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COMMONWEALTH v. PATTERSON ET AL. (07/02/73)

decided: July 2, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PATTERSON ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeals from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Sept. T., 1971, No. 318, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Frank Patterson, Kenneth Owens and David Bridell.

COUNSEL

Frank Patterson, appellant, in propria persona, and Samuel W. Salus, II, Public Defender; Kenneth W. Owens, Jr., appellant, in propria persona, and Harry L. Green, First Assistant Public Defender; David Bridell, appellant, in propria persona, and David B. Fitzgerald, Assistant Public Defender, for appellants.

J. David Bean, Assistant District Attorney, with him Stewart J. Greenleaf, Assistant District Attorney, William T. Nicholas, First Assistant District Attorney, and Milton O. Moss, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Jones concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Nix took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Manderino.

Author: Roberts

[ 452 Pa. Page 458]

Appellants -- David Bridell, Kenneth Owens, and Frank Patterson -- were found guilty of direct criminal contempt in a summary proceeding before Judge Honeyman of the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County. Each appellant was sentenced to six months imprisonment to be served consecutively with sentences presently being served. Appellants' motions for a new trial on the contempt charges were denied. We allowed leave to appeal, as though timely filed, and now affirm.

On February 15, 1972, appellants were scheduled for trial before Judge Honeyman on charges of riot and assault by a prisoner. At that time, after extensive examination by the court, appellants were permitted to dismiss their appointed counsel. Appellant Owens, who was permitted to proceed pro se, was also selected by the other appellants to represent them. See ABA Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, Standards Relating to the Function of the Trial Judge ยง 6.6 (Approved Draft, 1972).

[ 452 Pa. Page 459]

On the following day, Owens repeatedly asked the judge personal questions and moved to have the judge disqualify himself. The court denied these motions as well as appellants' challenges to the composition of the jury panel. After accusing the court of bias, appellants announced their intention to leave the courtroom. The record reveals the following colloquy and subsequent disruption: "The Court: All right. Let the record note that questionnaires from the prospective jurors have been made available to the defendants. Now, Mr. Oehrle [prosecutor], do you want to address the prospective panel? Mr. Oehrle: Yes, sir. Thank you. Mr. Owens: Again, your Honor, now, I am going to tell you something and I think you better listen to what I am going to tell you. I'm not going to tell you again. You can take that any way you want. Now, we have stated that we are not going to -- The Court: Will you stand up, please, when you address the court? Mr. Owens: We have stated that we are not going to proceed with your form of justice.

"Now, I am not going to tell you that again. Now, I don't know what it will require for you to understand this fully but understand well that until such time as you have like individuals who represent our particular social and economic group, Blacks, per se, you're not going to conduct this. Now, if this requires whatever you want, you will have all that, plus. The Court: Mr. Oehrle, you may address the prospective panel of jurors. Mr. Owens: Let's leave. This is not -- The Court: I will direct the court attendants to have the defendants remain in the courtroom. Mr. Owens: No, you're not going to direct -- The Court: Remain in the courtroom, please. Mr. Bridell: Take your hands off me -- (Fight erupts in courtroom at 10:45 A.M.) (Defendants subdued.) 11:08 A.M. The Court: This is out of the hearing of the jury panel. I have directed the defendants to

[ 452 Pa. Page 460]

    be brought before the court one at a time, and the defendant, David William Joseph Bridell, is before the court. I want the court reporter to read what he reported as the events happened until there was a disruption in the courtroom. (At this point the reporter read back the [above] portion from his notes of testimony.) . . . Judge Honeyman then stated on the record: The Court: Now, I will describe what I observed at that juncture. The defendants, in defiance of an order of direction of the court, sought to leave the courtroom. The court attendants and the deputy sheriffs, in an effort to enforce the order of the court, met with violence on the part of the defendants. Directly in front of the bench and the desk of the court reporter, one of the defendants was subdued. I observed that the defendants punched the deputy sheriffs. There are bloodstains on the carpeting of the courtroom immediately before the bench of the court. One of the defendants was subdued over the counsel table. I observed one of the defendants, after he was handcuffed, kick out at the groin of one of the deputy sheriffs. It took at least eight or nine deputy sheriffs to subdue and calm down and properly restrain the defendants, and they were removed from the courtroom. By reason of the obvious security problems based upon those developments, I directed that the defendants be brought back before the court one at a time to show cause why they should not be adjudged in contempt of this court."

Immediately following the disruption, each appellant, individually, was brought before the judge and given an opportunity to address the court.*fn1 The judge found each appellant in contempt of court "by reason ...


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