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COMMONWEALTH v. GRAYS (01/03/55)

January 3, 1955

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GRAYS, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 175, Jan. T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, June T., 1953, No. 82, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Grays. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Harry R. Back, for appellant.

Victor Wright, Assistant District Attorney, with him Samuel Dash and Michael von Moschzisker, First Assistant District Attorneys and Richardson Dilworth, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 380 Pa. Page 78]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On April 20, 195o, Charles "Pedro" Grays, the defendant in this case, Ernest Robinson and Julius Beverly alighted from a cab at 1529 West Seybert Street, Philadelphia, in front of which a car containing three men, was parked. Ernest Robinson was armed with a shotgun, Grays brandished a revolver. Advancing rapidly on the parked car, Grays fired his revolver at the left side of the vehicle while Robinson thrust the shotgun through a window and pulled the trigger, killing James Carroll sitting in the front seat.

Charles Grays pleaded guilty generally to murder. Three judges hearing the evidence adjudged him guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced him to life imprisonment. This appeal followed.

The sorrowful state to which the value of human life sometimes falls in the history of the human race finds confirmation in this case. For no reason of magnitude, even in the meretricious and slippery code of criminals, the victim here was shot down with merciless flippancy as he sat unwarned of the murderous attack to be made upon him.

Charles Grays was a member of a bootleg gang engaged in the manufacture of illicit whiskey in a rented house at 2149 E. 8th Treet in Philadelphia. When the landlord, learning of the lawless activities of his tenants, evicted them, the gang split into two factions: one made up of Charles Grays, Ernest Robinson and Julius Beverly; the other faction consisting of James Charleston and James Carroll. The sale of the distilling equipment and stocked whiskey brought into the hands of Beverly and Grays a certain amount of money which they did not divide with their partners in crime. Learning of this, Charleston and Carroll descended upon Grays and Beverly and by threats and show of armed force exacted from them approximately $400. When Robinson was informed of this extortion,

[ 380 Pa. Page 79]

    he set out, with Grays and Beverly, in quest of a shotgun.

They first called on a man identified in the record only as "Ike," and asked him for the desired weapon. Ike did not have a shotgun but he did have a revolver which he willingly turned over to the visiting hoodlums. They took the revolver but still sought out an arm with greater firing power. Their next stop was at the home of a T. Johnson, Robinson's brother-in-law. Johnson also expressed regrets for not having a shotgun lying around, but he was willing to pay to Robinson $45 of a debt he owed him, and perhaps this sum might help to get for them what they desired. Moreover, he would gladly join with them in the search for a suitable shotgun. Before participating in this hunt, however, he accepted Grays' invitation to help himself to whiskey which Grays had stocked up at his home. After taking a quantity of the contraband liquor, ...


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