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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. C. ALTON WADE (07/19/78)

decided: July 19, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
C. ALTON WADE, JR., APPELLANT



No. 264 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of the Fifteenth Judicial District (Chester County) in Criminal Proceedings No. 182 November Term, 1973

COUNSEL

John R. Merrick, Public Defender, Kevin J. Ryan, Richard E. Moose, Asst. Public Defenders, for appellant.

George C. Zumbano, West Chester, Asst. Dist. Atty., Joan D. Lasensky, Berwyn, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts and Nix, JJ., concur in the result. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 480 Pa. Page 166]

OPINION

Appellant, C. Alton Wade, Jr., was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter. Post-trial motions were denied and Wade was thereafter sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five to ten years. This direct appeal followed,*fn1 in which appellant raises several trial errors deemed to require a new trial. For the reasons stated hereafter, we believe these arguments are without merit. On the record before us, however, we are unable to resolve appellant's further charge that he was denied his constitutional right to effective representation by a lawyer at trial. Accordingly, we will remand the case to the trial court for the holding of an evidentiary hearing on this aspect of the case.

[ 480 Pa. Page 167]

Appellant's conviction stems from the death of a two-year old child, David Strong. David was the victim of abusive treatment by Wade and the child's mother, Regina Strong, with whom Wade lived. The Commonwealth's case against Wade depended primarily on the testimony of Strong. She testified that shortly after she and her three children moved into Wade's home, the couple, at Wade's suggestion, began to "discipline" David by use of a restraining leash and a horse whip. Medical testimony and photographs introduced at trial indicated extensive markings over the child's body as a result of this punishment. The cause of death, according to the Commonwealth's medical testimony, was an intestinal rupture, the result of a blunt force injury. Ms. Strong testified that shortly before the child's death appellant had "stomped" on David's stomach with his bare foot. Taking the stand in his own behalf, Wade denied this charge. Cross-examination by his lawyer of prosecution witnesses suggested that the cause of death was a fall sustained by David on the day of his death, and Wade testified that Regina Strong, the child's mother, had told him of such a fall. Wade also testified that it was Strong who assumed responsibility for the disciplining of the children, including David. The jury chose to believe the Commonwealth's version of the death and returned a verdict of guilty.

Appellant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is so, allegedly, because the testimony of Regina Strong was self-serving and inherently unbelievable. Having reviewed the record, we are satisfied that the totality of the Commonwealth's evidence, along with all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, was legally sufficient to present a jury question. See, e. g., Commonwealth v. Hubbard, 472 Pa. 259, 372 A.2d 687 (1977); Commonwealth v. Dawson, 464 Pa. 254, 346 A.2d 545 (1975). Whether Strong's testimony was worthy of belief was an issue for the jury and we will not disturb its findings. Commonwealth v. Myrick, 468 Pa. 155, 360 A.2d 598 (1976). We reiterate that the testimony of a partner in crime, even if uncorroborated, can be sufficient

[ 480 Pa. Page 168]

    to convict. Commonwealth v. Tervalon, 463 Pa. 581, 345 A.2d 671 (1975); Commonwealth v. Bradley, 449 Pa. 19, 295 A.2d 842 (1972); Commonwealth v. Bruno, 316 Pa. 394, 175 A. 518 (1934).

Appellant asserts that the Commonwealth intentionally withheld exculpatory material from him. See, e. g., Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972); Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). The claim is with regard to a statement given to the police by a prosecution witness, one Charlotte Hyatt.*fn2 The statement made reference to an admission by Regina Strong that only she disciplined her children. In light of Strong's earlier testimony,*fn3 however, the requested statement was cumulative only and not of such a nature as to affect materially any of the issues at trial. Accordingly, ...


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