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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LOUIS RIGGINS (03/21/88)

submitted: March 21, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LOUIS RIGGINS, APPELLANT



Appeal from P.C.H.A. Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, No. 7403-0155-0156.

COUNSEL

James S. Bruno, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Donna G. Zucker, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.

Wieand, Montgomery and Hester, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 246]

Louis Riggins was tried by jury in October, 1974, and was found guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy. Post-trial motions were filed and denied, and Riggins was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and to a consecutive five to ten year term of imprisonment for conspiracy. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. In September, 1986, Riggins filed a pro se petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act (P.C.H.A.). Counsel was appointed, and an amended P.C.H.A. petition was filed. Upon motion of the Commonwealth, the amended P.C.H.A. petition was dismissed without hearing. On appeal from the order of the P.C.H.A. court, Riggins raises several issues challenging the effectiveness of his trial and appellate counsel. Specifically he argues that:

A. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the District Attorney's remarks regarding the presumption of innocence and appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise trial counsel's ineffectiveness.

B. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the Commonwealth presentation of testimony regarding the fact appellant was a member of the black Muslim religion and appellant [sic] counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this issue in appellant's appeal.

C. Appellant was deprived of a fair trial by the testimony that he had previously been in jail and that trial counsel and appellant [sic] counsel were ineffective for failing to properly preserve this issue on appeal.

[ 374 Pa. Super. Page 247]

D. Trial counsel erred in permitting an exhibit containing the dying declaration to be admitted into evidence as his failure to object allowed the exhibit to be sent out with the jury during their deliberations and appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this issue on appeal.

E. Trial counsel erred in failing to object to the trial court's expressing its opinion in the charge to the jury that there was evidence that would tend to establish that appellant solicited, agreed, participated and performed acts which caused the death of the victim.

Riggins has also filed a pro se supplemental brief in which he challenges the effectiveness of his appointed P.C.H.A. counsel. Finding no merit in any of Riggins' contentions, we affirm the order of the P.C.H.A. court.

The evidence which led to Riggins' conviction was summarized by the Supreme Court as follows:

The victim's mother, accompanied by a co-worker, Mrs. Young, stopped by the home of her two daughters late at night to see that all was well. She discovered a large cooking knife and bloody paper towels on the kitchen countertop, and at the same time heard the victim calling faintly from the basement. Upon going down to the basement, the mother found the victim lying in a pool of blood with numerous stab wounds to her right arm, chest and throat. In answer to her mother's question as to what caused her injuries, the victim clearly and repeatedly named the appellant ...


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