Commonwealth v. Turza

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtPATTERSON, Justice
Citation340 Pa. 128,16 A.2d 401
Decision Date25 November 1940
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. TURZA.
16 A.2d 401
340 Pa. 128

COMMONWEALTH
v.
TURZA.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Nov. 25, 1940.


16 A.2d 402

[Copyrighted material omitted.]

16 A.2d 403

Appeal No. 204, March term, 1940, from judgment of sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer, Fayette County, No. 7/48, March term, 1939; W. Russell Carr, Judge.

John Turza was convicted of first degree murder, and he appeals.

Judgment affirmed.

Argued before SCHAFFER, C. J., and MAXEY, DREW, LINN, STERN, and PATTERSON, JJ.

Fred B. Trescher, of Greensburg, and Thomas A. Waggoner, Jr., of Uniontown, for appellant.

H. Vance Cottom, Dist. Atty., and Samuel J. Feigus, Asst. Dist. Atty., both of Uniontown, for appellee.

PATTERSON, Justice.

John Turza, appellant, was jointly indicted with one Luther "King Kong" Royston and one Clyde "Blue Top" White for the murder of Henry D. Foster. Separately tried, Turza was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The defense was an alibi.

Shortly before midnight, on December 3, 1938, Henry D. Foster, who had left his farm, a few miles from Connellsville, at about six o'clock that evening, in good health and with a wallet on his person containing at least seven twenty-dollar bills, was found lying insensible on Arch Street, in Connellsville, suffering from a laceration near the base of the skull, on the right side, one and a half inches in length and one-tenth of an inch in width. He was immediately taken to the Connellsville State Hospital where he died the following morning without regaining consciousness. Death was ascribed by the attending physician to a multiple basal skull fracture and cerebral hemorrhage, apparently the result of a violent blow inflicted with a small blunt instrument. When Foster's clothing was searched upon arrival at the hospital, the only money found was one five-dollar bill, four one-dollar bills, and some loose change contained in a small change purse; the wallet and the large bills that he carried with him when he left home were missing. Prior to the discovery of his unconscious form on Arch Street, Foster was last seen by his nephew, with whom he had driven to Connellsville, walking along Arch Street in the direction of Cypher's Tavern, located on the corner of Arch and Peach Streets, about 40 feet down the street, on the opposite side, from the point where the unconscious Foster was discovered, and thereafter by a waitress in Cypher's Tavern.

During the course of the police investigation into Foster's death, Royston came under suspicion of the authorities and was taken into custody for questioning. On his person the officers found $116.20, including four twenty-dollar bills and in his room a quantity of new clothes and a new traveling bag. The questioning of Royston led to the arrest of Turza and White, both of whom, like Royston, were on relief. In Turza's room the officers found a pocketbook containing eight twenty-dollar bills on a cupboard shelf, under some papers, and in White's apartment four twenty-dollar bills were found concealed in a picture frame. An information was made against the three for Foster's murder following which, on December 31, 1938, they voluntarily made and signed separate statements in writing.

The statements made by Royston and White, while differing in minor details, related that, during the late afternoon of December 3, 1938, they and Turza were together in White's apartment discussing their need of money; that Turza left saying he was going out to see if he couldn't "run onto something" or "to see what's on the line"; that forty-five minutes to an hour later Turza returned saying that he had seen a man with a bankroll, identified as Foster, and had trailed him to Cypher's Tavern; that thereupon the three of them laid their plans for the robbery; that pursuant thereto Turza pointed out the victim and moved his car to a convenient place for a getaway, White took up his position as lookout and Royston, because he was "the strongest man", after waiting near the entrance to the tavern until Foster came out, made the assault; that when Royston had completed the robbery and had possession of the money, Turza drove them from the scene to a spot on the Mt. Braddock road, where they divided the money; and that they then returned to Connellsville and separated. When Royston's statement was read to Turza and he was asked whether it was the truth, he grinned and replied, "If the two jigs say it's right, it's right" and, on being asked again, answered, "You'll see, you'll see"; when White's statement was read to him and he was asked whether it was the truth, he grinned but remained silent. In his

16 A.2d 404

own signed statement, Turza said that all he would admit was that Royston gave him $200 "that he took from the old man" and which he, Turza, "knew at the time was money he got when he robbed and killed Mr. Foster"; that he spent $40 of that money knowing it was dead man's money; that he lied when he told the officers that the twenty-dollar bills found in his room was money earned and saved by him, "as it was in fact part of the loot taken in the robbery of Mr. Foster"; and that Royston told him and White that if anything happened over the Foster robbery and murder, he, Royston, "would take the rap for it".

