Barry H. Denker, F. Michael Medway, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., David Richman, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., L. A. Perez, Jr., Philadelphia for appellee.
Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., not participating.
Appellant, Byron Collins, was tried and convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree for the killing of one
Richard Johnson. Post-verdict motions were denied and this appeal followed.
In his post-verdict motions, appellant contended that the conduct of the prosecutor throughout the trial deprived the appellant of a fair trial because of the prejudicial effect the prosecutor's conduct had on the jury. The court en banc, with one member dissenting, agreed that the prosecutor's conduct was on many occasions "reprehensible" and "censurable," but denied relief, holding that the misconduct and improprieties constituted harmless error.
In this appeal, the prosecution admits that the conduct of the prosecutor during the trial was reprehensible and censurable. The prosecution also admits that "[f]or many of the remarks there can be no rational justification. . . ." The only issue before us, therefore, is whether the admitted misconduct of the prosecutor was harmless error. We conclude that it was not.
In recent years, this Court has had the unfortunate duty to consider allegations of improper prosecutorial trial conduct on several occasions. In Commonwealth v. Potter, 445 Pa. 284, 285 A.2d 492 (1971), we reversed appellant's conviction and granted a new trial saying,
"This Court has made clear '. . . that the prosecuting attorney enjoys an office of unusual responsibility, and that his trial conduct should never be vindictive or attempt in any manner to influence the jury by arousing their prejudices.'" (Citations omitted.)
Id. at 287, 285 A.2d 493-494.
In Commonwealth v. Revty, 448 Pa. 512, 295 A.2d 300 (1972), we reversed appellant's judgment of sentence and granted a new trial saying,
"the district attorney is a quasi-judicial officer, representing the Commonwealth, which seeks no victims, but only justice; . . ."