Com. v. Sourbeer

Decision Date01 December 1980
Citation422 A.2d 116,492 Pa. 17
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Gregory Scott SOURBEER, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Henry F. Gingrich, John M. Smith, Lancaster, for appellant.

Louise G. Herr, Asst. Dist. Atty., Edward F. Browne, Jr., Lancaster, for appellee.



FLAHERTY, Justice.

This is an appeal from a conviction of murder in the first degree in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County on October 6, 1976. A judgment of sentence of life imprisonment was imposed.

Prior to trial, hearings were held on a petition to transfer the case to Juvenile Court, on a petition for commitment of a person charged with a crime and detained in a penal or correctional institution, and on an application to suppress a statement and evidence. Denials were entered by the court with respect to each of these.

On March 25, 1976, at approximately 8:36 p. m. a police officer was directed by his radio dispatcher to the scene of a fatal shooting at a residence in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The officer arrived at the scene at 8:38 p. m., and found appellant, Gregory Scott Sourbeer, who was fourteen years of age, alone, and the body of Gregory's mother seated in a chair in the living room of the residence. Gregory Sourbeer told the officer that he accidentally shot his mother while cleaning his gun. Since Gregory was alone, the officer had him transported to the police station at approximately 8:42 p. m., the officer remaining at the residence to investigate the incident.

On March 25, 1976, at 11:48 p. m., appellant, in the presence of his older brother, was given Miranda warnings by a state police officer. The warnings were read from a preprinted juvenile rights form, and Sourbeer's acknowledgment of his understanding of his constitutional rights was recorded thereon by the officer. Gregory then conferred privately with his brother for one half hour. Following this conference, appellant and his brother told the police they desired to consult with their family attorney. The attorney, arriving at the police station sometime after midnight on March 26, 1976, conferred with appellant and his brother from 1:05 a. m. until 1:31 a. m., following which appellant agreed to answer police questions in the presence of his brother and the attorney. Appellant, his brother, and the attorney all signed a juvenile rights form waiving appellant's right to remain silent.

Appellant was interrogated by police from 1:32 a. m. on March 26, 1976 until 3:03 a. m., when he indicated that he was tired and wanted to sleep. During the interrogation, Gregory was permitted to smoke, and inquiry was made as to whether he wanted food or drink, and, at 2:05 a. m., he was given a soft drink during a break in the questioning. When, at 2:53 a. m., appellant was asked if he was tired or if he wished to continue the interrogation, he indicated that he was somewhat tired, but desirous of continuing the investigation. The attorney requested a consultation with the appellant, privately, after which the police were informed that appellant did not wish to answer further questions, and the interrogation was at an end. At 4:37 a. m. appellant was again advised of his constitutional rights and informed that he would be charged with murder. The appellant was transported to the office of a magistrate, arriving sometime between 5:15 a. m. and 5:30 a. m. on the morning of March 26, 1976, arraigned, and then taken to a detention center for juveniles.

The appellant raises many issues, but after considering all of them, we find they have no merit, and, accordingly, affirm the court below.

Appellant contends that it was error not to transfer the case to the Juvenile Division. The Juvenile Act 1 states in relevant part:

"(I)f it appears to the Court in a criminal proceeding charging murder, that the defendant is a child, the case may similarly be transferred and the provisions of this Act applied . . ." 11 P.S. § 50-303

In Commonwealth v. Pyle, 462 Pa. 613, 662, 342 A.2d 101, 106 (1975), we said:

Murder has always been excluded from the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. See Act of July 12, 1913, P.L. 711, § 11 as amended 17 P.S. § 694, Gaskins Case, 430 Pa. 298, 244 A.2d 662 (1968). See also Mont. Appeal, 175 Pa.Super. 150, 103 A.2d 460 (1954). Having continued to place murder, even where a young offender is involved, within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the adult court, the assumption that the need for adult discipline and legal restraint exists in cases of this heinous nature also continues. With this in mind it becomes the juvenile's burden to show that he does not belong in the criminal court. In other words, it is the youth who must prove that he belongs in the juvenile setting by showing his need and amenability to the "program of supervision, care and rehabilitation" which he would receive as a juvenile. In the event the evidence does not affirmatively demonstrate that he is the kind of youth who would benefit from the special features and programs of the juvenile court system, and in the event no special reason exists for sparing the youth from adult prosecution and punishment (as for instance, evidence of mental illness or retardation) jurisdiction would necessarily remain within the criminal court system.

