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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM B. MCNEILL (01/11/80)

filed: January 11, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM B. MCNEILL, APPELLANT



No. 2191 October Term, 1978, Appeal from Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Trial Division, Nos. 1177-1179, June Sessions, 1977.

COUNSEL

Joseph H. Reiter, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Thomas J. McGarrigle, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Cercone, P. J., and Watkins and Hoffman, JJ. Watkins, J., dissents.

Author: Hoffman

[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 259]

Appellant contends, inter alia,*fn1 that the lower court erred in granting the Commonwealth's petition for an extension of time to commence trial under Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c). We agree and, accordingly, reverse the judgments of sentence and order appellant discharged.

The facts relevant to our disposition of this case are as follows: On April 8, 1977, the Commonwealth filed a criminal complaint against appellant charging him with aggravated assault, simple assault, and weapons offenses in connection with the March 8, 1977, shooting of George M. Gilliam (Gilliam). Pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(a)(2), the Commonwealth was required to bring appellant to trial by December 26, 1977.*fn2 The Commonwealth was granted continuances on October 11, November 4, and December 6, 1977, because of the unavailability of Gilliam, the complaining witness. The docket entries reveal that Gilliam was "ill" on the latter two dates. The November 4, docket entry notes further that Gilliam was "in [a] body cast" on that date. On December 16, 1977, the Commonwealth filed a petition for an extension of time to commence trial pursuant to Rule 1100(c). The Commonwealth's petition was a "form" petition which simply alleged that "[d]espite due diligence, the Commonwealth will not be able to try this case within the Rule 1100 run date." No reason for the delay or facts to

[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 260]

    support the Commonwealth's assertion of due diligence appeared in the petition. On January 4, 1978, appellant filed a motion for dismissal of the charges pursuant to Rule 1100(f), and a hearing was scheduled on the petition and motion. The hearing, which took place on January 6, and January 13, 1978, consisted almost entirely of a colloquy between the court and defense counsel in which the latter argued that the Commonwealth had failed to show due diligence in commencing appellant's trial. The Commonwealth did not summarize its position to the court at the outset of the hearing nor did it present any testimony in support of its petition. The record of the hearing reveals only two occasions on which the Commonwealth attempted to justify its request for an extension. At the close of the January 6 proceedings, the assistant district attorney stated, "Just for the Record, the Commonwealth witness has not been able to walk as a result of an infection of the wound in this incident." N.T. January 6, 1978, at 4. During the January 13 proceedings, the assistant district attorney told the court the name of the unavailable witness and stated that "because of his medical condition a Petition to Extend was also granted" in a case in which Gilliam was a defendant. N.T. January 13, 1978, at 8. Based on this information and the existing record in the case, the court found "due diligence on the part of the Commonwealth based on the clear inference of the unavailability of the Commonwealth witness due to body cast," and granted an extension until January 27, 1978. N.T. January 13, 1978, at 9-10. Appellant's trial commenced on January 26, 1978, and he was convicted and sentenced on all charges. Following denial of post-verdict motions, appellant filed this appeal.

"A court may grant the Commonwealth an extension of time for trial if it finds that 'trial cannot be commenced within the prescribed period despite due diligence by the Commonwealth.' Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c)." Commonwealth v. Miller, 270 Pa. Super. 178, 182, 411 A.2d 238, 240 (1979).

The Commonwealth has the burden, by a preponderance of the evidence, of showing it has met the requirements of

[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 261]

Rule 1100(c). Cf. Commonwealth v. Wade, 475 Pa. 399, 380 A.2d 782 (1977); Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 472 Pa. 553, 372 A.2d 826 (1977). Furthermore, in reviewing a hearing court's ruling that the Commonwealth has met its burden, we consider only the evidence presented by the Commonwealth and so much evidence as, fairly read in the context ...


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