Com. ex rel. Alberti v. Boyle

Decision Date12 November 1963
Citation412 Pa. 398,195 A.2d 97
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH et rel. Angelo ALBERTI v. Edward C. BOYLE, District Attorney of Allegheny County. Appeal of COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Edward C. Boyle, Dist. Atty., Louis Abromson, Samuel Strauss, Martin Lubow, Asst.Dist. Attys. Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Ralph S. Sapp, Alvin J. Porsche, Porsche, Schuchert & Sapp, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Before BELL, C. J., and MUSMANNO, JONES, COHEN, EAGEN, O'BRIEN, and ROBERTS, JJ.

BELL, Chief Justice.

Alberti was incarcerated in Allegheny County following a verdict of the Coroner's Jury that he be held to await the action of the Grand Jury on a charge of murder. He thereupon filed in the Common Pleas Court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asking that he be admitted to bail. At the hearing upon this petition the Commonwealth offered in evidence the record of the proceedings before the Coroner. Upon consideration of such record the Court admitted the relator to bail, and from that Order the District Attorney has appealed.

Each party relies upon Section 14 of Article I, of the Constitution of our Commonwealth P.S., which pertinently provides:

'All prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for capital offenses when the proof is evident or presumption great; * * *.'

This case raises several very important questions. There are no appellate decisions construing this Constitutional provision but it has been considered in the County Court cases found in the footnote. 1 A 'capital offense' within the meaning of the Constitution means a crime of such a character that the penalty or sentence of death may be imposed even though the crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment, or by a lesser sentence. 8 Am.Jur.2d, Section 30, 'Bail and Recognizance', page 801; 8 C.J.S. Bail § 34 page 66; Wharton's Criminal Procedures, 1957 Edition, Section 1811, page 652; Black's Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition, page 263, 'Capital Case or Crime.' In other words, a capital offense is a crime for which the death penalty may, but need not, be inflicted. Lee v. State, 31 Ala.App. 91, 13 So.2d 583, 587. We are likewise convinced that the words in Section 14 'when the proof is evident or presumption great' mean that if the Commonwealth's evidence which is presented at the bail hearing, together with all reasonable inferences therefrom, is sufficient in law to sustain a verdict of murder in the first degree, bail should be refused. 2 It follows that in the absence of such evidence, the prisoner is entitled to bail.

The practice followed in the present case and in a number of lower Court cases of deciding this very important question on the basis of the testimony presented at a coroner's inquest is condemned and is no...

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9 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Talley
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 22 d3 Dezembro d3 2021
    ...case." Commonwealth's Br. at 28. The Commonwealth derives this argument from two of this Court's decisions, Commonwealth ex rel. Alberti v. Boyle , 412 Pa. 398, 195 A.2d 97 (1963), and Commonwealth v. Farris , 443 Pa. 251, 278 A.2d 906 (1971) . In Alberti , Angelo Alberti "was incarcerat......
  • State v. Waddell
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 18 d4 Janeiro d4 1973
    ...in Pennsylvania, we are left to decide if the definition of 'capital offense' which we adopted in Alberti (Commonwealth ex rel. Alberti v. Boyle, 412 Pa. 398, 195 A.2d 97) requires that the bail set for Truesdale was proper.' 296 A.2d at 832 (Our italics.) Holding that bail was properly gra......
  • Commonwealth v. Fowler
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 4 d5 Maio d5 1973
    ... ... Cited with approval in United States ex rel. Fink v ... Heyd, 287 F.Supp. 716, 718 (E.D.La.1968), aff'd 408 ... Commonwealth ... ex rel. Alberti v. Boyle, 412 Pa. 398, 400--401, 195 ... A.2d 97, 98 (1963). Caye was not ... ...
  • Com. ex rel. Fitzpatrick v. Bullock
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 28 d1 Fevereiro d1 1977
    ...325, 330, 296 A.2d 829, 832 (1972); Commonwealth v. Keller, 433 Pa. 20, 23, 248 A.2d 855, 856 (1969); Commonwealth ex rel. Alberti v. Boyle, 412 Pa. 398, 400, 195 A.2d 97, 98 (1963). Under Pennsylvania's prior death-penalty statute, which we held unconstitutional in Commonwealth v. Bradley,......
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