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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LYNN STEHLEY (01/31/86)

filed: January 31, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LYNN STEHLEY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence October 18, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Criminal No. 2770, 2539 C.D. 1983.

COUNSEL

Lawrence Kalikow and Francis J. Dermody, Assistant Public Defenders, Harrisburg, for appellant.

Katherene E. Holtzinger-Conner, Deputy District Attorney, Harrisburg, for Com., appellee.

Wickersham, Rowley and Olszewski, JJ.

Author: Olszewski

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 314]

Appellant Lynn Stehley was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a jury trial in which he had been charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. In his appeal, appellant presents six issues for appellate review:

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 315]

(1) whether the lower court erred in granting the Commonwealth's request for discovery; (2) whether the trial court properly instructed the jury; (3) the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction of involuntary manslaughter; (4) the admission of evidence relating to appellant's reputation; (5) the propriety of allowing the District Attorney to refile murder charges before a second magistrate; and (6) whether the court erred in sentencing the appellant to two concurrent terms, under two different docket numbers, for one conviction. Because of the uniqueness of several issues and the procedural aspects of this case, we find it necessary to deal with the issues seriatim.

The incident underlying appellant's trial and conviction took place at the German-American Friendship Club in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In the early morning hours of October 1, 1983, this was the site of an indoor picnic at which appellant was present as a guest and the victim, James Ferguson, was a bartender. Appellant who had been drinking, passed out. Later, he was told to leave the club by Ferguson after Ferguson became aware of appellant urinating on the barroom floor. Upon escorting appellant out of the club, a scuffle erupted between the two. This resulted in Ferguson going over the railing and hitting his head on the concrete four feet below. The victim spent several weeks in the hospital where, despite various operations, he died.

Appellant was arrested and charged with murder. The first district justice bound him over for trial on a voluntary manslaughter charge. After being rearrested, he was bound over on a murder charge by a second district justice.*fn1 He went to trial on both charges and a verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter was returned by the jury.

I.

Appellant's primary allegation of error is one of first impression before this court. The contention is that the

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 316]

    lower court erred when it ordered the defense to disclose certain information to the Commonwealth through pre-trial discovery. As a result, we are called upon to interpret Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 305. More specifically, we must examine Rule 305 C to determine the scope of appellant's duty to disclose.*fn2 In so doing, we must keep

[ 350 Pa. Super. Page 317]

    in mind that questions involving pre-trial discovery in criminal cases lie generally within the discretion of the trial judge and his actions will not be reversed unless such discretion was abused. Commonwealth v. Gockley, 411 Pa. 437, 192 A.2d 693 (1963).

Litigation concerning pre-trial discovery is quite common. The United States Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland*fn3 was the beginning of defense rights to state information. Brady mandated that certain evidence in the hands of a prosecutor be turned over to the defense. Since then, courts have consistently struggled to comply.*fn4

A more recent case discussing pre-trial discovery guidelines is Wardius v. State of Oregon.*fn5 The Supreme Court noted that a liberal practice of pre-trial discovery would best serve the ends of justice. Both parties are deserving of the maximum amount of discovery with which to prepare their cases; discovery is a two way street. In a concurring opinion, however, Justice Douglas cautioned about the rights guaranteed the accused in the Bill of Rights. The courts are not allowed to change ...


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