Henry J. Lunardi, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Maxine Statland, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
Appellant, Rhodolphus Donald Brown, was tried by a judge and jury and found guilty of forcible rape and corrupting the morals of a minor. Post-trial motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to a term of five to fifteen years for the rape conviction and sentence was suspended on his conviction for corrupting the morals of a minor. The Superior Court affirmed appellant's judgment of sentence by a three-to-two decision. See Commonwealth v. Brown, 228 Pa. Super. 166, 323 A.2d 281 (1974). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal and now reverse his judgment of sentence.
The facts surrounding this appeal are as follows. On September 2, 1972, at or about 10:30 p. m., Patricia Rogers, a white female, entered a MacDonald's Restaurant
to purchase food for herself and her girlfriend. Upon leaving the restaurant, according to Miss Rogers, appellant, a black male, and a companion forced Miss Rogers into a car and had forcible sexual relations with her. Appellant was later arrested and convicted of rape and corrupting the morals of a minor; hence this appeal.
Appellant argues, and we agree, that he was denied due process of law by the trial court's refusal to allow the following question during the voir dire of prospective jurors:
"Would you, or do you, get upset or take special note when you see a white girl and a black man walking together; talking together; holding hands?"
In Commonwealth v. Johnson, 452 Pa. 130, 305 A.2d 5 (1973), this court stated the law of this Commonwealth with respect to voir dire examinations when it held:
"It is well-settled that '[t]he examination of jurors under voir dire is solely for the purpose of securing a competent, fair, impartial and unprejudiced jury. . . . Neither counsel for the defendant nor for the Commonwealth should be permitted to . . . ask direct or hypothetical questions designed to disclose what a juror's present impression or opinion may be or what his attitude or decision will likely be under certain facts which may be developed in the trial of the case. While considerable latitude should be permitted on a voir dire, the inquiry should be strictly confined to disclosing qualifications of a juror and whether a juror has formed a fixed opinion or may be otherwise subject to disqualification for cause.' Commonwealth v. McGrew, 375 Pa. 518, 525, 100 A.2d 467, 470 (1953) (emphasis added). See, Commonwealth v. Biebighauser, 450 Pa. 336, 346, ...