Commonwealth v. Holden
390 Pa. 221, 134 A.2d 868 (1957)

  • Someone bonked Smith over the head and killed her.
  • The police arrested Holden for Smith’s murder.  Smith maintained that he wasn’t at Smith’s house, he was at the home of a friend named Jones.  The police took Holden to Jones’ home and interviewed.
  • At trial, the prosecution put Jones on the witness stand and asked him if Holden did anything unusual during the interview.  Jones responded that Holden might have winked at Jones while Jones was telling the police that Holden was with him at the time that Smith was murdered.
  • A few days later Jones mentioned to a police officer out of court that he felt the wink was Holden trying to get Jones to make up an alibi for him.
    • That’s a lay opinion.
  • At trial, the prosecution attempted to introduce Jones’ out of court statement.
    • Holden objected, on the grounds that the evidence was an inadmissible opinion, not based on facts in evidence.
    • The Trial Judge allowed the evidence to be admitted.
  • The Trial Court found Holden guilty of murder, he appealed.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the evidence sufficient.
  • In a dissent it was argued that the prosecution’s question to Jones was a violation of the common law rules of evidence and should not have been permitted.
    • The dissent argued that what Jones may have thought Holden meant by the wink was purely speculative.
    • Since Jones had no real idea what Holden meant, or even if Holden was winking on purpose, it should not have been construed as an admission by the jury, and they undoubtedly felt that Holden was admitting guilt by asking Jones to lie for him.
  • This case was decided under the common law. Today it would be covered by FRE 701.