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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. TORRANCE v. SALZINGER. (01/30/62)

January 30, 1962

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. TORRANCE
v.
SALZINGER.



No. 278, Miscellaneous Docket No. 12, original jurisdiction, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. James F. Torrance v. Joseph Salzinger, Warden. Rule discharged and petition dismissed.*fn*

COUNSEL

Gilbert J. Helwig, with him Elder W. Marshall, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for petitioner.

Huette F. Dowling, Special Deputy Attorney General, for respondent.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 406 Pa. Page 269]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BELL

We took original jurisdiction of this Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under the power conferred upon us by Article V Section 3, of the Constitution (1) because of the extraordinary circumstances in this case, (2) because of the very serious illness of petitioner, (3) because petitioner concedes there is no new evidence nor any factual issue involved but solely a question of law, and (4) because petitioner had filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Torrance's appeal from the Order dismissing his petition will not be considered by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit until Torrance, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, has exhausted his remedies in this Court.

The basis of petitioner's contention is that there was a lack of adequate or sufficient evidence to prove his guilt of the crime of which he was convicted in

[ 406 Pa. Page 270]

Dauphin County and hence he was deprived of due process. A gigantic fraud was perpetrated on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in connection with the construction of a part of the Northeastern Estension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, for which a number of people were convicted and duly sentenced. Torrance, who was a member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission at the time this fraud was committed by others, was convicted with three others for conspiracy.

The crime of conspiracy for which these defendants were convicted arose principally out of a contract dated February 28, 1955, between the commission and ManuMine. The contract provided for surface support for the right-of-way of the Northeastern Extension of the Turnpike across the anthracite coal regions by the use of slushing material into mine voids underlying the roadway area, which land had been appropriated by the Commission for part of the Northeast Highway.

The basic question involved in the Torrance (and Evans) appeals was thus stated: Was the Commonwealth's evidence legally sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that each of these particular defendants was guilty of criminal conspiracy to perpetrate this fraud? The Superior Court, in an exhaustive opinion (Commonwealth v. Evans, 190 Pa. Superior Ct. 179-269, 154 A.2d 57 (1959)), discussed the evidence in great detail and held that it was sufficient to prove that Torrance was guilty of conspiracy. Three of the seven members of the Superior Court strongly dissented. An allocatur was allowed to this Court. This Court in a three line Per Curiam Opinion (which represented the views of four members of this Court) affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court, 399 Pa. 387, 160 ...


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