Com. ex rel. Raucci v. Price

Decision Date13 November 1962
Citation409 Pa. 90,185 A.2d 523
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH ex rel. Louis RAUCCI, Appellant, v. Grant S. PRICE, Warden, Allegheny County Jail.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Albert A. Fiok, M. Barney Cohen, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Edward C. Boyle, Dist. Atty., Louis Abromson and William Claney Smith, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Before BELL, C. J., and MUSMANNO, JONES, EAGEN, and KEIM, JJ.

JONES, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County denying a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in an extradition proceeding and ordering appellant, Louis Raucci, to be turned over to the custody of the appropriate authorities of the State of Ohio.

On July 16, 1959, Ruth Jane Whitney, a courier for the Niles Bank of Niles, Ohio, was abducted and robbed of $41,000. Sixteen months after the commission of the crime--on November 13, 1961--Raucci was arrested in Pittsburgh on a governor's warrant and an extradition request originating in the State of Ohio. Raucci was charged with the abduction of Ruth Jane Whitney for the purpose of extortion and robbery. Availing himself of Section 10 of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, 1 Raucci on the day of his arrest petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County for a writ of habeas Corpus, averring therein that he was being held in custody on a void extradition warrant and alleging that he was not in Niles, Ohio, at the time of the commission of the crime.

A hearing was held pursuant to this petition. The Commonwealth called as its first witness the victim, Ruth Jane Whitney, who testified that she had identified Raucci at a police-lineup in Pittsburgh as the assailant and as the person named in the indictment, She likewise identified him in court from the stand and then testified as to his appearance and dress at the time of the crime. The Commonwealth also produced William Edward Parker who had also identified Raucci at the Pittsburgh police-lineup and then positively identified him in open court as the person he had seen commit the crime. Parker testified as to Raucci's appearance and dress on the day of the crime. Seven witnessed who were either members of his family or close friends, were called by Raucci. They testified that he was not in Niles, Ohio, on the day the crime was committed, but rather was at the site of his employment in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Raucci himself testified that he was not in Niles, Ohio, on July 16, 1959. Raucci does concede, however, that Niles, Ohio, may be reached from the Pittsburgh area by automobile in approximately one and one-half hours.

At the conclusion of the hearing the court below entered an order denying the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and directing that Raucci be turned over to the Ohio authorities, but that, pending an appeal to this Court, he be released upon posting a supersedeas bond. The opinion of the court below was predicated on the conclusion that the identification of Raucci as the assailant and as the person named in the Ohio indictment by the two Commonwealth witnesses was sufficient to justify his extradition and that Raucci's evidence did not contradict this positive identification evidence.

Upon denial of the petition, an appeal was taken to this Court. While the appeal was pending, Raucci petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County averring that the Commonwealth's witnesses had given to the police authorities information which directly conflicted with the testimony produced at the hearing and which materially affected the crucial question of identity. Raucci asked that the record be opened for the taking of additional testimony on the issue raised by this newly-discovered evidence. The District Attorney did not object to this request and joined with Raucci in a petition to this Court requesting that the record be remanded for the taking of additional testimony and that this appeal, pending the hearing, be continued. We granted that petition.

A second hearing was held and Raucci there attempted to introduce the testimony of one Harold Byland through whom Raucci offered to show by way of photographs 'the physical aspects surrounding the act'. Specifically, this witness was to testify to 'distance and directions' at the location of the crime concerning which the victim, Ruth Jane Whitney, had testified at the first hearing. The court excluded this testimony. A second witness, one Eugene Stout, was called and through him Raucci offered to show that, although he saw the person who committed the robbery, he could not positively identify that person as Louis Raucci. This testimony was excluded on the ground that it did not affect the credibility of the Commonwealth's witnesses. A third witness was produced, one Anothony Marsico, a sergeant of police in Niles, Ohio, who acted as Ruth Jane Whitney's body-guard at the time the abduction and robbery, occurred, and, through Marsico, Raucci offered to show that this eye-witness was not able to identify Raucci as the above Counsel for Raucci argued that the above evidence materially affected the question of identity but the Commonwealth's objections to its admission were sustained on the ground that the hearing was limited to those issues raised in the petition concerning statements made by the Commonwealth witnesses inconsistent with their testimony at the original hearing.

