John J. Dean, John R. Smith, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
John J. Hickton, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Charles W. Johns, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
Appellant, Lillie Belle Grayson, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to one and one-half to five years in prison. This appeal followed the denial of post-verdict motions.
The appellant was charged with fatally shooting her husband on March 2, 1974. There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting which took place at the couple's residence. At trial, appellant testified that the shooting was done in self-defense following an attack on her by the victim during which the victim said he was going to kill her, struck her with a beer bottle, and attempted to strangle her with a towel. The defense also presented evidence that the victim was frequently intoxicated, and would become violent and beat the appellant.
In an attempt to establish murder in the first degree, the prosecution called three witnesses who testified concerning appellant's possession, prior to the night of the killing, of the gun with which she shot her husband. One of these witnesses also testified that she did not know of the victim's violent propensities or drunkenness.
At trial the defense requested permission to examine pretrial statements made by these witnesses. The prosecution's refusal to allow the defense to examine these statements was upheld by the trial court. Appellant contends that the trial court erred in refusing appellant's request to examine the witnesses' pretrial statements. We agree, and thus reverse and grant a new trial.
We have consistently held that the prosecution must allow the defense to examine statements in its possession given by persons who testify as prosecution witnesses.
"The most elementary principles of what 'is deemed reasonable and right' dictate that [the accused] be allowed to see what witnesses have previously said . . . when they testify against [the accused] in court. It is simply unthinkable that in a government of the people, the government should withhold from one of the people evidence which could prove him innocent of a crime against all of the people."
Commonwealth v. Smith, 417 Pa. 321, 332, 208 A.2d 219, 225 (1965); see also Commonwealth v. Kontos, 442 Pa. 343, 276 A.2d 830 (1971); and Commonwealth v. ...