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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. REGINA GARRISON (01/27/75)

decided: January 27, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
REGINA GARRISON, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Gilbert E. Toll, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., David Richman, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Benjamin H. Levintow, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Manderino, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 459 Pa. Page 665]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Regina Garrison, was indicted and charged with the murder of Henrietta Garrison, the appellant's mother. Prior to trial appellant filed a motion to suppress which was denied. Thereafter, trial was had before a judge and jury, at the conclusion of which, the appellant

[ 459 Pa. Page 666]

    was found guilty of murder in the first degree. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were argued and denied and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed.

The principal objection relates to the introduction into evidence over the objection of the defense of eleven color slides of the body of the deceased. We believe the admission of this evidence was error and now reverse.*fn1

We recently set forth the controlling law in this area in our opinion in Commonwealth v. Scaramuzzino, 455 Pa. 378, 317 A.2d 225 (1974):

"At the outset it should be noted that the practice of admitting photographs of the body of the deceased, unless they have essential evidentiary value, is condemned. Commonwealth v. Peyton, 360 Pa. 441, 450, 62 A.2d 37, 41 (1948). See also, Commonwealth v. Dankel, 450 Pa. 437, 441, 301 A.2d 365, 367 (1973). Our law is well-settled that the admission of such evidence is a matter within the discretion of the trial judge and, absent an abuse of discretion, there is no reversible error. Commonwealth v. Woods, 454 Pa. 250, 252, 311 A.2d 582, 583 (1973), citing Commonwealth v. Dickerson, 406 Pa. 102, 176 A.2d 421 (1962).

"'The proper test to be applied by the trial court in determining the admissibility of photographs in homicide cases is whether or not the photographs are of such essential evidentiary value that their need clearly outweighs the likelihood of inflaming the minds and passions of the jurors.' Commonwealth v. Powell, 428 Pa. 275, 278-279, 241 A.2d 119, 121 (1968). Such photographs will not be excluded merely because they are horrid or gruesome, Commonwealth v. Snyder, ...


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