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COMMONWEALTH v. FLETCHER (11/13/63)

November 13, 1963

COMMONWEALTH
v.
FLETCHER, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 271, Oct. T., 1963, from judgment of County Court of Philadelphia, March T., 1962, No. 1959, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Daniel Fletcher. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Joseph Alessandroni, Jr., for appellant.

Michael Battaglini, Assistant District Attorney, with him Arlen Specter, Assistant District Attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.

Author: Wright

[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 66]

OPINION BY WRIGHT, J.

Daniel Fletcher was indicted by the Grand Jury of Philadelphia County on a charge of fornication and bastardy under Section 506 of The Penal Code. Act of June 24, 1939, P.L. 872, 18 P.S. 4506. The case involves the birth on October 3, 1961, of twin sons to Ann Barkivitch, and her assertion that Fletcher was father of the children. Following the entry of a plea of not guilty, the case was heard without a jury by Judge BENJAMIN W. SCHWARTZ, who found the defendant guilty. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were dined, sentence was imposed, and this appeal ensued.

Ann Barkivitch and Frank Aita were married sometime in 1958, and separated after living together for a comparatively short period. The exact dates do not appear in the record. The husband subsequently instituted a divorce action in Bucks County, and the final decree in that proceeding was entered on February 16, 1961. During the year 1960, the wife began keeping company with Fletcher. They engaged in acts of intercourse regularly and repeatedly through the fall of 1960 and spring of 1961. The wife stated that she did

[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 67]

    not have relations with any other man during that time, and further testified as follows: "Q. When did you first miss your period with the twins, Dennis Michael and David Wayne? A. In February, beginning of March". Before the wife gave her testimony, four witnesses testified as to non-access by the husband. Fletcher did not take the stand or offer any evidence.

The sole issue on this appeal is the sufficiency of the evidence of non-access. Peter Barkivitch, Ann's father, testified that Ann lived in his home in Philadelphia, and that Aita lived in Bristol. The witness stated that he had not seen Aita for a considerable period of time before Ann commenced dating Fletcher. More specifically, he testified that he had not seen Aita during the fall of 1960 or the spring of 1961. Helen Zeigler, Ann's sister, testified that she saw Ann almost every day during the possible period of conception, and that she did not see Aita during that time. Mary Hand, Ann's aunt, testified that she visited Ann regularly several times a week, and that she did not see Aita during the possible period of conception. Dorothy Solazzo, Ann's cousin, gave similar testimony. In finding Fletcher guilty, the court below stated: "While the evidence of non-access furnished by the relatives of the prosecutrix does not of itself meet the requirements of overcoming the presumption of legitimacy, when taken in connection with the pending divorce which was almost contemporaneous with the time of conception, the evidence satisfies any reasonable standard. Certainly it is most uncommon for people who have a divorce suit pending to have sexual relations. In this case the divorce suit was instituted by the husband, which indicates a degree of estrangement which makes continued sexual relations highly unlikely. Taken in this context the evidence of non-access takes on a much greater significance".

[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 68]

The law governing appeals of this nature is well settled. In a criminal prosecution, the test of the sufficiency of the evidence is whether, accepting as true all the testimony upon which a verdict could properly have been based, it is sufficient in law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged: Commonwealth v. Bradford, 200 Pa. Superior Ct. 216, 188 A.2d 809. We held in Commonwealth v. Jainnini, 198 Pa. Superior Ct. 144, 181 A.2d 879, that the fathering of a child by a married woman is within the purview of Section 506 of The Penal Code.Although non-access may not be testified to by either husband or wife in order to overcome the presumption of legitimacy, a wife is competent to prove the fact and time of her marriage, her separation from her husband, the date and place of birth of her child, the fact of access by the defendant, her own adultery, ...


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