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decided: July 10, 1986.


Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania dated July 27, 1984, at No. 402 Harrisburg 1982, Affirming the Judgment of Sentence of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas at Nos. 89 and 89(a) C.D. 1982, 332 Pa. Super. Ct. 301; Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Papadakos, J., joins the Majority Opinion and files a concurring opinion. Hutchinson, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Flaherty

[ 511 Pa. Page 216]


Between November 13 and November 25, 1981 one David Crater and the appellants in this case, Dauntel Evans and Christopher Nolen, allegedly committed approximately nine house burglaries in the Middletown, Pennsylvania area. On November 21, 1981, according to the testimony of Crater, the three also committed a robbery of Ritchie's Bar, also in Middletown. According to Crater, the robbery of the bar commenced when Nolen and Evans waited in the car while Crater "cased" it. When Crater returned to the car, he reported that Ritchie's probably was not a very lucrative target, but Nolen and Evans decided to go through with the robbery anyway. Armed with handguns, their faces masked, Nolen and Evans then went into the bar while Crater waited outside in the getaway car. Shortly after they went inside, Crater heard three shots and Nolen and

[ 511 Pa. Page 217]

Evans came running out. As the three sped off, Nolen said that he had shot someone. The person shot was Mr. Ritchie, the proprietor of the bar. He died from an abdominal wound inflicted by a .38 caliber handgun.

On November 24, 1981, three days later, Crater was arrested on an unrelated matter. During transportation to his arraignment, after Miranda warnings were given, he answered questions put to him by police officers concerning the Ritchie homicide. In his statement, Crater implicated Nolen and Evans as the other participants in the Ritchie murder. He also told police how the three planned to rob the bar, how he retrieved what was to become the murder weapon from safe-keeping for use in the robbery, and how after the robbery, he disposed of the gun by throwing it in a creek.

As a result of information provided by Crater, Nolen and Evans were charged with and brought to trial for criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy and robbery. A jury, sitting in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Criminal Division, found both guilty of second degree murder and otherwise as charged. Post trial motions were filed and denied, and sentence was imposed. Superior Court affirmed. 479 A.2d 595 and 481 A.2d 625. This Court granted allocatur primarily to address the question of whether the defendants' cross-examination of Crater, the Commonwealth's main witness, was improperly restricted. For the reasons that follow, we hold that it was.

At the time of trial, Crater was charged, also in Dauphin County, with ten to fifteen burglaries and conspiracies separate and apart from the charges which were brought against him because of his participation in the Ritchie murder. Appellants were permitted to question Crater about whether he was promised leniency with respect to his involvement in the crimes at issue in this case, but were denied permission to cross-examine Crater on whether he had been promised lenient treatment with respect to other

[ 511 Pa. Page 218]

    criminal charges which were also pending against him in the same county.*fn1

In response to questions put on direct and cross examination, Crater testified that he was not promised anything in exchange for his cooperation in this case and that he agreed to testify to clear his conscience. On direct examination, Crater stated:

Q. David, at the time you gave your statement to Trooper Lotwick out at the state police, were you promised anything in exchange for your statement?

A. No.

Q. You have discussed this case with me, have you not?

A. Yes.

[ 511 Pa. Page 219]

Q. At any time have I or any other member of the district attorney's office given you any promise whatsoever in this case?

A. None.

Q. Has any police officer given you any promise?

A. None. I just like told it. It was on my mind at that time. I started drinking a little heavy and I just, the day we got down to --

Q. let me stop you. Why did you tell these two detectives?

A. It was kind of on my mind. I wanted to get it off my mind and that because I ...

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