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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EUGENE N. WOODWARD (11/18/78)

decided: November 18, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
EUGENE N. WOODWARD, APPELLANT



No. 115 March Term 1977, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, at No. 831 January Term 1972

COUNSEL

Lester G. Nauhaus, Paulette J. Balogh, Asst. Public Defenders, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 483 Pa. Page 3]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is a direct appeal from the judgment of sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Eugene N. Woodward following his conviction by a jury in 1972*fn1 in Allegheny County of murder of the first degree.

The salient facts surrounding the conviction are as follows: On the evening of December 10, 1971, a man, later identified as Woodward, entered a Pittsburgh bar and ordered a beer and some potato chips. As the bartender placed the potato chips on the bar, he heard a "pop" and saw the victim, Ernest Reidel, put his hand to his neck which was bleeding profusely. The man with the gun then directed the

[ 483 Pa. Page 4]

    bartender to "empty the register," but, upon noticing the victim's wound, the gunman fled without any money.*fn2

At trial, extra-judicial incriminating statements made by Woodward to a police officer were admitted into evidence as part of the Commonwealth's case. Woodward maintains that, since the trial court's instruction to the jury in reference to this evidence indicated that the court had determined the voluntariness of these statements pretrial, the jury was "unduly influenced in its determination" of this issue. We disagree.

This Court has consistently held that, in reviewing jury instructions for prejudicial and reversible error, the charge must be read and considered as a whole. Commonwealth v. Lesher, 473 Pa. 141, 373 A.2d 1088 (1977). Error cannot be predicated on isolated excerpts of the charge. It is the general effect of the charge that controls. See Commonwealth v. Archambault, 448 Pa. 90, 290 A.2d 72 (1972).

In this case, it is clear from reading the entire charge on the issue of voluntariness, that no prejudicial error was committed. While the trial judge mentioned the court had passed on the voluntariness of Woodward's statements in determining their admissibility, he also clearly stated the jury's obligation as factfinder to ...


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