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COMMONWEALTH v. RUCKER (03/23/61)

March 23, 1961

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RUCKER, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 153, Jan. T., 1960, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1958, No. 921, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Herman Rucker. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Louis Lipschitz, with him Benjamin R. Donolow, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Assistant District Attorney, with him William H. Wolf, Jr. and Robert W. Williams, Jr., Assistant District Attorneys, Paul M. Chalfin, First Assistant District Attorney, and Victor H. Blanc, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Bell

[ 403 Pa. Page 264]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL.

On December 13, 1958, at approximately 9 p.m., defendant with one Carl Melton*fn1 forced open the cellar door and entered the grocery store and dwelling of Samuel Schloss and Rose Schloss, his wife, which was located at 311 North Franklin Street, Philadelphia. Their principal objective was to rob the Schlosses, who were each 65 years of age. Melton grabbed Schloss and brutally and mercilessly beat him on his head with a hatchet and various large pieces of brass pipe - the blood was spattered on the floor, the walls and even the ceiling. Defendant went into another room, knocked Mrs. Schloss to the ground, stamped several times on her face with his heel, beat her into unconsciousness and then stabbed her in several parts of her body with a long boning knife, which he left in her body. She died from these knife wounds. Without further detail it will suffice to say that it was one of the most brutal, vicious, merciless, unnecessary and inhuman killings ever committed. It was not only committed in the perpetration of a robbery,

[ 403 Pa. Page 265]

    but it was also a willful, deliberate and premeditated murder. They then rifled the cash register and fled.

An hour later that night defendant and Melton were arrested on the street a short distance from the Schloss home. There were blood stains on the arms and clothing of both men and they were caught with the "fruits of the crime" (robbery). Defendant not only signed a voluntary detailed confession but also re-enacted the killing for the police. Defendant did not testify in his own defense. After a very able charge by the Court the jury convicted defendant of first degree murder with penalty of death.

Defendant filed 25 reasons for a new trial, but urges only four of them on this appeal. The first one is that it is a violation of due process to introduce prior to a verdict of guilty, evidence of a defendant's prior convictions for the purpose of affecting the penalty. We have expressly decided this question adversely to defendants. The murder was committed, the verdict of the jury was rendered, and the judgment of sentence was entered prior to the Act of December 1, 1959 - the split verdict Act - and that statute will not be applied retroactively: Commonwealth v. Scoleri, 399 Pa. 110, 160 A.2d 215.

Defendant's second contention is that it was error to introduce evidence of prior convictions for the purpose of affecting the penalty without showing the sentences which were imposed on such prior convictions. To support this proposition defendant cites Commonwealth v. Minnich, 250 Pa. 363, 95 A. 565. That case is distinguishable. It involved a question of the admissibility of the record of a conviction of a principal upon the trial of an accessory. The Court held that the jury's verdict in the principal's case was inadmissible because (a) due to a ...


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