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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MARK JAMES BLOCK (11/25/83)

filed: November 25, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MARK JAMES BLOCK, APPELLANT



No. 341 Harrisburg 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Snyder County, No. 27-1981.

COUNSEL

David B. Dowling, Harrisburg, for appellant.

John Thomas Robinson, District Attorney, Middleburg, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wickersham, Watkins and Montgomery, JJ. Wickersham, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 322 Pa. Super. Page 342]

Appellant Mark James Block appeals from the order of the Honorable A. Thomas Wilson which denied appellant's motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds.*fn1 We affirm.

On March 3, 1981, a complaint was filed charging appellant with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, unauthorized use of a vehicle and misuse of a credit card. Appellant was arraigned on May 6, 1981, and on June 8, 1981, a jury was selected and sworn. Testimony was to begin on August 3, 1981.*fn2 On July 17, 1981, however, the Commonwealth requested a continuance because of the unavailability of the primary witness. Appellant did not object to the continuance and the case was scheduled for October 5, 1981. At that time, appellant and his attorney appeared and selected a second jury which was sworn and directed to return for testimony on October 8, 1981. Appellant failed to appear on October 8 and a bench warrant was issued. Appellant remained at large for nearly a year until he surrendered himself on September 14, 1982. Thereafter, having obtained new counsel, appellant filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the selection and swearing of the second jury violated the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. Judge Wilson disagreed, denied the motion to dismiss, and ordered the case to trial before the original jury.

[ 322 Pa. Super. Page 343]

The underlying purpose of the double jeopardy prohibition is to prevent an accused from being subjected to trial and possible conviction more than once for an alleged offense. Serfass v. United States, 420 U.S. 377, 95 S.Ct. 1055, 43 L.Ed.2d 265 (1975). Under double jeopardy principles, a criminal defendant has the right not to be subjected to the state's repeated attempts at conviction, Serfass v. Page 343} United States, supra, to expect that a judgment, once made, be final, and to expect that a jury, once selected and sworn, will hear his case. Crist v. Bretz, 437 U.S. 28, 98 S.Ct. 2156, 57 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978). None of these rights are violated by Judge Wilson's order that appellant be tried by the first jury selected. Cf., Commonwealth v. Beatty, 500 Pa. 284, 455 A.2d 1194 (1983). It is illogical, and unnecessary, to grant relief when no harm has been suffered. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Vogel, 501 Pa. 314, 461 A.2d 604 (1983).

In addition, it is appropriate in this context to take into consideration the public's "compelling interest in justice for all." Commonwealth v. Stewart, 456 Pa. 447, 453, 317 A.2d 616, 619 (1974). An accused's interests may, even under double jeopardy principles, be outweighed by "the competing and equally legitimate demand for public justice." Illinois v. Somerville, 410 U.S. 458, 471, 93 S.Ct. 1066, 1074, 35 L.Ed.2d 425, 435 (1973).

Appellant argues that the swearing of the second jury caused the first jury to be discharged and that this "discharge" was the equivalent of a sua sponte declaration of mistrial.*fn3 Since there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial, appellant reasons that he must be discharged. We do not believe that the inadvertent selection of the second jury, with the apparent acquiescence of appellant and his attorney,*fn4 compels us to hold that the Commonwealth is forever precluded from bringing appellant to trial on these charges. Rather, we believe that the selection of the second

[ 322 Pa. Super. Page 344]

    jury should be considered a nullity and the case should proceed to ...


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