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decided: December 23, 1977.



John G. McDougall, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Ralph B. D'Iorio, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 475 Pa. Page 618]


Appellant, Peter Irwin, was convicted by a jury on January 29, 1975 of murder of the third degree, possession of a

[ 475 Pa. Page 619]

    firearm without a license and possession of an instrument of crime. Post-trial motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment from eight to twenty years on the murder conviction and one to two years on the possession of a firearm charge.*fn1 These appeals followed.*fn2 We affirm the judgments of sentence.

The record discloses that on August 7, 1974, Irwin drove his automobile onto the grounds of the Equipment Corporation of America in Aldan, Pennsylvania for the purpose of seeking employment. At that time, and for some months prior thereto, the employees of the Equipment Corporation had been on strike. Pickets were stationed at the sides of the entrance gate and were displaying placards. Irwin proceeded to the company's office and made application for employment. He then returned to his car and started to drive out of the plant grounds. He proceeded very slowly and stopped his car at the front gate. Two of the pickets, Les Kiesel, the decedent, and Michael Detweiler, walked over to appellant's automobile and informed Irwin that he had crossed a picket line. Irwin replied with an obscenity and pulled a gun which he pointed at the individuals. Kiesel told Irwin that he was "crazy." At that point Detweiler pushed Kiesel away from the side of the car where appellant was seated. Irwin then opened the door of the automobile and fired a shot into the ground, followed immediately by a second shot which struck Kiesel in the chest, killing him.*fn3 Soon after this encounter Irwin disposed of the gun, shaved his mustache and changed the license plate on his car. He was, nevertheless, apprehended and charged with murder.

[ 475 Pa. Page 620]

Appellant now argues that the refusal of the trial court to allow the admission of certain evidence as well as an alleged reference to his past record require the grant of a new trial.*fn4 We disagree.

Appellant's first contention is that the trial court erred in not admitting into evidence a series of newspaper articles and by restricting the direct examination of the appellant with regard to his knowledge of the articles. The newspaper articles in question appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin on July 15 through July 18, 1974 and on July 31, 1974; they pertained to acts of violence by members of a different union (the Roofer's Union) at times and locations other than those here involved. Appellant claimed the articles were relevant to his belief, reasonably held, that he was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and that there was a necessity to kill in order to avoid those consequences.*fn5 The trial court, however, disagreed and ruled the articles irrelevant to any of the issues in question.

It is true, as appellant argues, that a defendant who is asserting a defense of self-defense may introduce evidence to show his alleged knowledge of the victim's quarrelsome or violent character as tending to prove that the defendant reasonably believed his own life to be in danger. Commonwealth v. Stewart, 461 Pa. 274, 336 A.2d 282 (1975); Commonwealth v. Amos, 445 Pa. 297, 284 A.2d 748 (1971); McCormick, Evidence, § 193 (2nd Ed. 1972); 1 Wigmore on Evidence, § 198 (Rev.Third Ed., 1970). Whether particular exhibits, offered to corroborate a defendant's asserted belief, should be admitted into evidence is, however, a matter within the discretion of the trial court. Commonwealth v. Mennyweather, 458 Pa. 12, 329 A.2d 493 (1974);

[ 475 Pa. Page 621]

A.2d 873 (1975); Commonwealth v. Clark, 453 Pa. 449, 309 A.2d 589 (1973); Commonwealth v. Chalfa, 313 Pa. 175, 169 A. 564 (1934). But, as we stated in Commonwealth v. Banks, 454 Pa. 401, 411, 311 A.2d 576, 581 (1973), "To warrant a characterization as prejudicial the testimony must convey to the jury, either expressly or by reasonable implication, the fact of a prior criminal offense." Emphasis added.) Under the facts of this case, the reference to "I did it again" did not, we believe, either expressly or by any reasonable implication convey the possibility of a prior criminal offense unrelated to the criminal episode sub judice. See Commonwealth v. McFadden, 464 Pa. 265, 346 A.2d 550 (1975); Commonwealth v. Stoltzfus, supra; Commonwealth v. Banks, supra; Commonwealth v. Sharpe, 449 Pa. 35, 296 A.2d 519 (1972). It is also significant that following the police officer's testimony (and a cautionary instruction by the trial judge), the district attorney stated in open court that the Commonwealth had no evidence or information that would indicate the appellant was involved in any criminal activity prior to the events of the instant case.*fn7 Thus, even were we to conclude that the challenged response might give rise to an adverse inference, the disavowal expressly negated it.

Judgments of sentence affirmed.

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