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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MACK TRUESDALE (09/15/83)

decided: September 15, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MACK TRUESDALE, APPELLANT



No. 81-3-483, Appeal from Judgments of Sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Criminal Trial Division, Imposed at Information Nos. 131, 134, 135 and 136, July Session 1976

COUNSEL

Norris E. Gelman, Philadelphia (court-appointed), for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Steven Cooperstein, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Dist. Attys., Marion E. MacIntyre, William A. Behe, Deputy Attys. Gen., for appellee.

Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 502 Pa. Page 97]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The present appeal arises out of appellant's second trial on charges of murder (two counts), conspiracy, and aggravated assault. Appellant, Mack Truesdale, was charged in connection with a shooting episode which occurred on October 17, 1975, as a result of a dispute over the sale of narcotics. As in the first trial, the jury found appellant guilty of two counts of murder of the first degree, and returned the death penalty on both counts.*fn1 The jury also found appellant guilty of conspiracy and aggravated assault.*fn2 Sentences of death were imposed on the verdicts of guilty of murder of the first degree, a sentence of five to ten years' imprisonment was imposed on the conspiracy verdict and a sentence of eleven and one-half to twenty-three months' imprisonment was imposed on the verdict of aggravated assault. All sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

Appellant raises several allegations of trial error in support of his request for a new trial.*fn3 He first argues that the trial court impermissibly restricted his right of confrontation when the court curtailed his cross-examination of

[ 502 Pa. Page 98]

George Jackson, the key Commonwealth witness and the victim of the aggravated assault. He contends that he should have been permitted to pursue questions regarding Jackson's probationary status at the time of the offense as a means of impeaching Jackson's credibility. We agree with the trial court's holding that, assuming the court erred in sustaining the Commonwealth's objection, the error was harmless. See Commonwealth v. Thornton, 494 Pa. 260, 431 A.2d 248 (1981). The trial court correctly summarized the record when it stated:

"Defendant was able to fully explore Mr. Jackson's possible motive in testifying by establishing that Mr. Jackson was never arrested for or charged with the crimes of Possession of Controlled Substances or Possession of a Firearm on the day of the incident or thereafter, despite the fact that the police found drugs in Mr. Jackson's home, and that Mr. Jackson admitted to those crimes (N.T. 9/24/80, pp. 148-150). In addition, defense counsel fully explored the question of what, if any, protection and money Mr. Jackson received from the District Attorney's Office for his testimony (N.T. 9/24/80, pp. 229-234). Hence, this Court's failure to permit defense counsel to explore the issue of Mr. Jackson's possible bias by means of questioning his probationary status was harmless in light of the other vigorous attacks made on Mr. Jackson's interests in the case."

Trial court opinion at 4.*fn4

Appellant next argues that the trial court erred in permitting witness Jackson and a ...


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