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COMMONWEALTH v. WILLIAMS (04/03/74)

decided: April 3, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WILLIAMS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, No. 405 of 1972, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gregory Williams.

COUNSEL

James C. Tosh, and Luce, Good, Marshall & Tosh, for appellant.

Joseph M. Stanichak, Assistant District Attorney, and Joseph S. Walko, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, and Spaeth, JJ. (Spaulding, J., absent.) Opinion by Spaeth, J.

Author: Spaeth

[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 105]

The only meritorious issue in this case is whether the court below erred in allowing the Commonwealth to cross-examine appellant about a prior crime.*fn1 We hold that if there was error, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

On February 16, 1972, at about 9:45 p.m., Michael Naddour, a seventy-four year old resident of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, returned to the apartment building in which he lived. He entered the building and began to climb the steps to his apartment on the third floor. He heard someone walking up the steps behind him, but assuming it to be a neighbor, did not turn around. When he reached the second floor landing he was jumped by three youths. Two of them held him down while the third kicked him in the ribs, beat him, and cut his head and face. They took his wallet and left him lying in the hallway, where he was later discovered by a neighbor. His injuries required 65 stitches and two and a half weeks hospitalization. He never got a good look at his assailants because of blood in his eye and because the landing was apparently unlit. His in-court identification was therefore very weak.

[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 106]

A little less than an hour after Mr. Naddour had been robbed, John Grazulias left his apartment, which was a few blocks from Mr. Naddour's and on the same street, to get a cup of coffee. Three youths approached him on the sidewalk, jumped him, dragged him into a doorway, smashed his artificial larynx (he is a laryngectomee), held him down, and beat him. When he tried to protect his wallet with his hand he was cut on the thumb and forefinger (an injury that required 17 stitches). His ribs were also damaged. The youths took his wallet and fled, leaving their silenced victim to walk to the police station for help. At the trial he testified that he could not identify any of the persons who robbed him.

On February 26, 1972, two youths got into a taxicab in Aliquippa, and while the one in the back seat held a knife to the driver's throat, the one in the front seat took his wallet. On June 6, 1972, appellant pleaded guilty to larceny in connection with this robbery, the Commonwealth informing the court that it was satisfied that appellant's only part had been to take the driver's wallet, and that it would ask the court to nol pros. charges against appellant of robbery and assault with intent to kill.

On September 13 and 14, 1972, appellant was tried by a jury for the two robberies of February 16. After calling the two victims and the arresting officer, the Commonwealth called Captain Ciccarelli, the investigating officer. He testified that when he had questioned one James Turner in connection with "another case", Turner had implicated himself and appellant in the robberies and had said that appellant had done the cutting. He further testified that when he confronted appellant with this fact, appellant denied Turner's accusation, saying rather that he had held the victims while Turner cut them. Appellant then executed a full statement.

[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 107]

The statement concerned both of the February 16 robberies and also the robbery of the taxi driver on February 26. (The taxi robbery was apparently the "other case" that Turner had been originally questioned about.) When the statement was offered in evidence, on objection by the defense only those portions ...


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