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COMMONWEALTH v. GIBBS (11/20/50)

November 20, 1950

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GIBBS, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 276, Jan. T., 1950, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer, General Jail Delivery, and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Lancaster County, Dec. Sessions, 1949, Complaint No. 160, Indictment No. 1, March T., 1950, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Edward Lester Gibbs. Judgment and sentence affirmed; reargument refused January 12, 1951.

COUNSEL

Thomas D. McBride, with him Michael von Moschzisker and W. Hensel Brown, for appellant.

John Milton Ranck, District Attorney, with him William C. Storb, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 366 Pa. Page 184]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

On January 10, 1950, Marian Louise Baker was brutally slain by being beaten to death with a lug wrench. Eight days later Edward Lester Gibbs, defendant, confessed the killing. Thereafter, he was indicted in Lancaster County, tried by a jury, and convicted of murder in the first degree with the penalty fixed at death.Prior to his bringing this appeal, his motion for new trial was denied and sentence was imposed in accordance with the verdict.

At the time of the killing, defendant, a married war veteran twenty-five years of age, was a student at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

[ 366 Pa. Page 185]

In the early afternoon of January 10, 1950, he was in downtown Lancaster when he saw Miss Baker, an employe of the college. He offered to drive her back to the campus in his car and she accepted. However, instead of returning directly to the college, they rode out of town and into the open country. When they reached an isolated spot several miles from the city she commented on the view and defendant stopped the car so that they both might enjoy it. While sitting there he suddenly reached over and began choking her. She broke away and got out of the car. He followed her and after choking her again, he returned to the car, unlocked and opened the luggage compartment, removed the lug wrench, and beat her over the head with it until she was dead. He then left but later returned to hide the body and remove any incriminating evidence. The body was not discovered until four days later.

On January 18, 1950, defendant admitted committing the crime and on that same day he signed a statement setting forth the facts as we have synopsized them here. Neither at the trial nor at any other time did he deny the truth of that confession and substantially all of the facts contained in it were verified by the independent investigation of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Under these circumstances, defendant concedes, as he must, that he properly deserves to be punished under the law. He contends, however, that because of the admission of certain evidence and because of certain alleged errors in the charge, he was precluded from having the jury fairly determine the degree of his guilt.

Two articles of the victim's clothing and several photographs of the body were introduced in evidence over defendant's objections. It is his position that these exhibits were of no value as evidence and were introduced solely to inflame the jury. That ...


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