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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD MARCH (12/23/82)

filed: December 23, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
RICHARD MARCH, APPELLANT



No. 899 PITTSBURGH, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Cambria County, No. 0305, 1980.

COUNSEL

Norman Krumenacker, Jr., Ebenburg, for appellant.

Timothy P. Creany, Assistant District Attorney, Ebenburg, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Hester, Johnson and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Hester

[ 308 Pa. Super. Page 345]

On September 26, 1980, the appellant, Richard March, was convicted by a jury of criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy as a result of the fatal shooting of Craig Mickens which occurred in the City of Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, March 29, 1980. Written motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were denied, and on June 9, 1981, the appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment in a State Correctional Institution. This appeal from that judgment of sentence followed.

During the late evening hours of March 28, 1980 and the early morning hours of March 29, 1980, Craig Mickens was dancing and socializing with friends at Rod's Pub in the Prospect section of Johnstown. Upon completing a dance with his girlfriend, Craig walked over to the pool table and was accosted by Mark March, the appellant's brother. No witnesses could attest to the precise exchange of words between both men; nevertheless, several witnesses observed the victim raise both hands in the air in an apparent attempt to avoid strife. Craig then walked away; however, upon being tapped on the shoulder, he turned around and Mark struck him in the face. A fistfight ensued.

The appellant joined in the struggle. After they were separated by other bar patrons, the three men eventually moved to the area immediately around the barroom door. As Craig stood in the doorway, the appellant fired a single shot within close range from a .25 caliber automatic handgun that pierced the victim's heart and caused his death.

[ 308 Pa. Super. Page 346]

The appellant argues first that the Information filed by the District Attorney's Office was invalid for failure to comply with the signature provisions of Rule 225(b) of the Pa.R.Crim.P. Rule 225(b) specifically requires that "the Information shall be signed by the attorney for the Commonwealth . . . ." The particular Information filed here contained only the rubber stamped facsimile of the Cambria County district attorney's signature. No attempt to identify the district attorney by a handwritten signature, initials or mark was made by either the district attorney himself or designated personnel.

The appellant submits two decisional sources in support of his position that a stamped facsimile alone does not satisfy the signature requirement of Rule 225(b). Commonwealth v. Belcher, 258 Pa. Super. 153, 392 A.2d 730 (1978); Commonwealth v. Emanuel, 285 Pa. Super. 594, 428 A.2d 204 (1981). The Belcher court was confronted with an Information that bore no signature whatsoever. Neither initials nor a stamped facsimile was applied; the signature line was completely blank. The court proceeded to find the Information void ab initio since an unsigned Information gives no indication that anyone evaluated the propriety of instituting criminal proceedings. Furthermore, the Belcher court concluded that a district attorney's failure to sign a Bill of Information was irremediable and that the defendant's choice to raise the defective Information for the first time on appeal, instead of in pre-trial motions, does not constitute a waiver of the right to a dismissal of charges. A signed Information, according to Belcher, supra, is mandatory, and not simply directory.

The decision in Emanuel, supra, is closely akin to the facts presented here. Ten Bills of Information were filed against the defendant in Emanuel, supra, with each Bill containing only a rubber stamp facsimile of the signature of the district attorney in Delaware County. The Emanuel court was similarly faced with the task of rendering an interpretation of the word ...


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