No. 28 March Term 1978, Appeal from Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, Criminal Division at Nos. C-152(a), (b), and C-157, 1977
Joseph D. Messina, Johnstown, for appellant.
D. Gerard Long, Dist. Atty., Ebensburg, Patrick T. Kiniry, Johnstown, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Roberts and Manderino, JJ., filed concurring opinions. Larsen, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
On August 26, 1977, Richard Wayne Rogers was convicted by a jury in Cambria County of two separate counts of robbery and of murder of the first degree. Following denial
of post-verdict motions, a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on the murder conviction.*fn1 A prison sentence of ten to twenty years was imposed on each robbery conviction, these prison sentences to run concurrently with the life imprisonment sentence. This appeal followed.
Several rulings of the trial court during the prosecution process are assigned as error. In view of our conclusion that the admission of certain photographic evidence was so prejudicial as to require a new trial, we need not reach or discuss every assignment of error.
At trial, the Commonwealth charged that, before leaving the scene of a coal weigh station where Rogers and two companions had committed a robbery, Rogers fatally shot the attendant of the station in the head with a shotgun as he sat injured and helpless on the snow-covered ground.
At trial, evidentiary use of four photographs, showing the dead body of the victim lying prostrate at the site of the fatal shooting, was permitted over objection. These photographs were also taken by the jury into the deliberation room and remained there throughout the jury's discussion of the case.
One of the challenged photographs (Exhibit 20) depicted in close and graphic detail the victim's distorted face, head wounds, and blood, flesh and brains scattered in the snow alongside the head. The gruesomeness and inflammatory nature of this photograph is patently obvious. It is clear to us that the use of this photograph denied Rogers a constitutionally required fair and objective ...