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COMMONWEALTH v. DARNELL (07/21/55)

July 21, 1955

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DARNELL, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 292 and 293, Oct. T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Lancaster County, June T., 1953, Nos. 175 and 176, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Darnell. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

B. S. Ochman, for appellant.

Alfred C. Alspach, First Assistnat District Attorney, with him William C. Storb, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ. (hirt, J., absent).

Author: Gunther

[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 462]

OPINION BY GUNTHER, J.

The defendant and three others were indicted, tried and convicted of a robbery and assault. Defendant, who was not present at the crime, was found guilty as both an accessory before the fact and after the fact. He has appealed alleging several errors by the trial judge and asks for a new trial.

Defendant first complains of an improper charge as to the definitions of accessory, both before and after the fact. The trial judge charged as follows:

"An accessory in law is one who in some manner is connected with a crime either before or after its commission or perpetration. An accessory before the fact is one who aids or abets the commission of a crime, but who is absent when the crime is actually committed. An accessory after the fact is one who aids or abets the principal offender or offenders after the commission of the crime. An accessory after the fact is one

[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 463]

    who receives, comforts or assists another, knowing that he has committed a felony. These things are necessary to be proven: 1st, that the felony must have been completed; 2nd, that the person charged with being an accessory must have done some act to assist the felon personally; and, 3rd, that he must have known when he assisted him that the party had committed a felony.

"If you find from the evidence that Charles Darnell did not aid or abet in the commission of this crime, although not present at its commission, it is your duty to acquit him. On the other hand, if you find he did aid and abet in the commission of this crime, it is your duty to convict him as he stands indicted. What if anything did Darnell do in the commission of the offense before it was committed: Did he plan to do anything leading to or connected with the actual crime or offense committed by the principals?"

In Com. v. Habecker, 113 Pa. Superior Ct. 335, 173 A. 831, we approved a charge defining an accessory before the fact as "one who plans, cooperates, assists, aids, counsels or abets in the perpetration of a felony." See also Com. v. Mourar, 167 Pa. Superior Ct. 276, 74 A.2d 732. The charge in this case was adequate, especially in light of the testimony, which clearly disclosed that this defendant was the mastermind behind this crime. The charge includes the words "aids, abets and plans", which are really the substance of the crime of accessory before the fact. In view of the testimony the jury could not have been misled by this charge into believing that only a very slight and tenuous connection with ...


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