Com. v. Slaughter – Case Brief Summary (Pennsylvania)

In Com. v. Slaughter (1978) 482 Pa. 538 394 A.2d 453, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania confronted an almost identical problem.

There the trial court had committed error under Davis v. Alaska (1974) 415 U.S. 308, in denying defense counsel access to the juvenile records (if any) of a witness.

Rather than reverse outright, Slaughter ordered the following disposition:

'(The record does not even indicate whether or not Ragland, in fact, had a record of juvenile offenses, let alone whether that record, if it exists, would support appellant's claim of bias.) We therefore remand the matter to the trial court with instructions that appellant, through his counsel, be given access to Ragland's juvenile record. Counsel will then be able to argue to the trial court what, if any, use could have been made of that record had he been allowed to use it to cross-examine Ragland. If, in the court's opinion, its original refusal to allow defense counsel to cross-examine Ragland on the basis of this juvenile record prevented appellant from presenting to the jury evidence regarding Ragland's possible bias, or other information which would bring the case within the requirements of Davis, supra, it shall vacate the judgment of sentence and order a new trial. If, on the other hand, Ragland has no juvenile record, or if in the court's opinion, appellant has failed to assert any facts which would bring the case within the rationale of Davis, supra, it shall affirm its original order. Either party may then file an appropriate appeal.' ( Com. v. Slaughter, supra, 482 Pa. 538 394 A.2d 453, 460.)