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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. GIST v. RUNDLE (11/23/65)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: November 23, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. GIST, APPELLANT,
v.
RUNDLE

Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 3 of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1964, No. 210, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Edward Gist v. Alfred T. Rundle, Superintendent.

COUNSEL

Edward Gist, appellant, in propria persona.

Ted E. Freedman and Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorneys, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 419 Pa. Page 459]

Appellant, presently serving a life sentence following his conviction in a trial by jury of murder in the first degree, appeals the dismissal, without hearing, of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.*fn1 His numerous

[ 419 Pa. Page 460]

    contentions*fn2 have no merit and were properly disposed of by the court below. Only one issue raised by this appeal requires our discussion.

Appellant contends that the introduction at trial, prior to the adoption of the Split-Verdict Act,*fn3 of the record of one prior conviction*fn4 amounted to a denial of due process and invalidated his conviction. We are unable to agree. An examination of the instant record discloses that appellant suffered no realistic probability of prejudice by the introduction of such prior conviction and no denial of his rights occurred thereby. Cf. United States ex rel. Rucker v. Myers, 311 F. 2d 311 (3d Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 374 U.S. 844 (1963); Commonwealth ex rel. Marino v. Myers, 419 Pa. 448, 214 A.2d 491 (1965).

Appellant was charged with the slaying of one John Harris, the father of an acquaintance. Harris, 87 years old, died as the result of a severe beating. The evidence of appellant's guilt, although circumstantial, was overwhelming. He was apprehended by the police at the scene of the crime and in the presence of the victim. His clothing evidenced that he had been engaged in a struggle: his trousers were torn and blood was found on his topcoat and shirt. Testimony was adduced which tended to place the murder weapon in his possession prior to the slaying. Certain valuables identified as belonging to the victim were found on appellant's person. And, although he sought to establish an alibi,*fn5 he was unable to account for his activities at the

[ 419 Pa. Page 461]

    time the beating was believed to have taken place. Moreover, certain of appellant's statements made at the scene, not controverted at trial, tended to connect him with the crime.

Under such circumstances, we conclude that there was no realistic probability that the jury's awareness of appellant's prior conviction entered into its deliberation on the issue of guilt. Our conclusion is reinforced by the fact that appellant's prior conviction, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, unlike the situation in United States ex rel. Johnson v. Rundle, 243 F. Supp. 695 (E.D. Pa.), aff'd on the opinion below, 349 F. 2d 416 (3d Cir. 1965), had no particular relevance to the crime charged in light of the fact that the victim had been beaten to death.

The totality of these circumstances place the instant case within the ambit of United States ex rel. Rucker v. Myers, supra, and are clearly distinguishable from the prejudicial configuration found to be present in United States ex rel. Johnson v. Rundle, supra, and United States ex rel. Scoleri v. Banmiller, 310 F. 2d 720 (3d Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 374 U.S. 828 (1963). Cf. Commonwealth ex rel. Marino v. Myers, 419 Pa. 448, 214 A.2d 491 (1965).

Order affirmed.

Disposition

Order affirmed.


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