Lewis L. Maltby, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Carolyn Temin, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Former Chief Justice Jones, did not participate in the decision of this case.
John Eric Darby was convicted by a jury of murder of the second degree and a related weapons offense. Post-verdict motions were denied and concurrent judgments of sentence of not less than five nor more than fifteen
and not less than one and one-half nor more than three years imprisonment were imposed. This appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed on the murder conviction followed.*fn1
Darby advances numerous reasons why a new trial should be granted. Since we reverse because the trial court improperly limited the presentation of evidence by the defense, we need not discuss Darby's remaining complaints.*fn2
The relevant facts are these:
The defense opened its case-in-chief by calling Darby, whose testimony put in issue whether the killing of Gregory Miles by Darby was a justifiable act of self-defense. Thereafter, defense counsel sought to support the claim of self-defense by calling numerous witnesses who testified that Miles had a reputation for violence and aggression. Defense counsel also supported the claim of self-defense by asking Darby, if at the time of the killing, he was aware that Miles had been convicted of certain criminal charges; Darby indicated he was aware of three such convictions. But when counsel asked Darby if he was aware of instances (prior to the killing) in which Miles had been arrested for being an accessory after the fact to murder and for assault with intent to kill, the court sustained objections by the Commonwealth to the questions.*fn3
At the close of the defense case-in-chief, counsel sought to read into the record Miles' record of criminal convictions and his record of arrests from which no convictions had resulted.*fn4 The court allowed the ...