The record discloses that appellant did not meet this burden of proof. Appellant's own psychiatrist testified that he could give only a very rough and questionable estimate of how long it would take for Gregory to overcome his personality disorder, which was described as persistent immaturity, inappropriate relationships with authority, unreliability, and rationalizations for behavior which result in prevarications which he believes to be true. Both the defense and prosecution psychiatrists diagnosed Gregory as having a passive-aggressive personality with anti-social tendencies. The prosecution's psychiatrist testified that appellant might act out his underlying aggression with violence.

When the appellant's psychiatrist was asked to give a time period when there would be a significant change in Gregory's personality disorder, he could only say that such a change could be expected in the vicinity of the ages thirty-five or forty. This, coupled with the fact that appellant was fifteen years old and would therefore be subject to the authority of the juvenile system for only three more years, amply supports the denial of this petition for transfer to Juvenile Court.

Regarding appellant's request for further psychiatric evaluation, the standard set forth in 50 P.S. § 7402(a) states in relevant part:

Whenever a person who has been charged with a crime is found to be substantially unable to understand the nature or object of the proceedings against him or to participate and assist in his defense, he shall be deemed incompetent to be tried, convicted or sentenced so long as such incapacity continues.

Appellant, according to his psychiatrist's testimony, knew and understood what was happening. Although the psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defense diagnosed appellant as a pathological liar, this is not sufficient in and of itself to establish incompetence. In Commonwealth v. Kennedy, 451 Pa. 483, 487, 305 A.2d 890, 892 (1973) this Court stated the test for competency when it said:

In Commonwealth ex rel. Hilberry v. Maroney, 424 Pa. 493, 227 A.2d 159 (1967), we pertinently stated the following with respect to what the defendant must establish: "(T)he test to be applied in determining the legal sufficiency of his mental capacity to stand trial, or enter a plea at the time involved, is not the M'Naghten 'right or wrong' test but rather his ability to comprehend his position as one accused of murder and to cooperate with his counsel, in making a rational defense. See Commonwealth v. Moon, supra, 383 Pa. 18, 117 A.2d 96 ((1955)), and Commonwealth ex rel. Hilberry v. Maroney, supra, 417 Pa. 534 at 544, 207 A.2d 794. Or stated another way, did he have sufficient ability at the pertinent time to consult with his lawyers with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and have a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him. See Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960). Otherwise, the proceedings would lack due process: Bishop v. United States, 350 U.S. 961, 76 S.Ct. 440, 100 L.Ed. 835 (1956)." Id. at 495, 227 A.2d at 160. See also Commonwealth v. Harris, 431 Pa. 114, 243 A.2d 408 (1968).

See also Commonwealth v. Harper, 479 Pa. 42, 387 A.2d 824 (1978).

The psychiatric testimony was that appellant was not psychotic. The prosecution's psychiatrist testified that appellant had an I.Q. of 122 and could consult with his attorneys in his defense. Although both psychiatrists agreed that appellant's inclination toward prevarication would hinder his defense, they were also in agreement that appellant was cognizant of the truth, and that appellant's prevaricating was a defense mechanism to rationalize his behavior. The trial court properly found, as supported by the record, that appellant being a pathological liar is no more a handicap to an attorney's ability to prepare a defense than having a client who lies to counsel.

The assertions that the trial court erred in failing to suppress the statements of the appellant as not voluntarily made are totally without merit. After having been read his Miranda rights, appellant had the advice of counsel and his brother, an adult primarily interested in his welfare, thus, we are satisfied that all standards were fully complied with.

We are next asked to review whether the statement should have been suppressed for unnecessary delay between appellant's warrantless arrest and his arraignment. When the police arrived at the scene at 8:38 p. m., they found appellant...

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    • December 14, 1992 assure rehabilitation and to protect society"]; Commonwealth v. Waters, 334 Pa.Super. 513, 483 A.2d 855 (1984); Commonwealth v. Sourbeer, 492 Pa. 17, 422 A.2d 116 (1980) [transfer properly denied where it was demonstrated that defendant could not be rehabilitated within time constraints ......
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    • July 1, 1992 analysis, Spells would need to prove that her sentence "shock[s] the moral conscience of the community," Commonwealth v. Sourbeer, 492 Pa. 17, 33, 422 A.2d 116, 123 (1980), and that the "most accurate indicators of 'societal standards of justice' are the enactments of the duly elected re......
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    ...his antisocial and aggressive behavior could be treated successfully before his twenty-first birthday, and Commonwealth v. Sourbeer, 492 Pa. 17, 422 A.2d 116 (1980) (plurality), where the defendant's psychiatrist testified that a significant change in the defendant's personality disorder co......
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