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COMMONWEALTH v. STOKES (11/26/62)

November 26, 1962

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STOKES, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 257, March T., 1962, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, April T., 1961, No. 134, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Samuel Stokes. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Thomas A. Harper, with him Utterback & Brown, for appellant.

William Claney Smith, Assistant District Attorney, with him Harry Savage, Assistant District Attorney, and Edward C. Boyle, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, O'brien and Keim, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 409 Pa. Page 269]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BELL

Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On December 10, 1959, at around 7:00 p.m., two police officers of the Borough of Braddock, Krehely and Reaves, while patrolling in the vicinity of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks on Braddock Avenue, received a call to proceed to 226 Halket Avenue - 100 yards from the B. & O. Railroad tracks. They testified that when they arrived at that address two minutes later, they found a Mrs. Barbara Martin, aged 76, who had been "brutally beaten". She had two black eyes, a swollen chin, severe lacerations and bumps all over her face, she was bleeding about her face, nose and one arm, and she was in a hysterical condition. She told them she thought her arm and shoulder were broken.

Mrs. Martin, in reply to a question from one of the officers, said that not more than five minutes earlier

[ 409 Pa. Page 270]

    she had been grabbed by "a young black man"*fn* near the watchman's shanty at the 11th Street crossing over the B. & O. tracks, that she had been dragged to the right of the shanty, struck by her assailant, and as a result had fallen on the "fast" track. The assailant then took her handbag (containing $2 and a fifth of whiskey) from her. She had been returning home from a visit to a drug store at 11th Street and Braddock Avenue, a distance of about 500 yards from the tracks and after the assault had dragged herself to Mrs. Kotvas' home at 226 Halket Avenue, which was the nearest dwelling house.

Mrs. Josephine Kotvas, who was 87 years old, was present when Mrs. Martin's statements were made. However, at the time of the trial she was in a hospital suffering from a stroke and advanced senility, and her doctor stated her condition was such that she could not testify.

Mrs. Martin was taken immediately to a hospital where she died ten days later. An autopsy was performed by a pathologist who testified that death resulted from a "subdural and subarachnoid intracranial hemorrhage and cerebral necrosis following contusions of the face and body." According to the pathologist, the hemorrhages were the result of the application of severe and extensive force and that they could not have been caused by a fall "unless she would fall from a high place and meeting obstructions on the way down, ... because the bruises were too widely distributed."

Approximately a year and three months after this crime, defendant was arrested in connection with another crime of which he was suspected. On March 20, 1961, he was interrogated for several hours at the ...


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