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COMMONWEALTH v. ROACH (10/12/71)

decided: October 12, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROACH, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, March T., 1968, No. 1084, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Thomas Roach.

COUNSEL

Abraham J. Brem Levy, with him Edward Reif, for appellant.

David R. Scott, Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 444 Pa. Page 369]

The appellant, Thomas Roach, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree and punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Following denial of motions in arrest of judgment or for a new trial, and the imposition of sentence as the jury directed, this appeal was filed. We affirm.

The assignments of error do not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the jury's verdict, but assert that due process was violated at trial by the admission into evidence of a recorded confession Roach made while in police custody, and also by permitting the district attorney to question prospective jurors during voir dire examination as to conscientious scruples against capital punishment.

From the uncontradicted trial evidence, the jury could find that Roach, Daniel Frazier*fn1 and George Bradley committed an armed robbery of Max and Charley's Bar at 2358 North Fifteenth Street in Philadelphia,

[ 444 Pa. Page 370]

    during which Roach fatally shot Charles Mosicant, the bartender and part owner of the establishment. The trial evidence included testimony of an inculpatory recorded statement Roach made to the police. It is maintained that Roach's arrest was without probable cause and his inculpatory statement that followed was involuntary. Neither assertion has the semblance of merit.

Roach was arrested by police armed with a search and body warrant issued on the basis of information previously supplied by Bradley, namely, that he, Roach and Frazier participated in the robbery. The thrust of the argument that the statement given to the police was "involuntary" is that the testimony of two police officers who stated they warned Roach of his constitutional rights before he was questioned is not credible. Assuming that the question of the credibility of these witnesses may be questioned on appeal, we have read the challenged testimony and find no meritorious reason why it was error for either the three-judge pretrial suppression court or the trial jury to accept it as true. Moreover, it was uncontradicted at trial.

The appellant's last contention is he should be granted a new trial because several prospective jurors were rejected by the district attorney due to their opposition to capital punishment.

In support of this proposition, appellant cites Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S. Ct. 1770 (1968). In Witherspoon, the United States Supreme Court held that the execution of a death sentence imposed by a jury from which prospective members were excluded for cause solely because they voiced general objections to the death penalty or expressed conscientious or religious scruples against its infliction (death qualification) constitutes a deprivation of life without ...


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