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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CLARENCE GREENE (11/25/76)

decided: November 25, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CLARENCE GREENE, A/K/A SONNY GREENE, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

John J. Dean, John R. Cook, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, 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. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion. Manderino, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Nix, J., joined.

Author: Jones

[ 469 Pa. Page 402]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Clarence Greene, was convicted by a jury of murder in the second degree (felony murder) and robbery. After denying Greene's post-trial motions, the court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder conviction and a consecutive sentence of five to ten years for the robbery conviction. These appeals followed.*fn1

Appellant's arrest and the indictments issued against him stemmed from the fatal stabbing of Mrs. Catherine Johnson on August 5, 1974. The record discloses that Catherine Johnson and her husband, Carl, were closing their pharmacy at approximately 8:30 p.m. when appellant approached them. Carl Johnson was carrying an attache case containing the daily receipts from the pharmacy. An altercation ensued between the appellant and the Johnsons in which appellant attempted to snatch the attache case from Mr. Johnson's hands. During the resulting struggle appellant stabbed Mrs. Johnson three times. She died later that evening.

Appellant's principal defense at trial was that he had gone to the pharmacy without any intent to rob the Johnsons. He contended that he frequently purchased drugs from the Johnsons without a prescription, and that in this instance he was merely returning to the store to pick up some barbiturates purchased earlier that day. According to appellant, when he asked for his pills, Carl Johnson stated that they were locked in the attache case. In order to retrieve the pills, appellant attempted to take the case from Mr. Johnson which precipitated the struggle.

[ 469 Pa. Page 403]

Appellant stated that he stabbed Mrs. Johnson because he believed she was reaching for a gun.

Initially we consider appellant's assertion that the trial judge abused his discretion by refusing to grant a continuance in order that appellant might have an opportunity to select more blacks to serve on his jury. His objection is not that the process of jury selection employed by Allegheny County was defective,*fn2 but rather that a continuance was necessary in order to permit more blacks to be on his panel. While it is true that there were no blacks on appellant's jury, this apparently was the product of mere chance rather than patent discrimination. It is well-established that "the characteristics of one particular panel are not the type of facts which constitute grounds for a challenge. Rather, . . . the challenge must be to the selection procedures themselves, and not to the composition of a particular panel . . . ." Commonwealth v. Butler, 448 Pa. 128, 133, 291 A.2d 89, 91 (1972); Commonwealth v. Washington, 235 Pa. Super. 339, 347, 340 A.2d 896, 900 (1975). See also Commonwealth v. Jones, 465 Pa. 473, 350 A.2d 862 (1976). Since appellant did not challenge the selection process, we cannot say that the judge abused his discretion in denying appellant's application for a continuance.

Next, appellant contends that he was unduly restricted in his cross-examination of Carl Johnson. Consistent with appellant's testimony that he went to the pharmacy only to pick up the drugs which he previously had purchased, the defense attempted to inquire of Mr. Johnson as to the nature of his ...


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