No. 81-3-457, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Trial Division, Philadelphia County, imposed on Information No. 2175 & 2177 July Session, 1980.
Thomas J. Turner, III, Philadelphia (court-appointed), for appellant.
Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Steven Cooperstein, Asst. Dist. Attys., Philadelphia, Marion E. MacIntyre, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.
Roberts, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Roberts, Former Chief Justice, did not participate in the decision of this case. Nix, C.j., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
The appellant, Leslie C.X. Beasley, was convicted of murder of the first degree, and sentenced to death, in connection with an incident in 1980 in which a police officer was shot to death at a restaurant in Philadelphia. The officer had gone to the restaurant in response to a radio dispatch alerting him that a man with a gun was present there. Upon arriving at the restaurant, the officer was fatally wounded by the appellant. Pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9711(h), we are called upon to review the record for errors at trial,*fn1 and to determine whether the sentence of death should be affirmed or vacated.
Appellant's primary allegation is that the trial court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial when the prosecutor, during cross-examination of the only fact witness presented by the defense, discredited the veracity of the witness. Examination of the circumstances under which the discrediting comments were made, however, reveals that the comments did not warrant the grant of a new trial.
The witness in question testified that on the night of the shooting, he, appellant, and another man named "Church" were present at the restaurant, and that it was "Church" rather than appellant who shot the police officer. On cross-examination, the witness testified that after the shooting
incident he went to Georgia, where he was convicted for committing a series of robberies, for which he was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. The following exchange then occurred.
PROSECUTOR: And that was the one for which you were sentenced for 20 years?
WITNESS: That's the one that you told me that if I would testify against Mr. Beasley that you would help me out on the 20 years and I told you I wasn't going to do that.
PROSECUTOR: You're talking to me?
PROSECUTOR: You say that I said that, sir?
PROSECUTOR: [Y]ou know that very well is an outright lie.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: I object to [the prosecutor's] statement, testimony, and I move for a mistrial . . . you have intentional prosecutorial misconduct.
THE COURT: Just a minute.
PROSECUTOR: Because I never talked to you.
THE COURT: [Prosecutor], just a minute. Please, sit down, and control yourself, will you?
You will disregard the [prosecutor's] last statement.
Motion for mistrial is denied.
PROSECUTOR: [W]hen have I talked to you? Mention one? When did I speak to you? When ...