No. 3135 PHILADELPHIA, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, Nos. 4197-98, 4202, March Term, 1981.
Elaine DeMasse, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Jane Cutler Greenspan, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Hester, Johnson and Popovich, JJ.
[ 316 Pa. Super. Page 306]
Appellant raises a solitary issue on this appeal; he avers that the trial judge committed reversible error by his refusal to include certain requested questions in the voir dire of the veniremen. A close and careful scrutiny of the record reveals no such error by the trial judge. Hence, we affirm.
The events which resulted in the instant prosecution occurred on February 6, 1981. The victim was entering her Philadelphia apartment in the early evening hours on that date when appellant forced his way inside. After appellant produced a gun, the victim quickly surrendered her cash and offered him her jewelry in exchange for her life. Appellant accepted the cash and then instructed the victim to "get undressed and go to the bed." The victim remained calm and managed to engage appellant in conversation for a short while. In the interim, a neighbor overheard the victim's pleas and summoned the police. Upon their arrival, appellant was observed with his arm around the victim's neck, attempting to escape. He was quickly apprehended, however, as he fled through the rear door.
As a result of this incident, appellant was charged with the crimes of attempted rape, burglary, robbery, and possessing an instrument of crime. Following a trial by jury, a defense demurrer to the charge of attempted rape was sustained. Appellant was convicted on the remaining charges and was sentenced to a total of nine to eighteen years incarceration, following the denial of timely post-trial motions.
As stated above, appellant's arguments on this appeal are limited to the voir dire process. Appellant asserts that the trial court deprived him of his right to a fair trial before an impartial jury by refusing to ask prospective jurors a series of questions submitted by defense counsel. Appellant complains that the trial judge failed to adequately explore certain fundamental issues which may have highlighted any bias or prejudice harbored by the veniremen, specifically,
[ 316 Pa. Super. Page 307]
racial prejudice, police credibility, and the presumption of innocence.
It is axiomatic that the paramount purpose of the voir dire system is the assemblage of "a competent fair, impartial, and unprejudicial jury." Commonwealth v. Davis, 282 Pa. Super. 51, 54, 422 A.2d 671, 672 (1980); Commonwealth v. England, 474 Pa. 1, 375 A.2d 1292 (1977). In furtherance of that goal, possible racial prejudice of a prospective juror may be an appropriate subject of interrogation by the trial judge if of particular relevance to the case.*fn1 Commonwealth v. Christian, 480 Pa. 131, 389 A.2d 545 (1978); Commonwealth v. Futch, 469 Pa. 422, 366 A.2d 246 (1976); Commonwealth v. Brown, 464 Pa. 625, 347 A.2d 716 (1975).
Although the defendant is vested with the right to explore racial bias possessed by a venireman, this right is not without limits. The trial judge is not required to put the question in any particular form, or to ask any specific questions on the subject, merely because requested to do so by the ...