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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. RYAN v. BANMILLER. (06/29/60)

June 29, 1960

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. RYAN, APPELLANT,
v.
BANMILLER.



Appeal, No. 27, May T., 1960, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, March T., 1959, No. 409, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Jseph M. Ryan v. William J. Banmiller, Warden. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Maxwell P. Gorson, for appellant.

William W. Caldwell, Assistant District Attorney, with him Martin H. Lock, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 400 Pa. Page 327]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE JONES.

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County denying petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The relator is confined in a State penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for his conviction of murder in the first degree. His trial was had in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Dauphin County before Honorable W. C. SHEELY, President Judge of the Fifty-First Judicial District, specially presiding. The verdict

[ 400 Pa. Page 328]

    of murder in the first degree with the penalty fixed at life imprisonment was read by the forelady of the jury in open court in the presence of the defendant. At his counsel's request, the jury was promptly polled. Following that, the verdict was formally recorded by the court and declared so to be by the clerk. Subsequently, sentence in accordance with the jury's verdict was duly imposed by the court. No appeal was taken.

In support of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was filed five years after relator's conviction and sentence to life imprisonment, he alleges that when the jury was polled two of its members did not answer in the form in which they should have in order to evidence their assent to the verdict as announced by the forelady. The contention is without merit. Relator's counsel entirely misconceives the purpose to be served by the polling of a jury. The verdict is what is announced to the court by the foreman (or forelady as the case may be) after the clerk's interrogation of the jury as to whether a verdict has been agreed upon. The purpose of the poll is to give any juror, who may possibly have been under pressure from other members of the jury to acquiesce in the verdict, an opportunity to speak out and declare to the court that the verdict as announced by the foreman was not voluntarily joined in by the answering juror. What actually took place in the courtroom when the jury returned to announce its verdict is clearly set forth in the opinion of Judge SHEELY, who sat specially in the Court of Common Pleas in Dauphin County for the purpose of passing on the relator's present petition for a writ, as follows:

"THE CLERK [addressing the jury]: Be seated please.

"Florence S. Miller, please stand. In the case of the Commonwealth versus Joseph Michael Ryan, to

[ 400 Pa. Page 329]

No. 38 Oyer and Terminer, January Sessions, 1954, on the charge of ...


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