Commonwealth v. Abrams

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtAuthor: Pomeroy
Citation443 Pa. 295,278 A.2d 902
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Thomas E. ABRAMS, Appellant.
Decision Date28 June 1971

278 A.2d 902

443 Pa. 295

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v.

Thomas E. ABRAMS, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

June 28, 1971.


[278 A.2d 903]

[443 Pa. 296] Dennis E. Haggerty, Hyman Lovitz, Briscoe & Haggerty, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., James D. Crawford, Deputy Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, Michael Mather, Asst. Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before BELL, C.J. and COHEN, EAGEN, O'BRIEN, ROBERTS and POMEROY, JJ.

OPINION OF THE COURT

POMEROY, Justice.

This is an appeal from judgment of sentence following a jury verdict finding Thomas Abrams guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of one George Welhof. Briefly stated, the facts are as follows.

During the early morning hours of August 3, 1967, appellant Abrams called the police to the ramshackle residence of Welhof, a seventy year old derelict. Abrams met the police and directed them to the third floor of the building where the police found Welhof, filthy, disheveled and unconscious. With Abrams at the time was one Dorothy Lorimer, the second floor tenant of the dwelling, whom Abrams had [278 A.2d 904] been visiting. The [443 Pa. 297] police wagon crew treated the case as an ordinary hospital case, interviewing Abrams and Mrs. Lorimer briefly before taking Welhof to the hospital. Welhof was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at the hospital.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Welhof had died as a result of multiple injuries to his head, neck and thorax. Upon determining that a homicide had been committed and receiving a statement from Mrs. Lorimer that tended to implicate Abrams, the police took Abrams into custody for questioning at 8:20 A.M. on the following day, August 4, 1967. Upon his arrival at police headquarters Abrams was given something to eat. At approximately 11:30 A.M., the warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) were read to Abrams, and he was interviewed for the first time. After approximately two hours of oral questioning, Abrams gave an oral exculpatory statement; the burden of that statement was that he had been visiting Mrs. Lorimer in her apartment on the evening in question; that they heard a moan from Welhof's apartment on the third floor; and that upon investigation, they found Welhof, bloody and unconscious, and summoned the police.

After he had given this statement, Abrams requested and was given permission to telephone a lawyer whom he ahd retained on a prior occasion. [1] Following this telephone conversation, Abrams rested for a period of [443 Pa. 298] time and at approximately 3:30 P.M. asked to take a lie detector test. The test was given, and following its conclusion, Abrams was questioned for a second time beginning at 7:30 P.M. The Miranda warnings were not repeated immediately prior to this interrogation. In the course of this questioning Abrams made an inculpatory statement to police, the substance of which was that he had beaten Welhof when he refused to rent him a room. Thereafter the Miranda warnings were repeated for a second time. Abrams indicated that he had no desire to consult a lawyer stating that he had already spoken to his lawyer, and the police reduced the substance of his oral admissions to writing. This process of transcription was halted briefly at 9:00 P.M. to enable Abrams to have something to eat. It was completed at 10:00 P.M.

At that time the police learned that Abrams was essentially illiterate. Accordingly they read to him the question-and-answer statement which they had recorded, and Abrams signed it. The statement amounted to a confession that Abrams had beaten Welhof to death.

Three questions are presented by this appeal. They will be considered seriatim.

1. Denial of the Assistance of Counsel.

Appellant's first contention is that the failure of the police to repeat the Miranda warnings to Abrams immediately prior to the evening interrogation session which resulted in his giving incriminatory statements constituted a denial of Abrams' rights under Miranda v. Arizona, Supra. Appellant contends that the Miranda warnings originally given to him at 11:30 A.M. on the morning of August 4 had become 'stale' by 7:30 in the evening when he made his incriminating statements.

[443 Pa. 299] It is perfectly clear that before a suspect may be subjected to custodial interrogation he must be given the constitutionally prescribed Miranda warnings. [278 A.2d 905]

In the present case the fact that Abrams was given the Miranda warnings before any interrogation and expressly waived his rights thereunder in response to questions has not been contested. In addition, the Miranda warnings were repeated after he gave an oral incriminating statement in the evening but before that statement was reduced to writing; at that time Abrams again waived his rights, indicating that he had already spoken with his attorney and had no need of further legal assistance.

We have not held that the Miranda warnings must be given immediately prior to the commencement...

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25 practice notes
  • Com. v. Cannon
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 19, 1973
    ...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 instan......
  • Com. v. Matthews
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1971
    ...below, and we find nothing in the record to cause us to interfere with their rejection of his testimony. Cf. Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); and Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968). Appellant next asserts the trial court commit......
  • Commonwealth v. Matthews
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1971
    ...below, and we find nothing in the record to cause us to interfere with their rejection of his testimony. Cf. Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); and Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968). Appellant next asserts the trial court commit......
  • Com. v. Melton
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 29, 1976
    ...472, 304 A.2d 102 (1973); Commonwealth v. Daniels, 451 Pa. 163, 301 A.2d 841 (1973); Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. [465 Pa. 537] 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); Commonwealth v. Darden, 441 Pa. 41, 271 A.2d 257 (1970). Furthermore, there was considerable positive evidence of intelligence and cap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Com. v. Cannon
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 19, 1973
    ...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 instan......
  • Com. v. Matthews
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1971
    ...below, and we find nothing in the record to cause us to interfere with their rejection of his testimony. Cf. Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); and Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968). Appellant next asserts the trial court commit......
  • Commonwealth v. Matthews
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1971
    ...below, and we find nothing in the record to cause us to interfere with their rejection of his testimony. Cf. Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); and Commonwealth ex rel. Joyner v. Brierley, 429 Pa. 156, 239 A.2d 434 (1968). Appellant next asserts the trial court commit......
  • Com. v. Melton
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 29, 1976
    ...472, 304 A.2d 102 (1973); Commonwealth v. Daniels, 451 Pa. 163, 301 A.2d 841 (1973); Commonwealth v. Abrams, 443 Pa. [465 Pa. 537] 295, 278 A.2d 902 (1971); Commonwealth v. Darden, 441 Pa. 41, 271 A.2d 257 (1970). Furthermore, there was considerable positive evidence of intelligence and cap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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