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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOSEPH GEORGE ROMERI (05/06/83)

filed: May 6, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JOSEPH GEORGE ROMERI, APPELLANT



No. 465 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Criminal, at Nos. 1368 and 1369 of 1978.

COUNSEL

Thomas J. Calnan, Jr., Allentown, for appellant.

William H. Platt, District Attorney, Allentown, for Commonwealth, appellee.

McEwen, Johnson and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Mcewen

[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 283]

We here review an appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed after appellant was convicted by a jury of murder in the second degree, burglary, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy. Appellant was sentenced to serve a term of life imprisonment upon the murder conviction and a consecutive term of from two to seven years upon the other convictions.

[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 284]

Stella A. Bremmer was eighty years of age when she was bludgeoned to death on November 9, 1978. Four days later, appellant voluntarily accompanied two officers to the Allentown Police Station for questioning. Since appellant was not yet 17 years of age, the police provided for the presence of his mother, who with appellant was apprised of the Miranda warnings. Appellant thereafter gave and subsequently wrote and signed a statement admitting his complicity in the killing of Stella A. Bremmer during the commission of the burglary of her home. The juvenile probation officer of appellant, as well as another juvenile officer, were present with appellant and his mother when appellant made his statement, and the mother herself signed as a witness to the execution of the statement by her son.*fn1

The record reflects that appellant and co-defendant, Michael Reinhard, after consuming a quantity of marijuana,

[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 285]

    gained entry to the house of Mrs. Bremmer through an open rear window. Appellant and the co-defendant then searched the house and took a small amount of money. The co-defendant testified that while he was in the kitchen he heard "muffled sounds" from upstairs, as a result of which he ascended the stairs, and saw appellant standing with a pipe over the bloodied body of Stella Bremmer.

Appellant testified that in addition to smoking marijuana, he ingested LSD, two or three bottles of ale and a swallow of whiskey or wine. He further testified that he was not certain whether or not he hit the victim, but since his accomplice told him he struck Stella Bremmer, he therefore believed that he inflicted the blows. Appellant also indicated uncertainty as to whether the statement he made to Detective Monahan was part of his honest recollection.

The record reflects that appellant, while incarcerated, wrote a letter to his mother in which he stated, inter alia:

Prior to the trial, the court denied the following applications of appellant: (1) a petition to transfer the case to juvenile court; (2) a motion to suppress the statement to Detective Monahan; and (3) a motion for bail.

On the morning of trial, April 2, 1979, a local daily newspaper reported upon the court opinion and order that denied the petition of appellant to transfer the case to the juvenile court. That same article also reported upon the opinion and order of the court that denied the petition of co-defendant Michael Reinhard for transfer to juvenile court.

Appellant, prior to the empaneling of a jury, moved for a change of venue as a result of the newspaper article, but the court held the motion under advisement. That evening, another local newspaper reported the "plea for venue

[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 286]

    change". Upon completion of voir dire, the trial judge denied the motion of appellant for change of venue.

Appellant asserts that the trial court erred when it refused to dismiss for cause four prospective jurors who had read or discussed the newspaper article of April 2, 1979, and had been thereby challenged for cause. Our eminent President Judge William F. Cercone, in Commonwealth v. Lucchese, 233 Pa. Super. 273, ...


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