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COMMONWEALTH v. BROWN (06/13/69)

decided: June 13, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BROWN, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, March T., 1967, No. 649, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Brown.

COUNSEL

Charles Jay Bogdanoff, for appellant.

Roger F. Cox and James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 453]

This is an appeal from a conviction for sale and possession of narcotics stemming from a trial conducted

[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 454]

    as part of the "Minor Case or Crash Court program" in Philadelphia.

Under that program, as stated by the District Attorney at appellant's post-conviction hearing, the Trial Commissioner informs prisoners gathered in the Philadelphia prison gymnasium, up to one hundred prisoners at a time, that there are three classifications of trial in Philadelphia; "Major Court, Regular Court and Crash program or Minor Court." He also tells them that if they are in the Minor court program there will not be any witnesses against them and that "the police report will be read." Moreover, it is stated, "If you want to have the witnesses then you cannot be in Minor court."

If a prisoner elects to be tried under the Minor court or Crash court program, he is brought to trial at an early date. Prior to trial, in the courtroom, another speech is made to the defendants appearing under the minor case program. They are again informed that "they (are) about to be tried before a Judge on the reading of a police report, and . . . that if their case was presented in such a way to the particular Judge who was trying those cases, that they stood to gain a more lenient sentence than they would in a full trial; and also that . . . if they desired to confront the witnesses against them, that they should tell him and that they would not be tried in that program." After being so informed the defendant is brought to trial. Appellant elected to be tried under the Crash program.

At his trial, the District Attorney proceeded to read a police report which stated that appellant had sold drugs to the police officer who swore out the complaint in the presence of a third party named "Soldier," an alleged police informer. Appellant was arrested four months after this alleged incident when the police officer identified his picture from "mug shots."

[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 455]

Appellant took the stand and stated: "Your Honor, (the police officer) had the wrong man. He looked in the mug file and he seen my picture in there, he said it looks just like the man. Now, this happened five months -- Q. . . . Who is Soldier? A. Your Honor, I don't know any Soldier. Q. You would know him if Soldier came here? A. I don't know who Soldier is. The Court: The law doesn't require the production of the informer or intermediary, whatever you call him. You can always go to the jury on that question. He is not here, however, the police officer would identify him. . . . Q. Do you have anything more to say? A. Your Honor, I say you have the wrong man. By The Court: Q. Mr. Brown, you can ...


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