Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

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

COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. AFRICA AFRICA (03/17/76)

decided: March 17, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
AFRICA AFRICA, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. MERLE AUSTIN, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. LAVERNE SIMS, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. GERALD FORD, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. THEODORE WILLIAMSON, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. CONRAD HAMPTON, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. DONALD GROSSMAN, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Benjamin Lerner, Defender, John W. Packel, Asst. Defender, Chief, Appeals Div., Patrick J. Mandracchia, Douglas H. Riblet, Asst. Public Defenders, Philadelphia, for appellants.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Glen Gitomer, 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. Jones, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Pomeroy, J., joins.

Author: Roberts

[ 466 Pa. Page 610]

OPINION OF THE COURT

We are asked in these appeals to review*fn1 appellants' summary convictions for contempt of court.

I

Appellants were arrested on charges arising from their participation in a protest demonstration held on October 25, 1974, in Philadelphia. Trial on these charges began on January 15, 1975. At the opening of trial, the court granted appellants' motion that they be permitted to represent themselves, but appointed a public defender to act as their legal adviser. Appellants, alleging that the judge was prejudiced by pretrial publicity and by a statement of the assistant district attorney that two appellants were charged in another case, moved for the judge to disqualify himself. This motion was denied. After some preliminary discussions, appellant Africa Africa was called upon to enter her plea. The following occurred:

"THE COURT CRYER: Africa Africa, on Bill number 2794,

October Term, 1974, charging you with disorderly conduct, failing to disperse at official order and criminal conspiracy, how do you plead?

AFRICA AFRICA: You ask me to make a judgment? Are you asking me to make a judgment now?

THE COURT: You will enter a not guilty plea on behalf of the defendant.

[ 466 Pa. Page 611]

AFRICA AFRICA: If you are saying I'm not guilty, you are saying I'm innocent, right?

THE COURT: You may go on.

AFRICA AFRICA: Are you saying I'm innocent?

THE COURT: No, madam.

AFRICA AFRICA: You said I'm not guilty.

THE COURT: That is why we are here today, madam.

AFRICA AFRICA: To do what? To try me, to find out if I'm guilty or innocent?

THE COURT: If you persist in your conversation, I assure you I will take steps.

AFRICA AFRICA: What I'd like to say -- I'd like to say one thing to you. I know your reputation. I know you are supposed to be a nasty judge, but I want to know, do you get this reputation because you know what the law is or do you have this reputation because you can give out contempt charges? Because if that's the case, anybody can hold for contempt, a bum on the street can do that."

Appellants then asked that they be permitted to stand mute, which the judge allowed.

Appellants apparently had three theories of defense. They attempted to show: first, that they had been arrested primarily because they had been using profanity over a loudspeaker system at the demonstration; second, that their arrests were based upon the individual judgment of the arresting officers that they were using profane language; and third, that they were victims of selective enforcement of the law by the police department. Because they were unable to articulate either what the defense theories were, or their legal relevance to the charges, their questioning of witnesses was punctuated with "Objection. Objection sustained." Further, as a result of their inexperience in a court of law, and possibly in an effort to use the court as a platform for

[ 466 Pa. Page 612]

    their views, their "cross-examination" often became either argument or their own direct testimony. This is illustrated by the cross-examination of the Commonwealth's first witness by appellant Theodore Williamson:

"CROSS-EXAMINATION BY THEODORE WILLIAMSON --

Q. Because I am saying in my reference, bomb, science is profane. War is profane. I don't know what you are talking about.

MR. BUTLER: Objection, that is not a question.

THE COURT: Objection sustained. These are argumentative points.

Q. Officer Patton, do you say a bomb was profane?

MR. BUTLER: Objection.

THE COURT: Objection sustained.

Q. Officer Patton, do you say war is profane?

MR. BUTLER: Objection.

THE COURT: Sustained.

Q. Do you say rape as [sic] profane?

MR. BUTLER: Objection.

THE COURT: Sustained.

Q. Do you see either handcuffing and arresting and jailing innocent people is profane?

MR. BUTLER: Objection.

THE COURT: That too is sustained."

Through several rounds of questioning which followed the pattern above, it is apparent that appellants were becoming increasingly restive. Then the following occurred:

"[Appellant] CONRAD HAMPTON: I would make a motion to the Court. Have it be done on the record.

THE COURT: What is it?

CONRAD HAMPTON: I want to point out the Move Organization have been tried with injustices, so called

[ 466 Pa. Page 613]

    breaking the law. This is supposed to be a Court room of justice, a City Hall of justice. Who is going to speak of all the injustices that was poured down on the Move Organization because masochistic sheriffs and police officers beat me, when I was punched, when I was kicked and drug from the Court room, slammed into the elevator, slammed my face against concrete walls. When are these maniacs, these criminals going to be on trial?

THE COURT: Mr. Hampton --

CONRAD HAMPTON: How much longer do you intend to let these ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

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