No. 1371 Philadelphia, 1983, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, Nos. 859, 860 and 861 October Term, 1981.
Stanley P. Stern, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Jane C. Greenspan, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Spaeth, President Judge, and Wieand and Cirillo, JJ. Spaeth, President Judge, concurred in the result.
[ 332 Pa. Super. Page 149]
In a trial for perjury, may the Commonwealth rely solely on documentary evidence to show the falsity of testimony given by the defendant in prior judicial proceedings? This is the first and more difficult issue raised by the appellant in this appeal from a judgment of sentence imposed for perjury. The second issue is whether appellant was deprived of a fair trial because the jury was able to discern from the Commonwealth's evidence that appellant's false testimony had been given during a bail hearing in a prior criminal proceeding. For reasons which follow, we affirm the judgment of sentence.
On May 29, 1981, appellant appeared before the Honorable Alex Bonavitacola for a bail revocation hearing after appellant had been arrested on a bench warrant. Appellant testified that he had not been present for a hearing on October 14, 1980 because he was then incarcerated in prison in Onondaga County, New York. He testified also that he had been unable to appear for a hearing on March 31, 1978 because he was then a patient at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Finally, he testified that at the time of his arrest on the bench warrant he was an employee of Budd Company, having worked at its plant at Red Lion and Verree Roads for a period of four years. The Commonwealth charged that appellant's testimony was false and perjurious. At trial before a jury, the statements made by appellant under oath were proved by Judge Bonavitacola
[ 332 Pa. Super. Page 150]
and by the court stenographer who had recorded appellant's testimony. In order to show the falsity of appellant's testimony, the Commonwealth relied upon the records of the prison, the hospital and the Budd Company. After they had been duly proved by the custodians thereof, the prison and hospital records were received in evidence. They showed that appellant had not been a prisoner in the Onondaga County Prison or a patient in the Medical College of Pennsylvania on the dates when he was required to be in court. The Budd Company's employment records were also produced and showed that appellant had not been one of its employees.*fn1
Perjury, being a false statement under oath or affirmation in an official proceeding, is defined and made a felony of the third degree by the provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4902. Subsection (f) thereof provides:
In any prosecution under this section, except under subsection (e) of this section,*fn2 falsity of a statement may not be established by the uncorroborated testimony of a single witness.
(footnote added). This subsection, it will be observed, does not purport to establish affirmatively the type or quality of the evidence necessary to convict. It seeks merely to prevent a conviction in a situation where oath has been pitted against oath. Thus, it establishes that a conviction for perjury cannot rest upon the "uncorroborated testimony of a single witness." The rule has value in safeguarding witnesses in official proceedings from harassment by disappointed litigants. It also protects them from their own or another's good-faith mistakes. Commonwealth v. Katsafanas, 318 Pa. Super. 143, 166, 464 A.2d 1270, 1283 (1983).
The provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4902(e), it has been held, do not prevent a conviction based on circumstantial evidence. ...