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COMMONWEALTH v. PLUBELL (05/21/51)

May 21, 1951

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PLUBELL, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 104, Jan. T., 1951, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Clearfield County, Feb. T., 1950, No. 14, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Anna M. Plubell. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

William C. Chase, for appellant.

Joseph A. Dague, District Attorney with him Dan P. Arnold, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Jones

[ 367 Pa. Page 453]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

The appellant was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter upon the trial of an indictment charging her with the murder of her husband. She moved in arrest of judgment and also for a new trial. Both motions were refused and the court thereupon entered judgment of sentence of the verdict from which the defendant has appealed. The motion in arrest of judgment has been abandoned and properly so; it was plainly without merit.

The alleged errors upon which the appellant relies are (1) the trial court's rejection of testimony as to voluntary statements, favorable to the defendant, which the victim allegedly made a few minutes after he had received his fatal wound and, also, while on his way to and at the hospital where he died within two hours of his would and (2) the holding of a conference by the court with counsel in chambers during the progress of the trial, out of the presence of the defendant, relating to the above-mentioned exclusion of testimony.

The homicide took place between 5 and 6 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in December in the one-story dwelling of the appellant and her husband, Earl Plubell, in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County, adjoining the Borough of Clearfield. The killing climaxed quarreling between the Plubells which had begun at the time of the husband's return home around 4 P.M. from Clearfield where, in company with one Maines, he had visited and patronized several drinking establishments. He brought Maines home with him and confronted his wife with alleged statements of Maines reflecting on her chastity Mrs. Plubell repudiated the imputations and Maines denied that he had said any such things. That matter apparently ended there. However, the

[ 367 Pa. Page 454]

    quarreling was subsequently renewed and terminated in the fatal wounding of Plubell. In order to place in proper perspective the evidentiary question which the appellant raises, it is necessary to relate some of the sordid circumstances leading up to, attending and following the infliction of the mortal injury as testified to at trial.

Plubell had continued to drink beer at home and was in an irritable and belligerent mood. At one time he threw his wife to the floor of the dining room and struck her while she lay there. In the final altercation, which took place in the kitchen, according to the Commonwealth's only eyewitness, an eleven-year old girl, Mona Jean Wright, Plubell hit his wife in the face and backed her up against a wall. He grasped a carving or bread knife lying on the kitchen table and threw it at her, barely missing her body. He picked up the knife from the floor, where it had fallen after striking the wall, and handed it to her with the challenge, "Now, stab me, God damn you, if you want to." When the witness was asked what then happened, she replied that Mrs. Plubell "stabbed Earl" and, again, that she "struck him". The defendant claimed the stabbing was accidental, that when she had hold of the knife, her husband lunged at her and the knife entered his body. In any event, he received a knife wound in the right chest to a depth of slightly more than five inches which caused a hemorrhage of the lung from which he bled profusely. Mrs. Plubell called Walter Wright (Mona's father) who was in the dining room adjoining, telling him that she had cut Earl and that Wright should ...


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