Com. v. Slaughter

Decision Date18 November 1978
Citation482 Pa. 538,394 A.2d 453
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Charles William SLAUGHTER, Appellant. . Re
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Robert B. Lawler, Philadelphia, for appellee.




Appellant, Charles W. Slaughter, was tried before a judge and jury and convicted of murder in the first degree on March 31, 1975. Penalty was fixed by the jury at life imprisonment. Post-verdict motions were filed and an appeal followed to this Court. On April 28, 1978, an opinion affirming the judgment of sentence was filed, in which a majority of the court concluded that the issues raised had been waived. Commonwealth v. Slaughter, (J-195 of 1977, filed April 28, 1978). Following that decision, appellant filed a petition for reargument and/or reconsideration. The petition pointed out that a written brief which was not part of the record before us on appeal had been filed with the trial court. Based on our recent decisions in Commonwealth v. Grace, 473 Pa. 542, 375 A.2d 721 (1977); and Commonwealth v. Perillo, 474 Pa. 63, 376 A.2d 635 (1977), we ordered the case to be reargued.

The case was reargued on October 16, 1978. On reargument, appellant raises several issues in support of his contention that a new trial should be granted. We will address these issues in the following order:

(1) whether it was a violation of appellant's right to confrontation and inadmissible hearsay to permit the testimony of a certain police officer regarding an eyewitness identification of appellant;

(2) whether a statement allegedly made by appellant to police and admitted into evidence at his trial, should have been suppressed because obtained in violation of Pa.R.Cr.P. 130;

(3) whether an in-court identification of appellant was improperly tainted by an illegal pre-trial identification procedure;

(4) whether the trial court erroneously limited defense counsel's cross-examination of a certain prosecution witness; and

(5) whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow defense counsel to cross-examine a key prosecution witness regarding the witness's prior juvenile record.

Appellant argues that he was denied his constitutional right to confrontation, that the hearsay rule was violated, when, over defense objection, the prosecution was permitted to question two police officers regarding identifications allegedly made of appellant by two eyewitnesses to the shooting for which he was on trial. The murder was witnessed by two individuals, Emanuel Crawford and Anthony Ragland. Only Ragland appeared in court and testified. Only Ragland's testimony presented by the prosecution because it had been unable to locate Crawford in order to bring him to the trial.

As part of its case in chief, the prosecution called a police officer who had observed appellant at the time of appellant's arrival at the Police Administration Building following his arrest, and at the subsequent interrogation. The officer testified as to appellant's physical and mental condition at the time of his arrest and that he gave appellant so-called Miranda warnings. This officer was not asked, and did not testify on direct examination, regarding any out-of-court identifications of appellant.

Despite the fact that the officer had not been asked and had not testified on direct examination regarding any out-of-court identifications of appellant, on cross-examination, defense counsel elicited the following:

"Q. The person you had stated to the jury Lieutenant on your direct testimony is that that you told Charles Slaughter that he had been identified as the, as you have said, the doer in this instance; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you tell Mr. Slaughter who it was that had identified him as being the doer?

A. I told him he was identified by three people as having been the doer.

Q. Well not at that time he had been identified by two people.

A. Yes sir.

Q. You are sure of that?

A. Yes sir.

Q. You are sure it was not just one?

A. No sir.

Q. Were you personally present when anyone identified Charles Slaughter as the doer?

A. No. This information was relayed to me.

Q. Was the first person Emanuel Crawford?

A. I believe it was Emanuel Crawford, yes, sir.

Q. Is he here today?

A. No, I don't believe he is.

Q. Was he here yesterday?

A. I don't believe he was.

Q. Have you seen him here any day?

A. Not to my knowledge.

Q. Yet he was the first one that identified Charles Slaughter as being the doer in this case; is that correct?

A. That is correct. " (N.T. p. 152-153.)

Counsel's apparent purpose for this line of questioning was to develop the theory that the two witnesses mentioned had given conflicting descriptions of the assailant. Because only one of these witnesses testified at trial, and identified appellant, counsel sought to argue to the jury that the other would not have identified appellant. In this vein, counsel questioned the officers extensively as to what, if any efforts, had been made by police to locate the missing witness. (The obvious inference counsel sought to convey to the jury was that the missing witness was not in court because his testimony would have contradicted the prosecution's key identification witness, and that, therefore, the police had made little or no effort to locate him).

