Appeal, No. 201, Oct. T., 1963, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Chester County, Jan. T., 1962, Nos. 44 and 44A, in case of Commonwealth v. William L. Fromal. Judgment affirmed.
G. Clinton Fogwell, Jr., with him Melva L. Mueller, and Reilly & Fogwell, for appellant.
John S. Halsted, Assistant District Attorney, with him Samuel J. Halpren, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.
[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 46]
The appellant was found guilty by a jury on two charges of larceny and burglary, and he was sentenced to concurrent terms of 8 to 16 months in jail. The only question before us is whether it was error for the trial judge to deny the defendant's counsel the right to examine a police file prepared by a Commonwealth witness who used it to refresh his recollection before coming into court.
A police detective, testifying without notes, was asked on cross-examination whether he had refreshed his recollection prior to trial. He replied that he had. Pressed further, it developed that he had read a police file consisting of an initial report and supplemental reports prepared for every day on which he had worked on the case. The trial judge, pointing out that the witness was not refreshing his recollection on the witness stand, refused the request of defendant's counsel to have these reports produced so he might examine them.
The defendant's counsel was also denied the right to examine the reports of another witness, an officer on a different police force, who had refreshed his recollection prior to the trial by the use of a series of reports prepared by him.
The means by which a witness can refresh his recollection prior to trial are almost unlimited. He may refresh his recollection from his own notes, which may have been made at the time of the event or at a later date. He may refresh his recollection by examining them at the trial, or immediately before trial or many months prior thereto. Mere retelling of an event may refresh the recollection of the teller. A visit to the scene of an occurrence may refresh one's recollection.
[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 47]
Asking another person for a name which "slipped one's mind" can refresh the recollection. A look at a telephone book or calling the Revenue Department for a license number may refresh one's recollection of a forgotten number. Reading another's account of an event may refresh the recollection of forgotten details. Between the time of an event and the time of testifying concerning it, a witness's recollection may be, and generally is, refreshed many times in many different ways.
It appears that the appellate courts of this Commonwealth have not ruled on the right of an accused to inspect memoranda from which a Commonwealth witness refreshed his recollection before coming into court. Rules which can be found on the subject of refreshing the recollection are, in the words of Professor Wigmore, "merely crude rules-of-thumb," and should not be treated as "dogmas." III Wigmore on Evidence (3rd Edition) § 765. The trial court's ...