Appeal, No. 20, March T., 1953, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Westmoreland County, August T., 1952, No. 1, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph Stevenson Phillips. Judgment and sentence affirmed.
John W. Pollins, with him Avra N. Pershing, Jr., for appellant.
Joseph M. Loughran, Assistant District Attorney, with him L. Alexander Sculco, District Attorney, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL
Defendant pleaded guilty to the crime of murder and the trial Court, consisting of three Judges, unanimously
found him guilty of murder in the first degree and fixed death as the penalty. The only question involved in this appeal is whether the lower court abused its discretion by imposing the death penalty instead of life imprisonment.
These are the facts. At about 1:40 P.M. on April 4, 1952, the defendant, Phillips, and two accomplices were lying in wait for the purpose of robbing a man named Crain who was carrying the payroll money of the McFeeley Brick Company. The plans for this robbery were carefully made several months prior to the attempted robbery. The night before the robbery defendant and his accomplices "stole a car to pull a holdup". Defendant was to be the holdup man; Geter was the look-out man and driver of the stolen "getaway" car; Maloy was the driver of the "pick-up" car which was to pick up the robbers after the stolen car had been abandoned. According to the plan defendant and Geter were to precede Crain to the brick company's office and park their automobile next to the space were Crain's automobile would be parked. Defendant and Geter did not see Crain in time to carry out their preconceived plan. When defendant saw Crain turning his automobile into the driveway of the brick company, defendant decided to follow and rob him. Crain stopped his car in front of the office and got out with the box containing the payroll. Just at this moment defendant and Geter drove up in their stolen car and stopped twenty feet behind Crain's car. Defendant, wearing a burlap hood, fully armed with gun to kill and pepper to throw into an officer's face to aid (if necessary) his escape, got out and ran toward the porch of the office calling to Crain to stop. When Crain did not stop defendant fired one shot which hit just to the right of the office door. Crain ran into the office carrying the payroll with him, and
slammed the door behind him. Defendant when only a few inches from the glass (part of the) door and only 3 to 5 feet away from Crain fired a second shot through the glass door hitting Crain in the back. Crain died 45 minutes later as a result of hemorrhage and shock caused by this gunshot wound.
Defendant testified that the fired the first shot while Crain was outside the office building in order to frighten him and compel him to stop and surrender the payroll money; when Crain did not stop but turned left into a corridor inside the building, defendant ...