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COMMONWEALTH v. MCCARTER (05/21/56)

May 21, 1956

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MCCARTER, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 89, March T., 1956, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Jefferson County, Jan. T., 1955, No. 28, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert E. McCarter. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

William A. Sykes, with him John E. Aikman, for appellant.

William J. McKnight, District Attorney, with him George H. Kurtz, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 385 Pa. Page 237]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

The tragedy upon which the criminal prosecution in this case is based began with romance. In 1929 the defendant, Robert E. McCarter, then age 19, became enamored of his high school teacher. He paid her rapt attention until graduation, courted her for three years after he had left school halls behind him, and then in 1933 took her to New York where he married her in the storied Little Church Around the Corner. Somewhat of an idler by disposition, he only worked at irregular intervals, but his indolence did not diminish his capacity for enjoyment, since his wife, who was ten years his senior, was able, through her savings, to bring bread to their common table, though he often spread it with the mustard of infidelity. Among the many gifts she showered upon him was a shotgun as he was quite fond of hunting. On December 8, 1954, Robert turned this same shotgun on his wife-benefactress and blasted her into eternity.

He was indicted for murder, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, and he has appealed to this Court for a new trial. The defendant complains that the trial judge should have directed a verdict of not guilty. A careful reading of the record of 900 typewritten pages reveals that not only would such an instruction have perpetrated a gross miscarriage of justice, but that the jury could have properly returned a verdict of murder in the first degree. The dovetailing story which was presented through 50 witnesses supports

[ 385 Pa. Page 238]

    and almost impels the inference that the defendant had tired of his wife and wished with the scythe of death to sever the conjugal knot which bound him to moral standards which were galling to his undisciplined character.

In July, 1953, the defendant entered into a meretricious relationship with one Harriet Messmore. He lived with her, travelled with her in an auto trailer, deposited money in a joint checking account with her, designating her as "Mrs. Harriet McCarter", and finally even went through a simulated wedding ceremony with her. He wrote letters to her in which he said, inter alia: "Just one month ago today we declared to the world, or rather our world, we were that way. Sure hope soon we can be together for always."

"Sure need you but won't be long until I will have all of you."

"I have just got to be with you. Never again, if we can possibly help it, will we be separated like this - everybody can go to hell first. Our ...


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