APPEAL FROM THE JUDGMENT OF SENTENCE OF JULY 9, 1982 IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY, CRIMINAL NO. 2676 JULY 1981
F. FitzPatrick, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellant.
Eric B. Henson, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.
Rowley, Cirillo and Cercone, JJ.
[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 111]
Appellant was convicted of witness tampering. The Superior Court, 322 Pa. Super. 416, 469 A.2d 1059, found the evidence insufficient to support the conviction and reversed. The Supreme Court, 507 Pa. 299, 489 A.2d 1340, found the evidence sufficient and reversed the Superior Court. The case is now before us on remand to address the remaining claims. One of appellant's contentions is that the jury which convicted him was improperly influenced. We agree and therefore reverse and remand for a new trial.
Testimony from the jurors themselves revealed several significant contacts between court officer Helen Wolf and members of the jury. Initially, we must pass upon the propriety of such juror testimony. It is true that as a general rule, a juror may not impeach his verdict after the jury has been discharged; a juror is not generally competent to testify to what went on in the jury room. Commonwealth v. Sero, 478 Pa. 440, 387 A.2d 63 (1978); see also Commonwealth v. Fuller, 336 Pa. Super. 507, 485 A.2d 1197 (1984); Commonwealth v. Boden, 337 Pa. Super. 108, 486
[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 112]
A.2d 504 (1984). However, as our Supreme Court went on to explain in Sero, supra, this general rule does not apply to cases like the one before us: "[W]e have carved out a narrow exception to the cannon of "no impeachment," allowing post-trial testimony of extraneous influences which might have affected the jury during their deliberation." (Citations omitted). Commonwealth v. Sero, supra 478 Pa. at 448, 387 A.2d at 67.
The alternate juror, when asked about a statement made to him by one of the other jurors, responded: "She told me that a court officer, Helen Wolf, had stated to her that a person who asked for a trial by jury is guilty." Another juror related a separate incident:
I said, "Helen, you know, how much longer are we actually going to be here? You know, when we were sequestered, the Judge made a remark about three or four days." I said, "Tomorrow is going to be the fifth day and if Mr. Syre is not done already, we are going to be here for the weekend and into next week and it's just too much not being able to see my family and all."
And Helen kind of comforted me. That's when she gave me the statement when we were walking down the steps, "Look, if everybody paid attention and listened to the tapes, it shouldn't take you long to make up your mind."
This incident was related back to the alternate juror, who further testified: "Well, she told me that Helen Wolf had told her that deliberations should only take five minutes (because) he's guilty." Additional testimony revealed that the jurors ...