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COMMONWEALTH v. LUCIANO (04/15/65)

decided: April 15, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LUCIANO, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Montgomery County, Nov. T., 1963, No. 374, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James J. Luciano.

COUNSEL

Anthony J. Giangiulio, with him Edward F. Kane, for appellant.

Paul C. Vangrossi, Assistant District Attorney, with him Richard A. Devlin, Assistant District Attorney, and Richard S. Lowe, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, and Hoffman, JJ. (Flood, J., absent). Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 205 Pa. Super. Page 398]

Prosecutrix filed an information before a justice of the peace charging appellant, James J. Luciano, with fornication and bastardy. Appellant was indicted, tried before a jury, and convicted of both charges. This appeal followed.

Appellant contends that the trial court committed reversible error in permitting the Commonwealth, over objection, to offer the testimony of the justice of the peace and of the prosecutrix relative to offers of settlement purportedly made by appellant's attorney.

It is well established that an unaccepted offer to compromise a claim in a civil suit cannot be introduced into evidence. Durant v. McKelvey, 187 Pa. Superior Ct. 461, 463, 144 A.2d 527, 529 (1958). This rule is designed to encourage the peaceful settlement of such suits without litigation. In addition, such offers often represent not what a person believes his adversary should receive but express, rather, what he is willing to yield to secure peace. Durant v. McKelvey, supra, p. 463.

The Commonwealth contends, however, that offers of compromise are admissible when made to a prosecutrix in a fornication and bastardy proceeding. It construes the offer as a bribe, designed to stifle a criminal prosecution and settle a cause properly belonging to the illegitimate child.

In support of its position, the Commonwealth relies on Commonwealth v. Mariano, 3 Pa. D. & C. 2d 277 (1954), in which the trial judge, in a fornication and bastardy proceeding, did admit evidence of an offer to compromise for the purpose of affecting defendant's

[ 205 Pa. Super. Page 399]

    credibility. The court there relied on the following statement in 4 Wigmore, Evidence, ยง 1061 at 31 (3rd ed. 1940).

"(8) In a criminal prosecution, the accused's offer to pay money or otherwise to 'settle' the prosecution will be received against him, because that mode of stopping or obstructing the prosecution would be an unlawful act, and good policy could not encourage that mode of dealing with a criminal charge; hence such an offer is receivable for whatever inference may be drawn from ...


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