Com. v. Cobbs

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore JONES; ROBERTS; NIX
Citation305 A.2d 25,452 Pa. 397
Decision Date23 May 1973
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. James H. COBBS, Appellant.

Page 25

305 A.2d 25
452 Pa. 397
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v.
James H. COBBS, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
May 23, 1973.

[452 Pa. 398] Carl Max Janavitz, Janavitz, Janavitz & Kanfoush, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert W. Duggan, Dist. Atty., Carol Mary Los, Robert L. Eberhardt, R. L. Campbell, Asst. Dist., Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

[452 Pa. 397] Before JONES, C.J., and EAGEN, O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, POMEROY, NIX and MANDERINO, JJ.

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[452 Pa. 398] OPINION OF THE COURT

ROBERTS, Justice.

Appellant, James H. Cobbs, was found guilty of murder in the first degree before a jury on July 16, 1971, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. On August 16, 1972, appellant's motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment was denied by the court en banc. A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. Appellant has appealed and we now affirm.

Appellant raises only two issues. He first contends that his timely motion to quash the existing jury panels should have been granted. Appellant argues that the disparity in juror eligibility requirements between that section of the code governing Allegheny County 1 and the relevant provisions pertaining to the remaining counties, 2[452 Pa. 399] violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, in view of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment granting 18 year olds the right to vote. Appellant's second contention is that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right to remain silent during his interrogation by the police.

The impetus for appellant's first claim was the ratification, on July 5, 1971, of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution granting 18 year olds the right to vote. Appellant, a 17 year old at the time of his trial, 3 maintains that he was denied equal protection of the laws because section 9 of the Act of May 11, 1925 prohibited persons under 21 years of age from being called in the venire in Allegheny County, whereas in other counties of the Commonwealth persons between 18 and 21 were eligible to serve as jurors subsequent to the adoption of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Essentially appellant is attacking the jury selection system in Allegheny County in effect at the time of his trial. He contends the system was constitutionally defective because eligibility for jury service varied with the class of county. Appellant asserts that because in other counties prospective jurors were [452 Pa. 400] only required to be 'qualified electors' 4 the 21 year old requirement in Allegheny County was unconstitutional after the adoption of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, on July 5, 1971.

On July 9, 1971, the Pennsylvania Legislature implemented the mandate of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment by amending the Election Law to provide, inter alia, that '(e)very citizen of this Commonwealth 18 years of age . . . shall be entitled to vote at all elections. . . .' 5 Appellant, on July 14, 1971, immediately prior to the selection of a jury, moved 'to quash the existing panels' selected prior to either July 5, or July 9, because no persons between the ages of 18 and 21 were on the panels. The motion was denied and the jury was selected on July 14, 1971, from those panels previously selected.

Appellant does not contest the validity or constitutionality of the Allegheny County

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juror selection law as it existed prior to the Twenty-Sixth Amendment or the amended Pennsylvania Election Law. Appellant only argues that in light of the constitutional and statutory changes, granting 18 year olds the right to vote, the panels from which his jury was selected, on July 14, 1971, should have included persons between the ages of 18 and 21. We must therefore determine whether already existing jury panels, validly selected prior to July 5 and July 9, 1971, became invalid on July 14, 1971, because the panel contained no 18 to 21 year old persons.

Initially we note that '(i)t has long been accepted that the Constitution does not forbid the States to prescribe relevant qualifications for their jurors.' Carter v. Jury Commission of Greene County, 396 U.S. 320, 332, 90 S.Ct. 518, 525, 24 L.Ed.2d 549 (1970); see Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. [452 Pa. 401] 443, 473, 73 S.Ct. 397, 416, 97 L.Ed. 469 (1953). This Court previously indicated it was unconvinced that 'the disparity in the statutory provisions among the Counties amounts to a deprivation of the Equal Protection of Laws afforded . . . by Amendment XIV of the Constitution of the United States,' Commonwealth v....

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14 practice notes
  • League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, No. 159 MM 2017
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 7 Febrero 2018
    ...of favor or disfavor for particular policies, personalities, or laws," Petitioners' Brief at 47–48 (quoting Commonwealth v. Cobbs , 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25, 27 (1973) ), and gives voters a firsthand opportunity to "express their own political preferences." Id. (quoting Norman v. Reed , 502......
  • Com. v. Johnson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 8 Junio 1976
    ...[467 Pa. 154] and intelligently waived his Miranda rights prior to submitting to questioning by the police. Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 452 Pa. 397, 403, 305 A.2d 25, 28 The Commonwealth's evidence at the suppression hearing tended to establish that Johnson was adequately advised of his rights; ......
  • Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 56 MAP 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 17 Agosto 2021
    ...without the possibility of parole. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgment of sentence on direct appeal. Commonwealth v. Cobbs , 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25 (1973).On December 18, 1978, when Appellant was 25 years old and serving his life sentence at SCI-Graterford in Montgomery County, he st......
  • Com. v. Loccisano
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 22 Noviembre 1976
    ...for jury service by becoming registered voters.' Hamling v. United States, supra at 138, 94 S.Ct. at 2918. Accord, Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25 (1973); Commonwealth v. Fisher, 447 Pa. 405, 290 A.2d 262 Some administrative delay must be viewed as inevitable. How long a del......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, No. 159 MM 2017
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 7 Febrero 2018
    ...of favor or disfavor for particular policies, personalities, or laws," Petitioners' Brief at 47–48 (quoting Commonwealth v. Cobbs , 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25, 27 (1973) ), and gives voters a firsthand opportunity to "express their own political preferences." Id. (quoting Norman v. Reed , 502......
  • Com. v. Johnson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 8 Junio 1976
    ...[467 Pa. 154] and intelligently waived his Miranda rights prior to submitting to questioning by the police. Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 452 Pa. 397, 403, 305 A.2d 25, 28 The Commonwealth's evidence at the suppression hearing tended to establish that Johnson was adequately advised of his rights; ......
  • Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 56 MAP 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 17 Agosto 2021
    ...without the possibility of parole. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgment of sentence on direct appeal. Commonwealth v. Cobbs , 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25 (1973).On December 18, 1978, when Appellant was 25 years old and serving his life sentence at SCI-Graterford in Montgomery County, he st......
  • Com. v. Loccisano
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 22 Noviembre 1976
    ...for jury service by becoming registered voters.' Hamling v. United States, supra at 138, 94 S.Ct. at 2918. Accord, Commonwealth v. Cobbs, 452 Pa. 397, 305 A.2d 25 (1973); Commonwealth v. Fisher, 447 Pa. 405, 290 A.2d 262 Some administrative delay must be viewed as inevitable. How long a del......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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