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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES ALAN ROMBERGER (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JAMES ALAN ROMBERGER, APPELLANT



No. 17 MAY TERM, 1979, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence entered on the 20th day of February, 1979, in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at No. 27 Oyer & Terminer January, 1966.

COUNSEL

Carl B. Stoner, Jr., Harrisburg, for appellant.

Marion E. MacIntyre, First Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Flaherty

[ 490 Pa. Page 259]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The case presently before the Court is an appeal from the denial by the trial court of a Motion in Arrest of Judgment requesting dismissal of the charges against the defendant for failure of the Commonwealth to bring him to trial within 120 days of remand of the record pursuant to Rule 1100(e)(2). We find that the trial court properly granted the Commonwealth an extension of time in this case and accordingly, we affirm the holding of the lower court in denying the defendant's Motion in Arrest of Judgment.

[ 490 Pa. Page 260]

On November 6, 1965, the body of Joy Keifer, who had been reported missing on November 4, 1965, was discovered in Wildwood Lake, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The appellant, James A. Romberger, was arrested and convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree for the killing of Joy Keifer and a sentence of death was imposed. Direct appeal was taken to this Court with regard to the admissibility of certain oral and written statements made by Romberger. The statements were held to be inadmissible and judgment of sentence was reversed and a new trial ordered. Commonwealth Page 260} v. Romberger, 454 Pa. 279, 312 A.2d 353 (1973) (Romberger I). A petition for reargument was filed by the Commonwealth and denied by this Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and vacated the order of this Court and remanded the matter for further consideration in view of its then recent decision in Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 94 S.Ct. 2357, 41 L.Ed.2d 182 (1974). Pennsylvania v. Romberger, 417 U.S. 964, 94 S.Ct. 3166, 41 L.Ed.2d 1136 (1974).

Upon further consideration, this Court concluded that the rule laid down in Michigan v. Tucker, supra, did not mandate a result different from that previously reached and the original order of retrial was reinstated. Commonwealth v. Romberger, 464 Pa. 488, 347 A.2d 460 (1975) (Romberger II). The retrial resulted in a second conviction of murder of the first degree and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. Again, direct appeal was taken to this Court from the ruling of the trial court which allowed the use at trial of a written confession. The confession was held to be inadmissible: the conviction was reversed and a third trial ordered. Commonwealth v. Romberger, 474 Pa. 190, 378 A.2d 283 (1977) (Romberger III).

From Romberger III, the record was remanded on October 23, 1977, and, therefore, under Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(e)(2), trial should have commenced on or before February 20, 1978. Originally, trial was set by the District Attorney for February 15, 1978.

On January 25, 1978, the District Attorney timely filed a petition with the trial court seeking an extension of time for commencement of trial pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c). On February 16, 1978, a hearing was held to take testimony and argument on the Commonwealth's petition. Judge Warren G. Morgan granted the petition and extended the time for commencement of trial for three weeks to March 13, 1978. Counsel for the defense then requested a continuance until March 14, 1978. Suppression motions were heard by the court on March 9, 1978. ...


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