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COMMONWEALTH v. GOOSBY (03/16/73)

decided: March 16, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GOOSBY, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1971, No. 1228, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Andrew Goosby.

COUNSEL

Eugene H. Clarke, Jr., for appellant.

James J. Wilson and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 450 Pa. Page 611]

Appellant, Andrew Goosby, was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in a jury trial. Following denial of post-trial motions, sentence of three to six years imprisonment was imposed. This direct appeal followed and we affirm.

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial based upon certain remarks by Wanda Darlene Ebron, a Commonwealth witness. Wanda, the victim's twelve year old daughter, stated at the conclusion of extensive cross-examination: "The Witness: All right. Why that man [defense counsel] keep trying to get me to say something? The Court: Now, Miss Wanda -- The Witness: I don't like him --" Defense counsel immediately requested a sidebar conference and moved for a mistrial.

We agree with the trial court that this remark was not so conducive to prejudice as to warrant the grant of a new trial. Our Superior Court has said and we agree: "Every unwise or irrelevant remark made in the course of a trial by a judge, a witness, or counsel does not compel the granting of a new trial. A new trial is required when the remark is prejudicial; that is, when it is of such a nature or substance or delivered in such a manner that it may reasonably be said to have deprived the defendant of a fair and impartial trial. Com. v. Hales, 384 Pa. 153, 154, 119 A.2d 520; Com. v. Stallone, supra, 281 Pa. 41, 44, 126 A. 56; Com. v. Savor, 180 Pa. Superior Ct. 469, 119 A.2d 849, affirmed in 386 Pa. 523, 126 A.2d 444; Com. v. Meyers, 290 Pa. 573, 581, 139 A. 374." Commonwealth v. Phillips, 183 Pa. Superior Ct. 377, 382, 132 A.2d 733, 736 (1957) (emphasis added). Here, the statement, perhaps a natural response of a youthful witness to lengthy cross-examination, was directed at defense counsel, not appellant.

[ 450 Pa. Page 612]

Additionally, counsel admitted, at sidebar, that he was uncertain whether any juror heard the remark. In these circumstances, it cannot reasonably be said that Wanda's remark deprived appellant of a fair and impartial trial. Compare Commonwealth v. Horvath, 446 Pa. 11, 285 A.2d 185 (1971) (improper remark severely prejudicial).

Appellant also alleges that a comment made by the prosecutor in his summation requires a new trial. In summation, the prosecutor said "when the defendant went over to the [victim's] house he had the gun in his pocket." Defense counsel objected and moved for a mistrial arguing that there was no testimony indicating that appellant entered the home with the weapon in his possession. In our view, the trial court properly denied this motion.

It is clear that it is "unprofessional conduct for the prosecutor intentionally to misstate the evidence or mislead the jury as to the inferences it may draw." ABA Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, Standards Relating to the Prosecution Function, ยง 5.8 (Approved Draft, 1971). See also Commonwealth v. Revty, 448 Pa. 512, 295 A.2d 300 (1972); Commonwealth v. Dickerson, 406 Pa. 102, 176 A.2d 421 (1962). "[T]he District Attorney must limit his statements to the facts in evidence and legitimate inferences therefrom." Commonwealth v. Revty, supra at 516, 295 A.2d at 302. See also Commonwealth v. White, 442 Pa. 461, 275 A.2d 75 (1971); Commonwealth v. Dickerson, supra; Commonwealth v. Crittenton, 326 Pa. 25, 191 Atl. 358 (1937); ABA Standards, supra.

Review of the record here satisfies us that the prosecutor limited his statements to "the facts in evidence and legitimate inferences therefrom." Commonwealth v. Revty, ...


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