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COMMONWEALTH v. COLEMAN (01/04/61)

January 4, 1961

COMMONWEALTH
v.
COLEMAN, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 256, Jan. T., 1960, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, April T., 1958, Nos. 993, 994, 995 and 996, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Coleman. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Isaiah W. Crippins, with him Rufus Scoville Watson, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Assistant District Attorney, with him Augustine J. Rieffel, Assistant District Attorney, Paul M. Chalfin, First Assistant District Attorney, and Victor H. Blanc, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 402 Pa. Page 239]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN.

Frank McCoy perpetrated an armed robbery in a grocery store in the City of Philadelphia on July 1, 1957. During the commission of the robbery, the owner

[ 402 Pa. Page 240]

    of the store was shot and killed by McCoy. (The victim was McCoy's former employer). One James Allen acted in the role of lookout. McCoy was tried by a jury and convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. Allen pleaded guilty generally to the charge of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Commonwealth then tried the appellant Coleman, charging that he was a participant as an accessory before and after the fact. He was found guilty of murder in the first degree; the jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment. From the judgment of sentence, he prosecutes this appeal.

The question of the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the conviction is not raised and a reading of the record discloses why. In the prosecution of Coleman, both McCoy and Allen testified for the Commonwealth. wealth. Their testimony amply established that the appellant drove McCoy and Allen in his car to the scene of the crime, he knowing full well that McCoy intended to commit a robbery; that McCoy had a gun which he hid under the seat of the car; that they first stopped at an Army-Navy store for McCoy to purchase sunglasses to be worn in order to prevent identification; that on the way Coleman inquired of McCoy as to how much he thought he would get; that McCoy and Allen instructed the appellant to wait a short distance from the intended robbery site; that after the robbery McCoy and Allen jumped into the car and said "get out of here fast"; that the appellant did as directed and asked them, "How did it go?"; that appellant later shared in the stolen money; that Allen and the appellant went to the City of Baltimore, Maryland, on the same night; that the same two individuals discussed the events a day or two later., and, that the appellant told Allen to give himself up but not to involve him and that, in return, he would help get Allen out on bail. Police detectives testified that, when they first

[ 402 Pa. Page 241]

    interviewed the appellant on July 6, 1957, he denied any knowledge of the crime; that he denied knowing McCoy and said that he did not recognize him even when shown the latter's photograph; that he said he had loaned his car to Allen on July first; and, that he was not in the car on that day with McCoy and Allen.

Under this proof, the jury had every right to return a verdict of guilty. It was for the fact-finding body to resolve the truth. An accessory before the fact is equally guilty with the principal, even though he is not on the scene in person. If a killing by a felon occurs in the furtherance of a robbery, all who participated, including the driver of the get-away car, are guilty of murder in the first degree: ...


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