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COMMONWEALTH v. KING (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
KING, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, Sept. T., 1972, Nos. 7647 and 7648, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Daniel King.

COUNSEL

Stephen P. Swem, Assistant Public Defender, with him John J. Dean, Assistant Public Defender, and George H. Ross, Public Defender, for appellant.

John G. Alford, 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, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Roberts took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Jones

[ 455 Pa. Page 364]

This is a direct appeal from a judgment of sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Appellant was found guilty by a jury of second degree murder on March 30, 1973. Post-trial motions were denied and on June 30, 1973, he was sentenced to a term of seven to twenty years' imprisonment.

The underlying facts can be summarized as follows. On June 26, 1972, the victim, Michael Guy, was fatally shot in the McKeesport apartment of James and Carol McNelis, friends of the appellant. Present at the shooting were the McNelises, the victim, and Daniel King, the appellant. It is undisputed that appellant was holding

[ 455 Pa. Page 365]

    the weapon when the fatal shot was fired. Appellant contends, however, that the shooting was accidental and unintentional while the Commonwealth contends that the shooting occurred with malicious intent.

Appellant charges the trial court with a number of errors. However, we will confine our discussion to the question of whether or not a proper foundation was laid for the introduction of records supposedly relating to prior convictions of the appellant.*fn1

In order to bolster his position that the killing had occurred accidentally, appellant took the stand in his own behalf at trial. On rebuttal, the Commonwealth then sought to attack appellant's credibility by the introduction of certain records of convictions of one Daniel King for forgery, uttering a forged instrument, and receiving stolen goods. These records were introduced by the district attorney's merely reading them into evidence. Defense counsel strenuously objected to this procedure on two grounds: (1) that the records custodian or clerk of court was not called to authenticate the records, and (2) that the identity of the person to whom the prior convictions referred was not sufficiently established to be that of the appellant. The trial court overruled these objections, referring to the

[ 455 Pa. Page 366]

    records as "official" documents but making no comment on the identity question. By this action ...


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