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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM STARKS (06/02/78)

decided: June 2, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM STARKS, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



Nos. 124 and 134 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section as of November Term, 1973, Nos. 1407-1408.

COUNSEL

Louis Lipschitz, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Gaele Barthold, Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 479 Pa. Page 54]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, William Starks, was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree and unlawfully carrying a firearm. After post-trial motions were denied, Starks was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment on the murder charge and to a concurrent sentence of two and one-half to five years on the firearms conviction. This appeal followed.*fn1

The record discloses that on August 24, 1973, Philadelphia police, responding to a radio call, found one Bennie Fields lying in the cartway of Rodman Street in Philadelphia. Fields had been shot six times and died soon after the police

[ 479 Pa. Page 55]

    removed him to the hospital. In November, 1973, appellant was arrested and preliminarily arraigned on unrelated charges. Immediately following that preliminary arraignment, Starks was further detained by police for questioning concerning the shooting of Fields. Appellant quickly admitted shooting the decedent in a dispute over a drug deal. He was then charged with the murder of Fields and ultimately tried for that crime. The Commonwealth's principal proof was the confession. Taking the stand in his own defense, Starks maintained that he did not shoot Fields. He contended that the statement was untrue and had been involuntarily given following repeated threats and beatings by the police.

Appellant now alleges that a number of trial errors require that he be tried again. We agree that the assistant district attorney exceeded the bounds of proper prosecutorial advocacy and that the appellant was thereby deprived of a fair trial. A new trial must therefore be awarded.*fn2

As we have stated time and again, a prosecuting attorney is an officer of the court and has a duty to see that justice is not compromised in an effort to seek convictions. Commonwealth v. Collins, 462 Pa. 495, 341 A.2d 492 (1975); Commonwealth v. Revty, 448 Pa. 512, 295 A.2d 300 (1972). As we ...


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