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COMMONWEALTH v. HOLDEN (10/07/57)

October 7, 1957

COMMONWEALTH
v.
HOLDEN, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 183, March T., 1957, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, March T., 1956, No. 78, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Holden. Judgment and sentence affirmed. Indictment charging defendant with murder and voluntary manslaughter. Before LAMOREE, P. J., specially presiding.

COUNSEL

Philip H. Scheiding, with him Regis S. Manion, for appellant.

William Claney Smith, Assistant District Attorney, with him Edward C. Boyle, District Attorney, and George H. Ross, Assistant District attorney, for appellee.

Before Jones, C. J., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and COHEn, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 390 Pa. Page 222]

Opinion by Mr. Justice BELL

The jury found defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, with sentence of life imprisonment. The principal question raised in this case is whether the evidence of identity of defendant was sufficient to sustain a conviction of murder.

Between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. on the morning of December 31, 1955, Cora Smith was severely beaten on the head, her skull was fractured and she was robbed in her speakeasy home in the City of Pittsburgh. She died the following day from the blows inflicted on her head. Defendant denied he was in Cora Smith's house at any time during the night or morning in question, and denied that he killed Cora Smith or struck Alfred Carter and Alfred Smith. Defendant had no corroboration of where he was between 5:00 and 6:30 a.m. on December 31, 1955. Two Commonwealth witnesses who had been drinking a considerable amount of liquor positively identified defendant as having been in Cora Smith's room at the time she was killed and identified

[ 390 Pa. Page 223]

    defendant positively as the man who brutally beat them at that time.

The rule concerning identification testimony has been recently stated by this Court in Commonwealth v. Kloiber, 378 Pa. 412, 106 A.2d 820:

"Where the opportunity for positive identification is good and the witness is positive in his identification and his identification is not weakened by prior failure to identify, but remains, even after cross-examination, positive and unqualified, the testimony as to identification need not be received with caution - indeed the cases say that 'his [positive] testimony as to identity may be treated as the statement of a fact': Commonwealth v. Ricci, 161 Pa. Superior Ct. 193, 54 A.2d 51; Commonwealth v. Sharpe, 138 Pa. Superior Ct. 156, 159, 10 A.2d 120. for example, a positive unqualified identification of defendant by one witness is sufficient for conviction even though half a dozen witnesses testify to an alibi: Commonwealth v. Pride, 143 Pa. Superior Ct. 165, 167, 18 A.2d 879; Commonwealth v. Saldutte, 136 Pa. Superior Ct. 52, 56, 7 A.2d 121; Commonwealth v. Ricci, 161 Pa. Superior Ct., supra; Commonwealth v. Tracey, 130 Pa. Superior Ct. 15, 196 A. 549; Commonwealth v. Lindner, 133 Pa. Superior ct. 196, 2 A.2d 518; Commonwealth v. Sharpe, 138 Pa. Superior Ct., supra."

Alfred Carter and Cora Cmith, the deceased, were sitting in the room where the murder took place around 5:30 a.m. on December 21. Alfred Smith, Cora's son (age 33) then came into the room. Smith testified that between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. he had had two beers and a couple of drinks. He then went to his mother's home to spend the night. He asked her for a drink ...


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