On re-direct the prosecution was permitted, over defense objection, to ask the officer the following question:

"Lieutenant at the time that you saw the defendant two-ten in the morning, how many people had identified the defendant?"

To this, the officer replied,

"Two, Manuel Crawford and Anthony Ragland."

This response was hearsay, as contended by appellant. Nonetheless, the reception of that answer was harmless in view of the information elicited by defense counsel during cross-examination. Defense counsel himself had revealed that appellant had been identified by two people, one of whom was Manuel Crawford. Although defense counsel's cross-examination did not refer to Anthony Ragland, Ragland identified appellant at trial and was subjected to cross-examination by defense counsel as to that identification. Under these circumstances, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nor did the reference to these identifications contained in the direct examination of another police officer subsequently called by the prosecution, add any prejudicial information not already brought out by defense counsel's questions. In fact, the subsequent officer did not testify that appellant had been identified by the witnesses. He simply stated that while he was on duty on the night of appellant's arrest, he interviewed Emanuel Crawford, and that he reduced that interview to writing. He did not testify that Crawford identified appellant as the shooter. On re-direct, the second officer was asked,

"Did Emanuel Crawford make an identification of the man who shot Marvin Wyatt?"

Over defense counsel's objection, the officer responded,

"Yes, he did."

No further questions were asked of this officer either by the prosecution or by the defense. Clearly, this re-direct testimony, like that of the first officer, added nothing which had not already been revealed by defense counsel's questions. Its admission was therefore harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Appellant also argues that he should be granted a new trial because a statement allegedly given by appellant to police after his arrest should have been suppressed as having been obtained in violation of Pa.R.Cr.P. 130's requirement that an accused be arraigned "without unnecessary delay" following arrest. That contention, however, has been waived because it was not raised in appellant's pre-trial motion to suppress, nor at trial, but was raised for the first time in post-verdict motions. Commonwealth v. Newsome, 462 Pa. 106, 337 A.2d 904 (1975).

We turn then to appellant's contention that an in-court identification made of him by Anthony Ragland was tainted by an illegal pre-trial identification procedure. Through his counsel, appellant presented a pre-trial motion to suppress the proposed in-court identification testimony of Anthony Ragland. That motion was denied and Ragland was permitted to testify to the jury that appellant was the person he saw shoot Marvin Wyatt. Appellant points out that Ragland initially picked appellant's photograph from an array of ten displayed to him by police early in the morning of June 19, 1974, at which time it is argued, appellant "was the primary focus of the police investigation and (at which time) the police had formed the intention to arrest (him)." Appellant contends, therefore, that adversary proceedings had been initiated against him and that he was entitled to counsel at the time of the photographic identification made by the witness Ragland. See Commonwealth v. Richman, 458 Pa. 167, 320 A.2d 351 (1974), Commonwealth v. Whiting, 439 Pa. 205, 266 A.2d 738 (1970) (initiation of adversary proceedings, and requirement of counsel commences with the arrest). This out-of-court identification allegedly resulting from an invalid uncounselled photographic identification procedure was not introduced into evidence at trial, however, and we therefore need not decide whether appellant was entitled to the representation of counsel at the time of that pre-trial photographic array. The only issue with which we must now be concerned is whether the in-court identification made by the witness Ragland was impermissibly tainted by the pre-trial procedure (assuming, Arguendo, that the pre-trial procedure was invalid), and was therefore improperly admitted into evidence at trial.

Where the admissability of the evidence of the pre-trial procedure itself is not at issue, we have applied the test of Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 488, 83 S.Ct. 407, 417, 9 L.Ed.2d 441, 455 (1963):


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