Subsequent to the second hearing, the court below filed an opinion stating that the Commonwealth's witnesses on the matter of identification had not been impeached at the second hearing held, at Raucci's instance for the express purpose of challenging the credibility of these witnesses. The court, thereupon denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and ordered that Raucci be delivered to the Ohio authorities. From this order the appellant has appealed.

This appeal raises three issues: (1) did the court err in ignoring evidence produced by Raucci which evidence allegedly disproved identity; (2) did the court err in refusing to hear certain testimony offered at the second hearing; (3) does an alleged defect in the Ohio indictment preclude Raucci's extradition?

Our scope of review in extradition cases is restricted. By the terms of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act of July 8, 1941, P.L. 288, § 1 et seq., 19 P.S. § 191.1 et seq., the courts of an asylum state may not determine the guilt or innocence of the party sought to be extradited. The courts of an asylum state will order extradition only if (1) the subject of the extradition is charged with a crime in the demanding state; (2) if the subject of extradition is a fugitive from the demanding state; (3) if the subject of the extradition was present in the demanding state at the time of the commission of the crime; (4) if the requisition papers are in order. All of these elements must be present: Commonwealth ex rel. Pacewicz v. Turley, 399 Pa. 458, 160 A.2d 685; Commonwealth ex rel. Dronsfield v. Hohn, 390 Pa. 434, 135 A.2d 757; Commonwealth ex rel. Hatton v. Dye, 373 Pa. 502, 96 A.2d 127; Commonwealth ex rel. Henderson v. Baldi, 372 Pa. 463, 93 A.2d 458.

Section 20 of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act is particularly applicable on this appeal: 'The guilt or innocence of the accused as to the crime of which he is charged may not be inquired into be the Governor, or in any proceeding after the demand for extradition accompanied by a charge of crime in legal form as above provided [Section 3] shall have been presented to the Governor, except as it may be involved in identifying the person held as the person charged with the crime.' (Emphasis supplied.) The purpose of prohibiting any inquiry into the guilt or innocence of the accused is to restrict such inquiry to the state which had jurisdiction of the crime charged: Commonwealth ex rel. Bucksbarg v. Good, 162 Pa.Super 557, 58 A.2d 842; Commonwealth ex rel. Hatton v. Dye, supra.

The record shows that the Commonwealth's two witnesses, at the first hearing, unqualifiedly identified Raucci as the person who committed the crime and the person who was named in the Ohio indictment. Subsequent to the first hearing, Raucci submitted the following petition to the court below: 'Subsequent to the filing of said appeal [to this Court], upon further investigation based upon facts which your petitioner did not have at the time of the hearing before your Honorable Court, it was ascertained that the Commonwealth witnesses gave information to police authorities and others which are in direct conflict with the testimony produced at said hearing, materially affecting their credibility and materially affecting the question of identity.' (Emphasis supplied) Raucci further averred that: 'The evidence subsequently discovered will cast serious doubt on the question of identity which, in extradition cases, must be established with reasonable certainty.' (Emphasis supplied.) In his petition to this Court, Raucci averred substantially the same matters. The Commonwealth did not oppose Raucci's petition. The second hearing having been granted, Raucci first attempted to substantiate the allegations in his petition by showing photographs of the exact location of the crime. This offer in no way, even remotely, related to the 'question of identity'. An offer was then made to produce a witness in whose opinion Raucci was not the assailant. A third witness was to show that, although he saw the assailant at close range, he was unable to identify Raucci as thta person. Because none of this evidence supported the petition which alleged that certain additional newly-discovered evidence would impeach the credibility of the Commonwealth's identifying witnesses, Raucci was not permitted by the court below to introduce the testimony of these three witnesses. The validity of these rulings is at issue.

We repeat, Section 20 of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act provides: 'The guilt or...

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