before you, both pro and con, applied the law as I give it to you, If you find that you cannot reach a decision, then you must have some type of reasonable doubt and that doubt is to be resolved in favor of the defendant and that is so because the Commonwealth therefore has not convinced you, according to the law as described by the Court, convinced you beyond a reasonable doubt.' (Emphasis added).

The appellant argues that the court's instruction was erroneous because reasonable doubt has never required the quantum of doubt which would prompt a juror to Refuse to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
46 practice notes
  • Com. v. Cunningham
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • February 28, 1977
    ...v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 361 A.2d 282 (1976); Commonwealth v. Moses, 446 Pa. 350, 287 A.2d 131 (1971); see Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973); Commonwealth v. Scoggins, 451 Pa. 472, 304 A.2d 102 (1973). Although appellant was described as on the border line between no......
  • United States ex rel. Cannon v. Johnson, Civ. A. No. 73-2395.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • June 12, 1975
    ...an appeal with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which affirmed the judgment of sentence on September 19, 1973. Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973).4 We thereupon appointed Richard H. Elliott, Esquire as counsel for the purpose of briefing and arguing the question of th......
  • U.S. ex rel. Matthews v. Johnson, No. 73-1424
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • January 15, 1974
    ...score of that statement afford it no nourishment whatsoever. To the contrary, it was recently explicitly held in Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973) that a jury 'can' return a voluntary manslaughter verdict on a murder indictment even though the trial judge refused a re......
  • Com. v. England
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 8, 1977
    ...the trial court was undoubtedly correct in refusing the requested charge under our former law. 10 [474 Pa. 19] Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973); Commonwealth v. Davis, 449 Pa. 468, 297 A.2d 817 (1972); cert. denied, 414 U.S. 836, 94 S.Ct. 183, 38 L.Ed.2d 72 (1973); C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Com. v. Cunningham
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • February 28, 1977
    ...v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 361 A.2d 282 (1976); Commonwealth v. Moses, 446 Pa. 350, 287 A.2d 131 (1971); see Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973); Commonwealth v. Scoggins, 451 Pa. 472, 304 A.2d 102 (1973). Although appellant was described as on the border line between no......
  • United States ex rel. Cannon v. Johnson, Civ. A. No. 73-2395.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • June 12, 1975
    ...an appeal with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which affirmed the judgment of sentence on September 19, 1973. Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973).4 We thereupon appointed Richard H. Elliott, Esquire as counsel for the purpose of briefing and arguing the question of th......
  • U.S. ex rel. Matthews v. Johnson, No. 73-1424
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • January 15, 1974
    ...score of that statement afford it no nourishment whatsoever. To the contrary, it was recently explicitly held in Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973) that a jury 'can' return a voluntary manslaughter verdict on a murder indictment even though the trial judge refused a re......
  • Com. v. England
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 8, 1977
    ...the trial court was undoubtedly correct in refusing the requested charge under our former law. 10 [474 Pa. 19] Commonwealth v. Cannon, 453 Pa. 389, 309 A.2d 384 (1973); Commonwealth v. Davis, 449 Pa. 468, 297 A.2d 817 (1972); cert. denied, 414 U.S. 836, 94 S.Ct. 183, 38 L.Ed.2d 72 (1973); C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT