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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CANNON v. MARONEY (11/23/65)

decided: November 23, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CANNON, APPELLANT,
v.
MARONEY



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1965, No. 2626, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. James Cannon v. James F. Maroney, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

Hymen Schlesinger, with him M. Y. Steinberg, Henry Mustin, Walter T. McGough, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellant.

Edwin J. Martin, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents. Mr. Justice O'Brien took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.

Author: Bell

[ 419 Pa. Page 463]

This is an appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dismissing without a hearing the petition of James Cannon for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Cannon shot and killed Charles Williams in a bar on April 13, 1949. For several years thereafter, he was a fugitive from justice. He was finally apprehended, and convicted of murder in the first degree on September 12, 1953 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He thereafter appealed to this Court, which affirmed his conviction and sentence. See Commonwealth v. Cannon, 386 Pa. 62, 123 A.2d 675 (June 25, 1956).

Relator contends that he was denied his Constitutional rights (1) by the admission into evidence of a prior conviction of manslaughter in Maryland, for which he had been subsequently pardoned, and (2) by the conduct of the prosecuting attorney (a) in his opening remarks to the jury, and (b) in cross-examining relator.

Each and all of the arguments and contentions made by relator in this habeas corpus proceeding had been made by him in his direct appeal to this Court from his aforesaid conviction of and sentence for murder in the first degree, and each and all of them had been carefully and thoroughly analyzed and reviewed and decided adversely to Cannon in Commonwealth v. Cannon, 386 Pa., supra.

In Commonwealth v. Cannon, 386 Pa., supra, the Court said (pages 65-66): "That brings us to the second question involved -- Can the Commonwealth offer evidence of a prior crime of which defendant was convicted but pardoned? It is important to note once again that this question arises only in connection with the fixing of a penalty, namely, death or life imprisonment. While the authorities throughout the country

[ 419 Pa. Page 464]

    are in sharp disagreement as to the effect of a pardon, and while language may be found in some of our cases sufficiently broad to exclude the record of a pardoned crime, Pennsylvania has flatly ruled, at least for the limited purpose here involved, that the record of a prior crime of which defendant has been pardoned is admissible: Commonwealth ex rel. v. Smith, 324 Pa. 73, 187 A. 387; Carlesi v. People of New York, 233 U.S. 51. Cf. also: Commonwealth v. Quaranta, 295 Pa. 264, 145 A. 89; Wolfe's Disbarrment, 288 Pa. 331, 135 A. 732."

Our decision in Cannon's aforesaid appeal is reinforced by Article 41, ยง 74 of the Annotated Code of Maryland of 1939*fn* which was in effect when the homicide and trial of Cannon occurred. That section provides: "(a) A pardon*fn** is an act of clemency, evidenced by a written executive order signed by the Governor under the great seal, absolving the grantee thereof from the guilt of his criminal acts and exempting him from any pains and penalties imposed upon him therefor by law. It shall be presumed that the grantee of a pardon had been lawfully and properly ...


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