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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CLARENCE GREENE A/K/A SONNY GREENE (11/18/78)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: November 18, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CLARENCE GREENE A/K/A SONNY GREENE, APPELLANT

No. 188 March Term, 1977, No. 277 March Term, 1977, Appeals from Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, at No. CC7405323A and CC7406691A of 1974

COUNSEL

Lester G. Nauhaus, John H. Corbett, Jr., Asst. Public Defenders, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Charles W. Johns, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Larsen, J., joins. Eagen, C. J., dissents.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 483 Pa. Page 196]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Clarence Greene, a/k/a Sonny Greene, was tried by a judge sitting without a jury in connection with the robbery and homicide of Catherine Johnson in McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Appellant was adjudged guilty of murder of the second degree and robbery.*fn1 Post-verdict motions were denied. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment for his conviction of murder of the second degree. The judgment of sentence for the robbery conviction was suspended. Appellant filed a direct appeal to this court from the judgment of sentence imposed for the murder of the second degree conviction. He appealed the judgment of sentence imposed on his robbery conviction to Superior Court, which certified that appeal to our court for disposition.

Appellant argues that he did not knowingly waive his right to a jury trial. In Commonwealth v. Williams, 454 Pa. 368, 312 A.2d 597 (1973), we held that three essential elements must be included in every jury waiver colloquy. As we stated:

". . . These essential ingredients, basic to the concept of a jury trial, are the requirements that a jury be chosen from members of the community (a jury of one's

[ 483 Pa. Page 197]

    peers), that the verdict be unanimous, and that the accused be allowed to participate in the selection of the jury panel. . . ." Id., 454 Pa. at 373, 600, 312 A.2d at 600.

See Pa.R.Crim.P. 1101.

In the instant case, appellant was never informed by the trial court that the verdict had to be unanimous. As the trial court ignored the clear mandate of both Pa.R.Crim.P. 1101 and Williams, supra, a new trial is required.*fn2

Judgments of sentence reversed and a new trial ordered.

POMEROY, Justice, dissenting.

Prior to his second trial for the robbery and homicide of Catherine Johnson, the appellant, Clarence Greene, chose to waive his right to be tried by a jury. Before accepting the waiver, the trial judge attempted to comply with the mandate of Pa.R.Crim.P. 1101 which requires the judge, in an on-the-record colloquy, to "ascertain from the defendant whether [the waiver] is a knowing and intelligent waiver."

Although the colloquy here was substantially complete, the trial judge omitted any mention of one of the elements of a jury trial, that the jury's verdict shall be unanimous.*fn1

[ 483 Pa. Page 198]

This omission violated the guidelines which this Court set up for jury trial waiver colloquies in Commonwealth v. Williams, 454 Pa. 368, 312 A.2d 597 (1973). At that time we expressly declined to denominate those guidelines a per se rule. Id. at 372, 312 A.2d at 599. In Commonwealth v. Morin, 477 Pa. 80, 383 A.2d 832 (1978), however, the majority of the Court in effect established the Williams guidelines as inflexible requirements of the on-the-record colloquy, with the result that appellant's counsel was held to have been ineffective in failing to object to defects in the colloquy in post-verdict motions or before the Superior Court. I dissented in Commonwealth v. Morin, supra at 88, 383 A.2d at 835, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the lack of necessity, as I saw it, of molding the guidelines suggested in Williams, supra, into a per se rule where no widespread abuse of colloquy requirements has been shown. 477 Pa. at 92, 383 A.2d at 837. I continue to adhere to that view.

Now, however, that there is virtually a prescribed content to the colloquy which must precede acceptance of a jury trial waiver, I suggest that objections to the sufficiency or accuracy of the colloquy should initially be raised at the time of the colloquy and before the non-jury trial has been conducted. I am mindful of the fact that Pa.R.Crim.P. 1101, as interpreted by the Morin decision places upon the trial judge the obligation of seeing to it not only that the colloquy relative to jury waiver shall "appear on the record," but also that the colloquy which appears on the record shall be sufficient to support the court's finding that the waiver is knowing and intelligent. This, however, is no different than any other duty a judge has to perform which may bear on a litigant's constitutional rights; we expect a judge to apply the law as it has been written -- this is the trial judge's burden, as it were. But to say as much is not to relieve the trial lawyer of his obligation to call any mistakes of the trial judge to his or her attention at the earliest practicable time.

[ 483 Pa. Page 199]

The language of Justice Roberts' dissenting opinion in Commonwealth v. Williams, 432 Pa. 557, 570, 248 A.2d 301, 307 (1968),*fn2 quoted with approval in Commonwealth v. Clair, 458 Pa. 418, 421, 326 A.2d 272, 273 (1974), is equally applicable here:

"The majority now -- contrary to the whole course of modern trial procedure -- encourages defense counsel to sit by silently without calling errors to the trial court's attention until after the guilty verdict is returned. . . . Where counsel fails to call errors to the attention of the trial judge, the majority ignores that deficiency and assumes the function of protecting those failures by granting relief despite the silence of counsel at trial." (Emphasis in original.)

The Clair court reasoned that "[t]he trial judge must be given an opportunity to rectify errors at the time they are made. As we have often said before: '[A] party may not remain silent and take chances on a verdict and afterwards complain of matters which, if erroneous, the Court would have corrected.' Commonwealth v. Marlin, 452 Pa. 380, 382, 305 A.2d 14, 16 (1973). See also, Commonwealth v. Morgan, 448 Pa. 494, 295 A.2d 77 (1972)." 458 Pa. at 421, 326 A.2d at 274.

To the extent that Commonwealth v. Morin, supra, suggested that objections to a jury trial waiver colloquy may be raised for the first time at post-verdict motions, I think it was mistaken; I would hold that such objections must be raised at the time of the colloquy in order to be preserved for appellate review. Since in the case at bar the first objection to the sufficiency of the colloquy was not taken until the post-trial motion stage, I think it came too late. Hence this dissent.


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