A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

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By Burt Rose

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Commonwealth vs Harry Green, Appellant, number 559 WDA 2012, 2013 WL 4736711 (September 4, 2013) was an appeal from a judgment of sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The panel was composed of Judges Bender, Lazarus and Strassburger. President Judge Bender wrote the opinion for the Panel; Judge Strassburger wrote a concurring opinion.

The majority ruled that it was error to admit hearsay statements made by a victim in a murder case (that she was in fear of the victim) to establish the motive of the accused for committing the homicide.* However, the court noted that a limited exception may exist when the inference generated by admission of the hearsay statement is strong and highly probative, which it was not in the instant case. However this conviction was affirmed because the error was harmless due to the strength of the evidence of guilt presented at a nonjury trial.

*But see Com v. Luster, 2013 WL 3808039 (Pa. Super. en banc 7/23/13) (such statements are admissible to establish defendant’s malice and motive to kill).

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