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COMMONWEALTH v. COBBS (05/23/73)

decided: May 23, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
COBBS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, Nov. T., 1970, No. 8549, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James H. Cobbs.

COUNSEL

Carl Max Janavitz, with him Janavitz, Janavitz & Kanfoush, for appellant.

Robert L. Campbell, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert L. Eberhardt, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 452 Pa. Page 398]

Appellant, James H. Cobbs, was found guilty of murder in the first degree before a jury on July 16, 1971, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. On August 16, 1972, appellant's motion for a new trial and in arrest of judgment was denied by the court en banc. A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. Appellant has appealed and we now affirm.

Appellant raises only two issues. He first contends that his timely motion to quash the existing jury panels should have been granted. Appellant argues that the disparity in juror eligibility requirements between that section of the code governing Allegheny County*fn1 and the relevant provisions pertaining to the remaining counties,*fn2

[ 452 Pa. Page 399]

    violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, in view of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment granting 18-year-olds the right to vote. Appellant's second contention is that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right to remain silent during his interrogation by the police.

The impetus for appellant's first claim was the ratification, on July 5, 1971, of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution granting 18-year-olds the right to vote. Appellant, a 17-year-old at the time of his trial,*fn3 maintains that he was denied equal protection of the laws because section 9 of the Act of May 11, 1925 prohibited persons under 21 years of age from being called in the venire in Allegheny County, whereas in other counties of the Commonwealth persons between 18 and 21 were eligible to serve as jurors subsequent to the adoption of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Essentially appellant is attacking the jury selection system in Allegheny County in effect at the time of his trial. He contends the system was constitutionally defective because eligibility for jury service varied with the class of county. Appellant asserts that because in other counties prospective jurors were

[ 452 Pa. Page 400]

    only required to be "qualified electors"*fn4 the 21-year-old requirement in Allegheny County was unconstitutional after the adoption of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, on July 5, 1971.

On July 9, 1971, the Pennsylvania Legislature implemented the mandate of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment by amending the Election Law to provide, inter alia, that "[e]very citizen of this Commonwealth 18 years of age . . . shall be entitled to vote at all elections, . . ."*fn5 Appellant, on July 14, 1971, immediately prior to the selection of a jury, moved "to quash the existing panels" selected prior to either July 5, or July 9, because no persons between the ages of 18 and 21 ...


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