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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EDDIE WILDER (10/08/76)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: October 8, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
EDDIE WILDER, APPELLANT

COUNSEL

John J. Dean, Louis Dadowski, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., concurs in the result. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 469 Pa. Page 238]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from an order of the trial court denying appellant relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act*fn1 following an evidentiary hearing ordered by this Court. See Commonwealth v. Wilder, 461 Pa. 597, 337 A.2d 564 (1975).

In his first appeal to this Court, Wilder contended, inter alia, that he had been denied his right to confront Harold DeWolf, the victim of the robbery-murder with which Wilder was charged, after he had been shot and before he died. (DeWolf was immediately hospitalized after the robbery, during which he was shot twice in the abdomen; he survived for twenty-four days thereafter.) We determined that appellant was entitled to such a confrontation absent "exceptional and compelling reasons,"

[ 469 Pa. Page 239]

    such as the victim's physical or mental condition. Id. at 604, 337 A.2d at 568. Because the record before us at that time did not contain any evidence of the victim's condition, we remanded the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to ascertain whether his condition "could justify the authorities' failure to afford appellant confrontation." Id.

Pursuant to our order of remand, the court below held a hearing*fn2 at which testimony was taken of Dr. Daniel Brooks, the victim's physician during the period in question. Based upon his testimony and the hospital's medical records relative to DeWolf, which were received into evidence, the court found as "facts that Harold DeWolf was both mentally and physically unable to cooperate, and further, that any attempt to force confrontation upon him would have been both unreliable and dangerous in its effect."

In Commonwealth v. Minnick, 432 Pa. 462, 464, 247 A.2d 569, 571 (1968), we stated that findings of fact by the trial judge in a hearing under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act "if supported by evidence in the record may not be overturned." See also Commonwealth v. Wright, 232 Pa. Super. 470, 334 A.2d 766 (1975). Having reviewed the record, we find ample evidence to support the court's findings.*fn3

Order affirmed.*fn4

[ 469 Pa. Page 240]

MANDERINO, Justice (dissenting).

In the appellant's first appeal to this Court we determined that he was entitled to confront Harold DeWolf absent "exceptional and compelling reasons." See Commonwealth v. Wilder, 461 Pa. 597, 337 A.2d 564 at 568 (1975). The burden therefore, was on the prosecution to come forward with evidence sufficient to sustain a finding that "exceptional and compelling reasons" existed to justify denying the appellant his right to confront the witness.

After reviewing the record, I fail to see how the prosecution has met this burden by introducing into evidence the contemporaneous medical records of Harold DeWolf and the conflicting testimony of Dr. Brooks.

On these facts I would hold that there is insufficient evidence in the record to sustain the findings of the trial court, and accordingly I would reverse.


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