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COMMONWEALTH v. RANKIN (01/25/71)

decided: January 25, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RANKIN, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgment of sentence and order of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, April T., 1937, No. 72, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Rankin, alias Willie Jones.

COUNSEL

John J. Dean, Assistant Public Defender, and George H. Ross, Public Defender, for appellant.

Carol Mary Los, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 441 Pa. Page 402]

Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this consolidated appeal he challenges both the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the Commonwealth at his trial and the denial of post-conviction relief due to an allegedly illegal lineup identification. We affirm.

On March 9, 1937, a man attempted to rob a clothing store located at 1312 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was frightened away by the proprietor's wife and ran down the street. He was pursued by several people, with one Frank Weitz leading the chase. While in flight, the felon turned and shot Weitz to death.

Appellant, James Rankin, alias Willie Jones, was arrested for the above crime and was indicted for murder.

[ 441 Pa. Page 403]

Jones pleaded not guilty, and the court appointed counsel to assist him in his defense. Trial commenced on February 3, 1941, and the jury returned a verdict of first degree murder. Appellant filed no post-trial motions, nor did he take an appeal.

On February 8, 1957, the Governor of the Commonwealth commuted appellant's sentence to a minimum of 16 years 20 days, with the maximum remaining at life. Appellant was paroled on April 16, 1958. He was returned as a convicted parole violator on November 23, 1960, after serving a workhouse sentence of one to two years. He was reparoled on September 12, 1966, but was subsequently convicted of aggravated assault and battery and served a term in Philadelphia County prison. Following parole, appellant was recommitted on July 8, 1968, by the Pennsylvania Board of Parole to continue serving his life sentence.

On January 22, 1969, appellant filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act,*fn* challenging the pretrial confrontation and also asserting he had not known of his right to appeal. A hearing was held, and the hearing court dismissed the petition with regard to the lineup procedures, but held appellant had been denied his right of direct appeal. A direct appeal as though timely filed was entered on July 14, 1970. Also, an appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief was filed on June 24, 1970. This Court granted a petition for consolidation.

Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence because there was conflicting testimony as to his identification. The proprietor of the store stated appellant was not the person who had attempted to rob his ...


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