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COMMONWEALTH v. CHAPMAN (12/12/68)

decided: December 12, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
CHAPMAN, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Quarter Sessions of Cambria County, March T., 1968, No. D-37, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John Isaac Chapman.

COUNSEL

William K. Eckel, for appellant.

William G. Shahade, Assistant District Attorney, with him Ferdinand F. Bionaz, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Hannum, JJ. Spaulding, J., dissents. Dissenting Opinion by Hoffman, J. Jacobs, J., joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 23]

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 24]

Dissenting Opinion by Hoffman, J., February 17, 1969:

Appellant was tried and convicted on March 18, 1968, of aiding and assisting the driver of an automobile, in which he was a passenger, in leaving the scene of an accident. The driver was subsequently discharged in a separate action. Appellant contends, inter alia, that the court below erred in admitting into evidence the confession of a co-defendant in violation of Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), and Roberts v. Russell, 392 U.S. 293 (1968).

During the course of trial, a confession made by the appellant was introduced into evidence. Thereafter, a similar confession made by the co-defendant, appellant's mother, was admitted. The co-defendant did not testify. The Commonwealth argues that because appellant's confession, which was identical to that of the co-defendant in all material facts, had previously been introduced, the admission of the latter confession was harmless error.

The generally applied rule of Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967), that a Constitutional error does not mandate reversal if it is determined that the error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt is not applicable in all instances of Constitutional error. An exception to the Chapman rule is carved out by the automatic reversal doctrine which requires reversal without inquiry as to the impact of the error in cases involving "constitutional rights so ...


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