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COMMONWEALTH v. WOODS (03/19/51)

March 19, 1951

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WOODS, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 57, March T., 1951, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, October Sessions, 1949, No. 102, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Paul Woods. Judgment and sentence affirmed; reargument refused April 9, 1951.

COUNSEL

William F. Beatty, for appellant.

Leo J. Kelly, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him William S. Rahauser, District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Bell

[ 366 Pa. Page 619]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

Eddie Woods, brother of the defendant, was shot and killed at approximately 4 a.m. on August 6, 1949, in defendant's apartment. Eddie was shot in the stomach by a 16 gauge single barrel shotgun of defendant which defendant was holding and the defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Defendant insists that the shooting was accidental and asks for a new trial because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and because of several alleged errors committed in the course of his trial. The evidence can be briefly summarized as follows:

Defendant rented an apartment for Marion Bowman and lived there with her from February 1949. His brother Eddie visited Marion's apartment sometimes with defendant and sometimes in his absence. on Friday before Palm Sunday, 1949, Marion told defendant she was going to have a baby and that everyone in the neighborhood knew it was Eddie's baby. On Palm Sunday, Paul, Eddie and Marion had a show-down in the apartment as a result of which Eddie and Marion told defendant they were in love with each other and left the apartment together. Defendant followed them and persuaded Marion to return to live with him.

     on the evening of August 5th, defendant, Eddie Woods and two men named Stratton and Knochel, went to various saloons together and drank beer on and off for several hours. After 2 a.m. they decided to get some more beer and meet in a ball field in Sharpsburg to drink it. After they started for the ball field Eddie and Knochel went back for a bottle opener. When they did not rejoin defendant, defendant told Stratton that he knew Eddie had gone to Marion's apartment and he was "going up and get him". Defendant then went to his mother's home in Sharpsburg and got his shotgun. On his way down the path to Marion's apartment defendant

[ 366 Pa. Page 620]

    assembled the shotgun and inserted a live shell in it.

When defendant arrived at Marion's apartment Eddie and Knochel were in the bedroom with Marion and her baby. Defendant several times ordered Eddie off the premises but he refused to leave. They swore back and forth at each other. Defendant told Eddie that the gun was loaded, that he had three shells in it and he was going to hit him with the first one and then hit him in the face with the other two. Marion stepped between the two brothers and threw her arms around defendant; defendant pushed her away and clasped the gun in both hands, pointing the muzzle into his brother's stomach. Eddie's hands and arms were down at his side when he was shot. Marion and defendant denied the gun was pointed at Eddie's stomach; defendant testified that Eddie grabbed or lunged for the gun and it went off accidentally and shot him.

Knochel's testimony at the trial -- where he frankly admitted that three times previously he had given an entirely different version of the killing -- clearly proved the shooting to have been intentional and not accidental. Just after the shot was ...


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