Following these statements, Turza and White, having been taken to the Mt. Braddock road for that purpose, pointed out the spot where the money had been divided on the night of the robbery. As they approached the scene Turza said: "Keep going, keep going. I will show you. It's on the right-hand side" and then "Here it is right here". When White was asked, "Is that right, Blue?" he replied, "Well, it's just about right here". And, later, Turza declared, "The jigs squealed on me in the Connellsville job, I will squeal on them in the Scottdale job", whereupon he implicated Royston and White in a robbery and murder committed in Scottdale on one Naum Acheff, on December 13, 1938, ten days after the death of Henry Foster but prior to the arrest of Royston, White and Turza, in which he claimed to have been innocently involved. As a result of this information all three were indicted in Westmoreland county for Acheff's murder and were tried first on that indictment. Royston was convicted of first degree murder, White was convicted of second degree murder and Turza was acquitted.

The principal complaint of appellant relates to the reception, as evidence against him, of the signed statements of Royston and White, as well as his own statement, without which it is contended there is an insufficiency of evidence to sustain the verdict. Appellant argues that the circumstances of Foster's death were as consistent with his having been struck by a passing truck as with the theory that he was the victim of an assault and concludes that for this reason, as well as for the additional reason that there was no independent proof, as he contends, that he was the responsible party or one of the responsible parties, that the corpus delicti was not sufficiently proved; further that his silence when the White statement was read to him and his...

To continue reading

Request your trial
93 practice notes
  • Com. v. Gockley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...A.2d 369; Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743; Commonwealth v. Lettrich, 346 Pa. 497, 31 A.2d 155; Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Stokes, 409 Pa. 268, 186 A.2d 5; Commonwealth v. Ross, 403 Pa. 358, 169 A.2d 780; Commonwealth ex rel. Lagana v. ......
  • Com. v. Kravitz
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 18, 1960
    ...there were no eye witnesses, to convict a criminal. Commonwealth v. Gardner, 282 Pa. 458, 128 A. 87; Commonwealth v. [400 Pa. 210] Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Johnson, 162 Pa. 63, 29 A. 280; Commonwealth v. Coontz, 288 Pa. 74, 135 A. 538; Commonwealth v. Bishop, 285 Pa.......
  • Com. v. Burns
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 21, 1963
    ...felonious act of another; (3) that the accused is the responsible party or one of the parties responsible. Commonwealth v. Turza, 1940, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Gardner, 1925, 282 Pa. 458, 128 A. 87. The corpus delicti consists of proof of the first two: namely, that the pe......
  • Com. v. Edwards
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 21, 2006
    ...admissions and the consequent danger of a conviction where no crime has in fact been committed.'" Id. (citing Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401, 404 (1940)). Here, appellant's confession to Porter was not to the murders and other offenses with which he was charged, but ra......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
93 cases
  • Com. v. Gockley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...A.2d 369; Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743; Commonwealth v. Lettrich, 346 Pa. 497, 31 A.2d 155; Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Stokes, 409 Pa. 268, 186 A.2d 5; Commonwealth v. Ross, 403 Pa. 358, 169 A.2d 780; Commonwealth ex rel. Lagana v. ......
  • Com. v. Kravitz
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 18, 1960
    ...there were no eye witnesses, to convict a criminal. Commonwealth v. Gardner, 282 Pa. 458, 128 A. 87; Commonwealth v. [400 Pa. 210] Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Johnson, 162 Pa. 63, 29 A. 280; Commonwealth v. Coontz, 288 Pa. 74, 135 A. 538; Commonwealth v. Bishop, 285 Pa.......
  • Com. v. Burns
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 21, 1963
    ...felonious act of another; (3) that the accused is the responsible party or one of the parties responsible. Commonwealth v. Turza, 1940, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401; Commonwealth v. Gardner, 1925, 282 Pa. 458, 128 A. 87. The corpus delicti consists of proof of the first two: namely, that the pe......
  • Com. v. Edwards
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 21, 2006
    ...admissions and the consequent danger of a conviction where no crime has in fact been committed.'" Id. (citing Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401, 404 (1940)). Here, appellant's confession to Porter was not to the murders and other offenses with which he was charged, but ra......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT