Com. v. Novak

Decision Date06 February 1956
Citation120 A.2d 543,384 Pa. 237
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Edward NOVAK, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

David Berger, Philadelphia, Mervyn R. Turk Chester, for appellant.

Paul R. Sand, Asst. Dist. Atty., Joseph E. Pappano, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Raymond R. Start, Dist. Atty., Media, for appellee.


JONES, Justice.

This appeal is from an order of the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware County dismissing defendant's exceptions to the court's order accepting and approving the report of a sanity commission and refusing to commit the defendant to a hospital for the mentally ill.

The defendant was charge on March 9, 1955, with murder in indictments returned by the Delaware County grand jury. On May 6th, while he was confined in jail awaiting trial, his counsel petitioned the court under the provisions of the Mental Health Act of June 12, 1951, P.L. 533, as amended, 50 P.S. § 1071 et seq., for the defendant's commitment to a mental hospital. On the same day, the court entered an order appointing a commission consisting of two qualified physicians and an attorney to investigate the defendant's condition and to report thereon to the court.

Following a psychiatric and neurologic examination of the defendant, the commission on May 27, 1955, filed with the court its report wherein it found that the defendant was not mentally defective; that there was no evidence of organic disease of his nervous system; that, although he showed a marked personality disorder leading to all kinds of aggressive and anti-social behavior, he is not mentally ill; that he is not insane; that he was able to comprehend his position with relation to the crimes for which he stands indicted, to confer with his counsel in an intelligent manner, to prepare his defense if he so desires and to make a rational defense.

After consideration of the commission's report and the evidence whereon it was based, the court entered its above-mentioned order of May 27th which, in part, contained the following: '* * * said defendant Edward Novak is not in such condition as to make it necessary that he be cared for in a hospital for mental illness and this Court does therefore refuse to commit said defendant, Edward Novak, as requested in the prayer of the petition heretofore filed.' Exceptions to this order and the commission's report were dismissed by the court en banc. This appeal by the defendant followed.

The Commonwealth has filed a motion to quash on the ground that the appeal is from an interlocutory order. That the order is interlocutory no one denies. Appellant's counsel concede that it is interlocutory but contend that, in the circumstances, it is appealable nonetheless.

As a general rule, an appeal will not lie in a criminal proceeding until judgment of sentence has been passed. It has been said, however, that this rule is not one of unyielding inflexibility. Where the interlocutory order, for all practical purposes, presents a somewhat final aspect, an appellate court will review it in order to safeguard basic human rights or to prevent a great injustice to a defendant. In Commonwealth v. Trunk, 311 Pa. 555, 565, 167 A. 333, 337, it was said that 'While it may be true generally that appeals may not be taken in criminal proceedings where judgment of sentence has not been passed, this rule should not be held one of universal application. There are instances where great injustice would thereby be done to defendants.' In that case the trial court suspended sentence on bills upon which it did not act. We allowed an appeal and held that the action of the court below constituted an abuse of judicial discretion. In Commonwealth v. Patch, 98 Pa.Super. 464, a suspension of sentence after conviction was likewise held to be appealable. In Commonwealth v. Ragone, 317 Pa. 113, 126, 176 A. 454, 459, the Commonwealth asserted that the defendant's appeal was premature because there was no entry of judgment on the verdict in the court below. In that case the defendant's trial for murder was abortive from the beginning, the defendant being admittedly insane. Nevertheless, the case was permitted to go to the jury which returned a verdict of guilty. In entertaining the appeal to this court, Mr. Justice Maxey said 'It is true that the rule is that 'there must be a final judgment or something in the nature of a final judgment before it is ripe for review in this court.' Commonwealth v. Ruth, 104 Pa. 294, 297. But this rule has in exceptional cases and to safeguard basic human rights been construed as not being one of unyielding, inflexibility.'

The appellant's current situation does not present a case of an appealable interlocutory order. He is not in danger of losing any right with respect...

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14 cases
  • Com. v. Barber
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • April 3, 1975
    ...70 S.Ct. 861, 864--65, 94 L.Ed. 1206 (1950); United States v. Lansdown, 460 F.2d 164, 170--72 (4th Cir. 1972); cf. Commonwealth v. Novak, 384 Pa. 237, 240, 120 A.2d 543, 544, cert. denied, 352 U.S. 825, 77 S.Ct. 35, 1 L.Ed.2d 48 (1956) ('Where the interlocutory order, for all practical purp......
  • Com. v. Bunter
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • October 12, 1971
    ...v. Haushalter, 423 Pa. 351, 223 A.2d 726 (1966); Commonwealth v. Byrd, 421 Pa. 513, 219 A.2d 293 (1966); Commonwealth v. Novak, 384 Pa. 237, 120 A.2d 543 (1956). Refusal by a court to grant a motion to quash an indictment is such an interlocutory order. Commonwealth v. Kilgallen, 379 Pa. 31......
  • Jolley v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 7, 1978
    ...So.2d 393 (1967); Inskeep v. State, 35 Ohio St. 482 (1880); Alexander v. State, 71 Okl.Crim. 47, 107 P.2d 811 (1940); Commonwealth v. Novak, 384 Pa. 237, 120 A.2d 543, cert. denied, 352 U.S. 825, 77 S.Ct. 35, 1 L.Ed.2d 48 (1956); Griffin v. State, 29 S.W.2d 349 (Tex.Cr.App.1930).See general......
  • Commonwealth v. Byrd
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • May 2, 1966
    ... ... appeals in these cases.' We are not disposed to disagree ... with this conclusion.' ... In ... Commonwealth v. Novak, 384 Pa. 237, page 240, 120 ... A.2d 543, page 544, the Court said: ... 'As a ... general rule, an appeal will not lie in a criminal ... ...
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