Brief Fact Summary. The defendant, Charles Holden (the “defendant”), was convicted of first degree murder of Cora Smith (“Ms. Smith”). Ms. Smith was killed in her home after being struck in the head. The police arrested the defendant and took him to the house of his supposed alibi, Ralph Jones (“Mr. Jones”), and questioned Mr. Jones in the defendant’s presence.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A witness is not allowed to speculate as to what another was thinking.
Prior convictions are the remaining exception to Apprendi and Alleyne, insofar as a fact-finder is not required to determine disputed convictions beyond a reasonable doubt to comport with the Sixth Amendment jury trial right.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was the evidence sufficient to affirm the conviction?
Held. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found the evidence sufficient and affirmed the conviction.
Dissent. Justice Musmanno issued a dissenting opinion arguing that the prosecuting attorney’s questioning witness Mr. Jones on what the defendant meant by the wink was a violation of the rules of evidence. The jury was allowed to hear over objection that the witness Mr. Jones believed the wink meant the defendant wanted Mr. Jones to make up an alibi.
Discussion. All the defendant did was wink. The trial court allowed the jury to believe the wink was a signal to Mr. Jones to help him cover up his actions. The dissent points out that the majority opinion did not address the issue of the “wink” at all.