No. 376 March Term 1977, Appeal from the Order dated March 7, 1977, and as Amended March 29, 1977, of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County at No. 1074 September Term, 1976.
G. Thomas Miller, Harrisburg, with him Harvey Freedenberg, Harrisburg, for appellant.
Frederic G. Antoun, Harrisburg, for appellee.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Watkins, former President Judge, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 256 Pa. Super. Page 400]
This is an appeal from an order dismissing preliminary objections to a complaint.*fn1 The complaint is in libel; appellee is plaintiff, and appellant is defendant.
On August 24, 1976, appellant, who was Coroner of Wayne County, testified before a Select Committee of the Pennsylvania Senate, which was investigating deaths of patients at the Farview State Hospital in Wayne County. Before taking questions from the committee members, appellant had his counsel read a prepared statement in which appellant
[ 256 Pa. Super. Page 401]
mentioned appellee, who was a State Police officer assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division, and who had participated in a series of investigations in 1969 and 1970. The statement said:
What disturbs me most -- and I feel this Committee should either fully investigate the same or turn it over to a special investigating grand jury, if established -- is a cover-up of this entire Thomas and Farview matter by a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, Sergeant Arthur Cronin of Harrisburg.
"I had the same experience with Sergeant Cronin while investigating the deaths and murders at the Hillcrest School, at which time Sergeant Cronin completely failed to investigate my findings and wrote the same type of conclusion report and covered up that probe.
"As a result of the failure on the part of Sergeant Cronin and the Department of Welfare to notify the Coroner's Office six and a half years ago regarding two deaths, it must be pointed out that this time delay has obstructed and hindered ...