Xakellis, Perezous & Mongiovi, Michael J. Perezous, Lancaster, for appellant.
D. Richard Eckman, Dist. Atty., Michael H. Ranck, Asst. Dist. Atty., Lancaster, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ.
Early in the morning of December 15, 1973, Hiran Rodriquez was shot to death on East Vine Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Appellant, Luciano Semiday Tirado, was arrested later that day, and charged with the murder of Rodriquez. Appellant was tried before a jury, convicted of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to not less than six nor more than twelve years imprisonment. This appeal followed. Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, No. 223, art. II, § 202 (17 P.S. § 211.202).
The prosecution's evidence established that the deceased and his brother-in-law, Hermojenes Rosario, were in the La Casa Alegre restaurant when appellant entered and stated that he wished to speak to Rodriquez outside. After some hesitation, Rodriquez agreed, and followed appellant out of the building and onto the sidewalk. Appellant then turned to face Rodriquez and began walking backwards across the street. The deceased followed saying, "What are you going to do with me?" and "Shoot me, shoot me." Appellant then removed a revolver from
his pocket and fired two or three shots at Rodriquez who fell to the street. Rodriquez died of two gunshot wounds of the chest.
Testifying in his own behalf, appellant stated that on the evening before the shooting, he had been confronted by the decedent and Rosario, and that they had demanded that he give them money and a watch and gold chain. When appellant refused to surrender these items they left vowing that they would "get him no matter what." Appellant stated that he had then obtained a revolver from a friend so that he could protect himself. He testified that he went to the restaurant at the time of the incident to seek gambling partners who would be willing to participate in a game of chance. Appellant also stated that the victim and Rosario entered looking for him, that he left the restaurant in an effort to escape them, and they they followed his exit. Appellant said that Rodriquez had a knife, that Rosario had a gun, and that they again confronted him and repeated their demands. Appellant then stated that he fired at the ground once and then in their direction in self-defense, having been cornered by them against a building in such a manner that his escape route was blocked by a car.
Appellant first contends that the prosecution's introduction of evidence, over defense objection, concerning the significance of "machismo," a character trait allegedly peculiar to Puerto Rican males, was irrelevant, prejudicial, and requires the grant of a new trial. We agree.
The prosecution had called police officer Ulises N. Roman, an American of Puerto Rican origin, who was familiar with the customs of the Puerto Rican people. The record reveals that the ...