No. 18 Special Transfer Docket, Appeal from Conviction and Sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Criminal Division, No. 279 April Term, 1966, Criminal Actions Nos. 806 and 807
Joseph P. Lynch, Norristown, for appellant.
John J. Burfete, Assistant District Attorney, Norristown, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Roberts and Lipez, JJ.*fn*
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On July 27, 1976, a jury convicted appellant, John Harry Bruno, of two counts of murder of the first degree. After denying post-verdict motions, the trial court sentenced appellant to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment. We affirm.
Appellant was arrested and indicted in 1966 for committing five killings. On May 13, 1966, the Commonwealth filed a petition for appointment of a Sanity Commission. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the petition. The trial court granted the Commonwealth's petition. Appellant's appeal from the order granting the petition was quashed by the Supreme Court. See Commonwealth v. Bruno, 424 Pa. 96, 225 A.2d 241 (1967). The Commission found appellant incompetent to stand trial and recommended commitment before trial. Adopting the Commission's report, the trial court, on June 12, 1967, ordered appellant committed to Farview State Hospital. The trial court dismissed appellant's writ of habeas corpus challenging the order of commitment, and the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal. See Commonwealth v. Bruno, 435 Pa. 200, 255 A.2d 519 (1969). The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari but, on January 12, 1971, dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. See Bruno v. Pennsylvania, 400 U.S. 350, 91 S.Ct. 479, 27 L.Ed.2d 433 (1971).
In November, 1973, appellant was certified competent to stand trial. On February 4, 1974, a jury convicted appellant of two counts of murder of the first degree. After denying post-verdict motions, the trial court sentenced appellant to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The Supreme
[ 268 Pa. Super. Page 19]
Court reversed the judgments of sentence and remanded for a new trial, holding that prejudicial publicity, against which the trial court did not employ any precautionary measures, likely reached the jury. See Commonwealth v. Bruno, 466 Pa. 245, 352 A.2d 40 (1976) [hereafter, Bruno III ]. Appellant was tried again, beginning on July 22, 1976.
At his second trial, appellant raised the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, contending that he had committed the killings for which he was charged because he thought the killings would improve his mother's condition. To support his contention, he sought to introduce evidence describing his mother's mental condition and actions, psychiatric testimony relating the effect of his mother's mental condition upon himself and medical records from the 1966 Sanity Commission report. He asserts that the court erred in excluding this evidence. We believe the court correctly excluded this evidence as irrelevant.
In Pennsylvania, the standard of insanity, called the M'Naughten test, is that an accused is legally insane if, because of mental disease, he either did not know the nature and quality of his act or did not know that it was wrong. Commonwealth v. Hicks, 483 Pa. 305, 396 A.2d 1183 (1979); Commonwealth v. Bruno, III, supra; Commonwealth v. Demmitt, 456 Pa. 475, 321 A.2d 627 (1974). The Commonwealth conceded that appellant suffered from mental illness, of which extensive evidence was entered. Under the M'Naughten test, the only remaining questions were whether appellant, because of his mental disease, knew the nature and quality of his acts or that they were wrong. On these points, the trial court permitted appellant to enter both lay and expert evidence. The excluded evidence, although it may have demonstrated that appellant was mentally ...