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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. TYRONE WERTS (11/18/78)

decided: November 18, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
TYRONE WERTS, APPELLANT



No. 567, January Term, 1976, No. 180, January Term, 1978, Appeal from the judgment of conviction of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Trial Division, at Nos. 1859, 1860, 1862, and 1863, June Sessions, 1975.

COUNSEL

Colie B. Chappelle, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Edward G. Rendell, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Marrianne E. Cox, Asst. Dist. Attys., Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Larsen

[ 483 Pa. Page 224]

OPINION

This is a direct appeal by appellant Tyrone Werts from the judgments of sentence of murder of the second degree, robbery, criminal conspiracy, possession of an instrument of crime and possession of a prohibited offense weapon which arose from his participation in the robbery and slaying of William Bridgeman. Appellant, through his attorney, has filed an appeal alleging 27 errors. Only two of appellant's contentions warrant discussion.

Appellant's first contention is that the trial court erred in not allowing defense counsel to ask the following questions during the voir dire of prospective jurors:

If you were to hear evidence about a person having used drugs, would you be more inclined to give his testimony less weight than any other witness that you did hear?

If you were to hear testimony concerning drug addiction or use of drugs, do you think, deep down inside of you, you would be inclined to reject any evidence offered by parties indicating that they have used drugs?

This Court has held that "the examination of jurors under voir dire is solely for the purpose of securing a competent, fair, impartial and unprejudiced jury. . . . Neither counsel for the defendant nor the Commonwealth should be permitted to . . . ask direct or hypothetical questions designed to disclose what a juror's present impression or opinion may be or what his attitude or decision will likely be under certain facts which may be developed in the trial of the case." Commonwealth v. Johnson, 452 Pa. 130, 134, 305 A.2d 5, 7 (1973). "A trial court's refusal to permit certain hypothetical questions on voir dire will not be disturbed absent a palpable abuse of discretion." Commonwealth v. England, 474 Pa. 1, 8, 375 A.2d 1292, 1295 (1977).

[ 483 Pa. Page 225]

At the beginning of voir dire, defense counsel stated during a sidebar conference that he wanted to ascertain whether the prospective jurors had "any prejudices or bias that would gravitate against the interest of my client if there is any evidence presented by us to show that my client, perhaps, was using drugs at the time he was arrested, and this may have some effect upon whether he intelligently waived his right to counsel". The trial court did not abuse its discretion in not permitting the aforementioned line of inquiry because defense counsel was improperly trying to determine what the prospective ...


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