Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of October 1, 2010 In the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-48-CR-0000450-2010.
BEFORE: BOWES, OLSON and PLATT,*fn1 JJ.
Appellant, Tyjon Fletcher, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered October 1, 2010, committing him to a term of 36 to 72 months' incarceration, and probation, for convictions on robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, two counts of terroristic threats, and two counts of simple assault.*fn2 We affirm.
The record reveals the relevant factual and procedural background of this matter as follows:
On August 20, 2009, authorities from the Easton Police Department arrested and charged Appellant with the aforementioned crimes based upon the assault and robbery of a couple as they left a mini-mart in Easton, Pennsylvania. The trial court commenced a jury trial August 2, 2010. During the course of the trial, Appellant testified as to his version of the events in question. Appellant did not testify as to his personal character or reputation. Nevertheless, on cross-examination, the District Attorney asked Appellant about his prior criminal record. Specifically, the relevant exchange went as follows:
Commonwealth: Mr. Fletcher--
Commonwealth: --this is not your first robbery; is it?
Appellant's Counsel: Objection, your Honor. May we approach?
The trial court briefly excused the jury and heard argument on Appellant's objection. Appellant argued that, given that he had not placed his character and reputation at issue during direct examination, the Commonwealth's introduction of evidence with regard to his prior offenses violated 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5918, which restricts the Commonwealth's ability to inquire into a defendant's criminal history. See infra. On that basis, Appellant's counsel moved for a mistrial.
The trial court took a brief recess to consider the applicable law. When the trial resumed, the trial court sustained Appellant's objection, but denied his motion for a mistrial. When the jury returned to the courtroom the trial court issued the following cautionary instruction:
...I want to instruct you that evidence of prior conduct is not admissible in cross-examination. It's just not relevant. It has no probative value, essentially because it may suggest a propensity to engage in the conduct that is before ...