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COMMONWEALTH v. YAHNERT (03/19/70)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 19, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
YAHNERT, APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, Sept. T., 1968, No. D-65, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Eugene Yahnert.

COUNSEL

Thomas A. Young, Public Defender, 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 Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J. Dissenting Opinion by Wright, P. J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 216 Pa. Super. Page 160]

Appellant was indicted March 4, 1968, by the Cambria County grand jury on Bill No. D-42 March Term, 1968. On March 21, 1968, appellant was brought to trial on that indictment. The record indicates that a jury was sworn and that the Commonwealth presented its case. Appellant entered a demurrer to the evidence, which demurrer was sustained. The Commonwealth did not appeal from that ruling.

Appellant was again indicted on September 3, 1968, by the Cambria County grand jury on Bill No. D-65 September Term, 1968. Comparison of the March and September bills indicates they both present the same charge in identical language. Appellant was convicted on the September bill. No plea of res judicata or autrefois acquit was made in the lower court. This appeal followed.

The question apparent on the record is whether appellant could be re-indicted on a charge to which a demurrer had been sustained, from which ruling no appeal was taken by the Commonwealth.*fn1

[ 216 Pa. Super. Page 161]

The order of the trial judge sustaining appellant's demurrer to the charge set forth in Bill No. D-42 March Term, 1968, was final and appealable. Commonwealth v. Heller, 147 Pa. Superior Ct. 68, 24 A.2d 460 (1942); Commonwealth v. Kerr, 150 Pa. Superior Ct. 598, 29 A.2d 340 (1942); Commonwealth v. Fox, 181 Pa. Superior Ct. 292, 124 A.2d 628 (1956); Commonwealth v. Mason, 211 Pa. Superior Ct. 328, 236 A.2d 548 (1967) (Montgomery, J.). The Commonwealth should have appealed to this Court within forty-five days. Act of May 19, 1897, P. L. 67, § 4, as amended, 12 P.S. § 1136. The Commonwealth having failed to appeal, the action of the court on Bill No. D-42 is res judicata as to the charge contained therein. "An order sustaining a demurrer is final and the Commonwealth has the right to appeal without any further action on the part of the court below. Where no timely appeal is taken the matter becomes res judicata." Commonwealth v. Wydo, 205 Pa. Superior Ct. 62, 64, 208 A.2d 12 (1965) (Per Curiam).

The effect of the above was to preclude a new indictment.*fn2 "[T]he judgment entered on the demurrer,

[ 216 Pa. Super. Page 162]

    if sustained, is a discharge, and bars a second prosecution for the same cause . . ." Commonwealth v. Marino, 142 Pa. Superior Ct. 327, 330, 16 A.2d 314 (1940). See Commonwealth v. Fox, supra; Commonwealth v. Wydo, supra. Bill No. D-65 September Term, 1968, hence, was a nullity.

Judgment of sentence is vacated and appellant is discharged.*fn3

Disposition

Judgment of sentence vacated and appellant discharged.

Dissenting Opinion by Wright, P. J.:

At oral argument, the writer initially questioned the validity of a second indictment following the sustaining of a demurrer at trial on the first indictment. Counsel stated in open court that this question was not raised or being argued. It is my view, therefore, that the defense of autrefois acquit was waived. See Commonwealth v. Gibbs, 167 Pa. Superior Ct. 79, 74 A.2d 750, and Commonwealth v. Balles, 163 Pa. Superior Ct. 467, 62 A.2d 91.

I would affirm the judgment of sentence.


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