Com. ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore CHARLES ALVIN JONES; CHARLES ALVIN JONES; MUSMANNO; MUSMANNO; Jones
Citation400 Pa. 326,162 A.2d 354
Decision Date29 June 1960
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH ex rel. Joseph M. RYAN v. William J. BANMILLER, Warden, Eastern State Penitentiary.

Page 354

162 A.2d 354
400 Pa. 326
COMMONWEALTH ex rel. Joseph M. RYAN
v.
William J. BANMILLER, Warden, Eastern State Penitentiary.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
June 29, 1960.

[400 Pa. 327] Maxwell P. Gorson, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Martin H. Lock, Dist. Atty., William W. Caldwell, Asst. Dist. Atty., Harrisburg, for appellee.

Before CHARLES ALVIN JONES, C. J., and BELL, MUSMANNO, BENJAMIN R. JONES, COHEN, BOK and EAGEN, JJ.

Page 355

CHARLES ALVIN JONES, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County denying petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The relator is confined in a State penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for his conviction of murder in the first degree. His trial was had in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery of Dauphin County before Honorable W. C. Sheely, President Judge of the Fifty-First Judicial District, specially presiding. The verdict[400 Pa. 328] of murder in the first degree with the penalty fixed at life imprisonment was read by the forelady of the jury in open court in the presence of the defendant. At his counsel's request, the jury was promptly polled. Following that, the verdict was formally recorded by the court and declared so to be by the clerk. Subsequently, sentence in accordance with the jury's verdict was duly imposed by the court. No appeal was taken.

In support of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was filed five years after relator's conviction and sentence to life imprisonment, he alleges that when the jury was polled two of its members did not answer in the form in which they should have in order to evidence their assent to the verdict as announced by the forelady. The contention is without merit. Relator's counsel entirely misconceives the purpose to be served by the polling of a jury. The verdict is what is announced to the court by the foreman (or forelady as the case may be) after the clerk's interrogation of the jury as to whether a verdict has been agreed upon. The purpose of the poll is to give any juror, who may possibly have been under pressure from other members of the jury to acquiesce in the verdict, an opportunity to speak out and declare to the court that the verdict as announced by the foreman was not voluntarily joined in by the answering juror. What actually took place in the courtroom when the jury returned to announce its verdict is clearly set forth in the opinion of Judge Sheely, who sat specially in the Court of Common Pleas in Dauphin County for the purpose of passing on the relator's present petition for a writ, as follows:

'The Clerk [addressing the jury]: Be seated please.

'Florence S. Miller, please stand. In the case of the Commonwealth versus Joseph Michael Ryan, to [400 Pa. 329] No. 38 Oyer and Terminer, January Sessions, 1954, on the charge of murder, how do you find?

'Juror No. 1: Guilty of murder in the first degree, with the recommendation of life imprisonment.

'The Clerk: Carrie Wenk, in the case of Commonwealth versus Joseph Michael Ryan to No. 38 Oyer and Terminer, January Sessions, 1954, on the charge of murder, how do you find?

'Juror No. 2: All of whom having been sworn----

'The Court: Just the lower part, please.

'Juror No. 2: Just the lower part, pardon me. They find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree with the recommendation of life imprisonment.

'The Clerk: Adam J. Hain. In the case of Commonwealth versus Joseph Michael Ryan to No. 38 Oyer and Terminer, January Sessions, 1954, on the charge of murder, how do you find?

'Juror No. 3: On March 26, 1954, that they have found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree with the recommendation of life imprisonment.

'The polling of the jury continued with the remaining jurors answering (with some slight variations) 'guilty of murder in the first degree with the recommendation of life imprisonment.' At the conclusion of the polling of the jury the Court directed that the verdict be recorded. After the verdict was recorded the clerk directed the members of the jury to stand and said:

Page 356

'Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, harken to your verdict as the court hath it recorded. You say that in the case of the Commonwealth versus Joseph Michael Ryan to Number 38 Oyer and Terminer, January Sessions, 1954, on the charge of murder, we the jury to say the 26th day of March, 1954, that we find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, with the recommendation of life imprisonment. And so say you all?' The jurors replied 'We do."

[400 Pa. 330] The opinion for the court below then explains quite understandably how Jurors Nos. 2 and 3 happened to use the particular language they did in answering the clerk's question when they were polled as to the verdict:

'In Dauphin County, as in many other counties in the Commonwealth, it is customary to furnish the jury with a verdict slip upon which the jury notes the verdict and which is signes by the foreman: See Commonwealth v. Minoff, 363 Pa. 287, 298 [69 A.2d 145] (1959)....

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23 practice notes
  • Com. v. Hall
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 15, 1979
    ...that the verdict as announced by the foreman was voluntarily joined in by the answering juror." Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 328, 162 A.2d 354, 355 (1960). Thus, our courts have found that a poll may well reveal equivocation by a juror on a verdict or a substantial d......
  • People v. Gardner, No. 75--188
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • July 29, 1976
    ...of voice. (People v. Superior Court, (1967), 67 Cal.2d 929, 64 Cal.Rptr. 327, 434 P.2d 623; Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Bammiller (1960), 400 Pa. 326, 162 A.2d 354.) We are of the opinion that a trial court's determination of whether a juror's response to a poll of the jury indicates a lac......
  • State v. Holloway, No. 9707
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • July 2, 1987
    ...poll must be more than a mere formality or "a mere chorusing of what has already been announced." Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 334, 162 A.2d 354, 358 (Musmanno, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 852, 81 S.Ct. 99, 5 L.Ed.2d 76 (1960); see also Commonwealth v. Ja......
  • Com. ex rel. Ryan v. Rundle
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...April 6, 1959, was also denied by the lower court and its action affirmed by this Court on appeal: Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 162 A.2d 354 (1960). In his previous petition, it was urged that two members of the jury when polled did not assent to or agree with the ve......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Com. v. Hall
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 15, 1979
    ...that the verdict as announced by the foreman was voluntarily joined in by the answering juror." Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 328, 162 A.2d 354, 355 (1960). Thus, our courts have found that a poll may well reveal equivocation by a juror on a verdict or a substantial d......
  • People v. Gardner, No. 75--188
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • July 29, 1976
    ...of voice. (People v. Superior Court, (1967), 67 Cal.2d 929, 64 Cal.Rptr. 327, 434 P.2d 623; Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Bammiller (1960), 400 Pa. 326, 162 A.2d 354.) We are of the opinion that a trial court's determination of whether a juror's response to a poll of the jury indicates a lac......
  • State v. Holloway, No. 9707
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • July 2, 1987
    ...poll must be more than a mere formality or "a mere chorusing of what has already been announced." Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 334, 162 A.2d 354, 358 (Musmanno, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 852, 81 S.Ct. 99, 5 L.Ed.2d 76 (1960); see also Commonwealth v. Ja......
  • Com. ex rel. Ryan v. Rundle
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...April 6, 1959, was also denied by the lower court and its action affirmed by this Court on appeal: Commonwealth ex rel. Ryan v. Banmiller, 400 Pa. 326, 162 A.2d 354 (1960). In his previous petition, it was urged that two members of the jury when polled did not assent to or agree with the ve......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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