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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CEDRIC JOHNSON (03/16/79)

decided: March 16, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CEDRIC JOHNSON, APPELLANT



Nos. 139, 223 January Term, 1977 Appeal from Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal, of Philadelphia, at Nos. 1164, 1166 and 1167 January Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Allan M. Tabas, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Neil Kitrosses, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. O'Brien, J., files an opinion in support of affirmance which is joined by Eagen, C. J., and Larsen, J. Roberts, J., files an opinion in support of reversal which is joined by Manderino, J. Nix, J., files an opinion in support of reversal which is joined by Manderino, J.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 484 Pa. Page 548]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The Court being equally divided the judgments of sentence remain in effect.

Opinion IN SUPPORT OF AFFIRMANCE

O'BRIEN, Justice.

Appellant, Cedric Johnson, was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment for the murder conviction. Sentence was suspended on the remaining convictions. This direct appeal followed.*fn1

The facts are as follows. On December 9, 1975, at approximately 7:00 p. m., appellant and three companions, nicknamed "Buckeye," "Chinaman" and "June," approached Jerome Thomas at the corner of 31st and Berks Streets in Philadelphia. As one of the foursome charged Thomas and pounded him in the back, someone shouted: "Hey, let's get out of here." As appellant and his companions ran up Berks Street toward 32nd, Thomas realized he had been stabbed when he felt blood running down his back. Thomas survived, but was unable to identify any of his assailants, except to describe two as wearing army field jackets and a third as being considerably taller than the other three.

As the foursome ran up Berks toward 32nd, they encountered Harold Berry. They surrounded Berry and appeared to be punching him. After running a short distance, Berry

[ 484 Pa. Page 551]

    collapsed and subsequently died from a stab wound to the back of the neck.

Appellant first argues that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion in granting the Commonwealth's challenges for cause of certain prospective jurors. I do not agree.

As this Court stated in Commonwealth v. Gelfi, 282 Pa. 434, 438, 128 A. 77, 79 (1925):

"The method of filling a jury box is addressed to the trial judge, and much weight must be given his judgment in passing on its legality. The reason is manifest; the juror appears before him, he sees him and hears what is said, and is able to form his opinion as much from the proposed juror's conduct as from the words which he utters, printed in the record. Hesitation, doubt and nervousness indicating an unsettled frame of mind, with other matters, within the judge's view and hearing, but which it is impossible to place in the record, must be considered. As it is not possible to bring these matters to our attention, the trial judge's view should be given great ...


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