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COMMONWEALTH v. JACKSON (05/02/74)

decided: May 2, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JACKSON, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Superior Court, April T., 1970, No. 125, affirming judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, Sept. T., 1967, No. 31, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Floyd Jackson.

COUNSEL

Michael J. Wherry, with him Wherry & Ketler, for appellant.

Robert F. Banks, First Assistant District Attorney, with him Joseph J. Nelson, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Roberts

[ 457 Pa. Page 80]

Floyd Jackson was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to one to four years imprisonment. Pursuant to rule 312 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure,*fn1 appellant notified the Commonwealth pretrial

[ 457 Pa. Page 81]

    of the names and addresses of the witnesses he intended to call to establish an alibi. His request for the names and addresses of those witnesses the Commonwealth planned to produce to place him at the scene of the crime was refused. The Superior Court on April 12, 1973, affirmed. Commonwealth v. Jackson, 224 Pa. Superior Ct. 280, 303 A.2d 519 (1973).

On June 11, 1973, the United States Supreme Court delivered its opinion in Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470, 93 S. Ct. 2208 (1973). There, the Supreme Court held that "the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids enforcement of alibi rules unless reciprocal discovery rights are given to criminal defendants." Id. at 472, 93 S. Ct. at 2211. Jackson's petition for allowance of appeal raised the question whether the failure to afford appellant reciprocal discovery violated his right to due process of law.*fn2 We granted the petition*fn3 and now reverse.

[ 457 Pa. Page 82]

    of his own case." Here, too, appellant was subjected "to the hazard of surprise." Because appellant was not granted reciprocal discovery, even after his express request, the enforcement of rule 312 violated appellant's right to due process of law. It was constitutional error to require appellant to supply the names of his alibi witnesses, without directing the Commonwealth to afford appellant reciprocal discovery rights.*fn7

We cannot say that this error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S. Ct. 824 (1967); Commonwealth v. Davis, 452 Pa. 171, 305 A.2d 715 (1973); Commonwealth v. Padgett, 428 Pa. 229, 237 A.2d 209 (1968). Appellant's alibi witnesses testified that appellant was at their home at the time the robbery was committed, and that they saw no gun in his possession. Two witnesses, whose names appellant sought to discover pretrial, directly contradicted the testimony ...


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