Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

COMMONWEALTH v. ROUNDTREE (10/16/74)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: October 16, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROUNDTREE, APPELLANT

Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Dec. T., 1966, No. 732, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Roundtree.

COUNSEL

Robert S. Robbins, for appellant.

David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, with him Clifford Haines and James J. Ranney, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 458 Pa. Page 352]

On February 28, 1973, appellant was convicted in a non-jury trial of second degree murder for the stabbing

[ 458 Pa. Page 353]

    death of one Nathaniel Davis on November 10, 1966. Following the denial of his post-trial motions, he filed a direct appeal in this Court,*fn1 alleging that he was denied his right to a speedy trial. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

On the night of the murder, witnesses had observed the appellant and another man assaulting Davis, following an incident in a bar. Roundtree was arrested at the scene. A preliminary hearing was held later in November, 1966, and appellant was indicted for murder in December, 1966. An arraignment scheduled March 1, 1967 was aborted when appellant failed to appear; a bench warrant which was issued for him was lifted in mid-March. Whether a formal arraignment was ever held is unclear,*fn2 but it does appear that at some point appellant was freed on bail, and remained free throughout the period preceding trial.

There apparently was no action in the case until 1970, when it was listed for trial, but then continued. No further action was taken in the case until the fall of 1972, when the appellant was arrested on an unrelated charge. A routine records check divulged that there was an untried homicide charge pending against him.

At the hearing on the post-trial motions, it was ascertained that while appellant had been represented by counsel at least through the preliminary hearing, he had no counsel from the spring of 1967 until October, 1972, when the court appointed his present counsel. Trial was set for December, 1972, but was continued

[ 458 Pa. Page 354]

    because the Commonwealth could not locate its witnesses. The case was finally brought to trial on February 26, 1973, over six years from the date of the killing.

The sole question raised on this appeal is whether, as appellant contends, he was denied his right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.*fn3 Although the delay of over six years between arrest and trial would ordinarily act as a "triggering mechanism" to a further inquiry to determine whether appellant had been denied his right to a speedy trial, Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S. Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972), we need not make that further inquiry in this case, since we hold that appellant has waived his right to a speedy trial.

In Pennsylvania, the proper procedure for objecting to the length of delay in being brought to trial is a motion to quash the indictment. Commonwealth v. Gates, 429 Pa. 453, 455, 240 A.2d 815 (1968); Commonwealth ex rel. Smith v. Patterson, 409 Pa. 500, 503, 187 A.2d 278 (1963);*fn4 Commonwealth v. Smihal, 182 Pa. Superior Ct. 232, 236, 126 A.2d 523 (1956). Failure to properly object constitutes a waiver of the right to a speedy trial. Gates, supra; Commonwealth ex rel. DeMoss v. Cavell, 423 Pa. 597, 601, 225 A.2d 673

[ 458 Pa. Page 355]

(1967); Patterson, supra; Smihal, supra, at 236-37. See also A.B.A. Project on Minimum Standards for Criminal Justice, Standards Relating to Speedy Trial ยง 4.1 (Approved Draft, 1968). In the case at bar, appellant did not assert his right to a speedy trial either before or during trial; the issue was first formally raised in post-trial motions, after trial had been had and a verdict of guilty of second degree murder returned. The trial court was correct in concluding that this was too late.*fn5 See Commonwealth v. Agie, 449 Pa. 187, 189, 296 A.2d 741, 741 (1972); Cf. Commonwealth v. Clair, 458 Pa. 418, 326 A.2d 272 (1974); Dilliplaine v. Lehigh Valley Trust Co., 457 Pa. 255, 322 A.2d 114 (1974).

Our decision today, of course, in no way condones the inordinate delay which occurred in bringing this appellant to trial. This Court's concern about such delays, and the steps recently taken to end them, are well known. See Commonwealth v. Pearson, 450 Pa. 467, 303 A.2d 481 (1973); Commonwealth v. Jones, 450 Pa. 442, 299 A.2d 288 (1973); Commonwealth v. Hamilton, 449 Pa. 297, 297 A.2d 127 (1972); Pa. R. Crim. P. 1100, 19 P.S. Appendix (1974-75).*fn6 While the delay in this case appears to have been due to bureaucratic

[ 458 Pa. Page 356]

    oversight rather than to any purposeful strategy, and, as the trial court concluded, may not in fact have been prejudicial, the fact remains that a six-year delay between complaint and trial is inexcusable.

Judgment affirmed.

Disposition

Judgment affirmed.

Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts:

Appellant's speedy trial claim was not raised in the trial court until post-trial motions. Since the question was not timely raised, it may not be considered on appeal. Commonwealth v. Clair, 458 Pa. 418, 326 A.2d 272 (1974); Dilliplaine v. Lehigh Valley Trust Co., 457 Pa. 255, 322 A.2d 114 (1974); Commonwealth v. Agie, 449 Pa. 187, 189, 296 A.2d 741, 743 (1972).

To the extent the majority intimates that a motion to quash is the exclusive means of raising a speedy trial claim, I cannot agree. While this claim must be raised before the trial is commenced,*fn* it may also be presented via some other procedural device. For example, in Commonwealth ex rel. Smith v. Patterson, 409 Pa. 500, 187 A.2d 278 (1963), the defendant moved to nolle pros the indictment for failure to afford a speedy trial. This Court reversed the judgment of sentence and discharged the appellant, Mr. Justice Eagen writing for a unanimous court: "Undoubtedly, the proper legal motion should have been to quash the indictment. However, the law is not so rigid as to base a deprivation of constitutional prerogatives upon a

[ 458 Pa. Page 357]

    mere unfortunate choice of legal terminology by defense counsel." 409 Pa. at 503-04, 187 A.2d at 279.

I concur in the result.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.