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COMMONWEALTH v. YOUNG (06/30/65)

decided: June 30, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
YOUNG, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Jan. T., 1961, No. 1320, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Thomas Young.

COUNSEL

Louis Lipschitz, with him Morton Gorelick, for appellant.

Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, with him Myrna P. Field, Assistant District Attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Eagen

[ 418 Pa. Page 360]

On November 16, 1962, Thomas Young, the appellant, was convicted by a jury in Philadelphia County

[ 418 Pa. Page 361]

    of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were denied by a majority of the court en banc. After sentence was imposed in accordance with the jury's verdict, an appeal from the judgment was entered here.

The motion in arrest of judgment was not pressed at oral argument or in the printed brief. We will, therefore, limit our consideration and discussion to the motion for a new trial. It is our considered conclusion that two of the assignments of error must be sustained and a new trial granted. We will, therefore, reverse the judgment.

For purposes of impeaching the credibility of Young's trial testimony, the Commonwealth, in rebuttal, identified a record purporting to show his prior conviction of the crime of robbery in another county. This evidence was introduced through the testimony of the clerk of courts of said county who produced files from his office, consisting of a transcript, an indictment dated January 14, 1952, and a guilty plea thereto by "Thomas Young", a male, colored man who was then 19 years of age. Not another iota of evidence was introduced to show that the Thomas Young involved was the same individual then on trial.

The Commonwealth's position, sustained by the court below, was that the identity of names, in the absence of contradiction,*fn1 was sufficient in itself to support a finding by the jury that the Thomas Young convicted in 1952 was the same individual on trial. To this, we cannot subscribe.

The importance of evidence establishing prior convictions of serious crimes for impeachment purposes cannot be ...


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