J. H. Brennan, Brennan & Brennan, Stewart E. Murphy, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Frank J. Docktor, District Attorney, William C. Porter, First Assistant District Attorney, Washington, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Fine, JJ.
[ 166 Pa. Super. Page 159]
The first question involved in this appeal from the judgment of sentence of Arthur Ventura, following his conviction of the crime of burglary, is whether the court erred in admitting the testimony of John Romito, and accomplice, and in its charge in respect thereof.
The defendants were charged with having burglarized the Snee Dairy Company plant in Washington, Washington County, Pa., October 21, 1946. Romito entered a plea of guilty to the charge, and the case against Ventura is based almost entirely on the testimony of his accomplice. At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's case, defendant moved for a directed verdict and the motion was overruled. The defense then rested and the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
The chief burden of defendant's complaint on this appeal from the refusal of his motion for a new trial is that the relaxing in the more recent decisions of the Supreme Court and of this Court of the rule in Watson v. Commonwealth, 95 Pa. 418, in respect of the testimony of an accomplice, 'should be reviewed.'
In the most recent opinion on the question the Supreme Court, speaking through Mr. Chief Justice Maxey, in Commonwealth v. Bubna, 357 Pa. 51, 66, 67, 53 A.2d 104, 111, said:
'The third assignment of error relates to the charge of the court on the subject of the amount of credibility to be given to the testimony of an accomplice to the crime. The court said: 'When an accomplice or an accessory testified you should view that testimony with close scrutiny, especially with respect to any part where it is uncorroborated. * * * It is not necessary that you discard it. It is not proper that you should, but the
[ 166 Pa. Super. Page 160]
circumstances surrounding that testimony or of any testimony, for that matter, must be taken into consideration by you in arriving at the credibility that you are to give it and the reliance that you will place upon it.'
'While it is the better practice for a trial judge to explain to a jury why the testimony of an accomplice should be considered with 'close scrutiny', i. e., carefully and critically, it is reasonable to believe that the average juror possesses sufficient intelligence to understand without specific instructions why the testimony of an accomplice is to be viewed with some suspicion and why it is not to be accepted unless it carries with it a clear conviction of its truthfulness. It is a matter of general knowledge that partners in crime are likely when apprehended to cast the chief blame on each other. It is also equally well known that partners in crime sometimes do tell the truth as to the commission of the crime. The administration of justice in criminal cases would be seriously handicapped if there was any rule that the testimony of an accomplice ...