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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. GEORGE ARMS (04/30/80)

decided: April 30, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
GEORGE ARMS, APPELLANT



No. 85 January Term, 1978, Appeal from judgment of sentence entered January 9, 1978 by the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at No. 458 September Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Jay N. Abramowitch, E. Jay Tract, Reading, for appellant.

Charles M. Guthrie, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., J. M. Morrissey, Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 489 Pa. Page 36]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, George Arms, was convicted by a jury of murder of the third degree and sentenced for his alleged involvement in the shooting death of Steven Warunek, a

[ 489 Pa. Page 37]

    sixteen year-old Reading youth. On this appeal, appellant seeks a new trial on the ground that the Commonwealth introduced testimony coerced from Commonwealth witnesses by a previous District Attorney of Berks County. We affirm.

Like Commonwealth v. Cohen, 489 Pa. 167, 413 A.2d 1066 (1980), this case arises from the criminal episode in which Cohen allegedly hired appellant and Anthony Reynolds to kill Warunek. According to the Commonwealth, Arms fatally shot the victim with a rifle in Reading's Egelman Park.

Unlike Cohen, however, appellant was tried in Schuylkill County, rather than in Berks, because in appellant's case the trial court ruled that "massive publicity" prevented appellant from obtaining a fair and impartial trial in Berks County.*fn1 Also unlike Cohen, trial took place in September, 1976, one year after the Cohen trial, due to a postponement while appellant was incompetent to stand trial.*fn2 As a result, the Commonwealth's case at appellant's trial was presented by the staff of District Attorney J. Michael Morrissey, not by the staff of his predecessor District Attorney Robert VanHoove, which presented the Commonwealth's case at the Cohen trial.*fn3

At appellant's trial, the Commonwealth presented expert testimony designed to establish the time and cause of death and lay testimony of Kerry Young, girlfriend of the victim and former girlfriend of Cohen, who testified to ...


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