Appeal, No. 114, Jan. T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Berks County, Dec. T., 1962, No. 15, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph John Meas.Judgment reversed.
Edward G. Wink, with him R. Solomon Bear, for appellant.
W. Richard Eshelman, District Attorney, with him Ralph J. Althouse, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Before Bell, C.j., Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN
Joseph John Meas, the appellant, twenty-seven years of age, after trial, was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree. Punishment was fixed at death. Following the denial of post trial motions and imposition of sentence in accordance with the jury's verdict, this appeal was filed.
From the evidence offered by the Commonwealth, the jury could find the following facts:
On August 8, 1962, about ten o'clock p.m., the defendant accosted Janis Chmielewski, aged fourteen years, at a drinking fountain on the Glenside Playground in the City of Reading. He choked her into unconsciousness and removed all of her clothing. Some blocks away, he took a chaise lounge*fn1 from a residential carport, placed the unconscious girl thereon and proceeded to wheel the lounge towards a fairway of the golf course of the Berkshire Country Club. He proceeded down Berkshire Drive through a highly populated area for several blocks, but seeing people in the area, turned off onto a dirt road which ran along the edge of the golf course and led to the Schuylkill River. In the darkness, he failed to see an abrupt turn in the roadway and fell, together with the lounge, down a steep slope or embankment running along the westerly side of the river. He then removed his own clothing, placed the unconscious girl on the mattress portion of the lounge and walked into the river pushing the mattress with him.
In the meantime, the police were called by one of the individuals in the neighborhood who had seen the defendant wheeling the lounge down Berkshire Drive. When the officers arrived on the bank of the river, the defendant was observed standing out some distance in the water. He was then seen returning to the westerly bank, retrieving his clothing, and wading out again into the river. The police fired a warning shot. The defendant was next seen momentarily pausing at the spot where he had first been observed, kicking his legs up and down, and then hurrying to the opposite bank of the river and disappearing into the darkness.
A search of the river disclosed the presence of the mattress a short distance down stream. Later on, the lifeless, naked body of the victim was found face down in the water in the area of the river where the defendant had first been observed.
A medical examination and autopsy on the body disclosed: the presence of multiple lacerations, abrasions and scratches; several marks at the base of the throat indicating pressure had been applied before death in the area of the windpipe to stop respiration; discoloration around the nipples of the breast; and traces of blood underneath the ...