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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EDWARD RYDER (07/06/76)

decided: July 6, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
EDWARD RYDER, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Chas. Lowenthal, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., James Wilson, Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 467 Pa. Page 485]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Edward Ryder, was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree and conspiracy to murder. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were filed and denied. Ryder was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and given a suspended sentence on the conspiracy conviction. An appeal was filed in the Superior Court from the judgment of sentence imposed on the conspiracy conviction and later certified to this Court for disposition with the direct appeal

[ 467 Pa. Page 486]

    filed in this Court from the judgment of sentence imposed on the murder conviction.

The facts established by the Commonwealth's evidence at trial are as follows. On August 15, 1973, Ryder and one Samuel Molten, inmates in the Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, had an animated argument over religion. It was necessary for prison guards to intervene in order to prevent Ryder from carrying out a threat to throw Molten off a balcony. Ryder attended a meeting the following evening, August 16, conducted by the hierarchy of the cellblock's Black Muslim chapter, that is, Theodore Brown, Kenneth Covil, and Michael Grant, at which the leader of the chapter, Brown, stated that if anyone disagreed with their religious tenets that person "would be taken care of." Subsequently that evening, two members of the hierarchy, Grant and Covil, were seen in their cells sharpening a metal rod. The following day, August 17, Ryder, Grant, Covil and Brown were seen approaching Molten's cell. Covil warned another inmate in the area to leave saying that they were preparing to kill someone and they did not want any witnesses. At the time Ryder had a shirt draped over his arm. Immediately thereafter, the sounds of a scuffle and heavy breathing were heard emanating from Molten's cell while Covil stood outside. Ryder, now emptyhanded, together with Grant and Brown, joined Covil and the four were seen running down the cellblock corridor. As they passed one of the other inmates, Covil said, "You didn't see anything." Molten was found dead in his cell within the next few minutes and a search of the cell revealed a sharpened metal rod, which the medical examiner testified was consistent with the multiple stab wounds which were the cause of Molten's death. A blue prison shirt was also found hidden in a bucket.

Appellant asserts several errors in the trial process. However, after a study of the record and the briefs, we conclude appellant's contentions are without merit and

[ 467 Pa. Page 487]

    only one requires discussion here.*fn1 It is contended the trial judge, on several occasions, made unnecessary statements in the presence of the jury which indicated bias against the appellant and his counsel and which deprived the appellant of his right to a fair trial. We are not so persuaded.

Initially, we note that in none of the trial incidents now complained of did appellant move for a mistrial. More importantly, a reading of the record clearly manifests that the statements of the trial judge, which appellant argues prejudiced him and his counsel with the jury, constituted legitimate efforts on the part ...


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