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COMMONWEALTH v. MOUNT (01/12/65)

decided: January 12, 1965.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MOUNT, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1963, No. 236, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. George A. Mount.

COUNSEL

Stephen M. Feldman, with him Robert E. Lenton, for appellant.

Richard A. Sprague, Assistant District Attorney, with him John F. Hassett and Joseph M. Smith, Assistant District Attorneys, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents.

Author: Jones

[ 416 Pa. Page 344]

This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence of death imposed by a three-judge court, composed of three judges of the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, after a finding by such court that George A. Mount was guilty of murder in the first degree. This appeal challenges the validity of the sentence, not the finding of guilt.

On August 29, 1963, Frances Lieberman -- a married woman then nine months pregnant -- was found dead in the bedroom of her apartment in Philadelphia. On the left side of the deceased's body were thirteen stab wounds which, in the medical examiner's opinion, caused death within five minutes after infliction. Near the deceased's body was a steak knife -- admittedly, the murder weapon -- which matched four other knives found in a drawer in the deceased's kitchen. On the kitchen drainboard was found a Timex wrist watch and bloodstains were found on the inside of the watch band.

George A. Mount, apprehended by the police, four days subsequent to the homicide, made a statement to the police. In this statement, Mount stated: he had approached the building wherein deceased's apartment was located and, upon finding a door therein unlocked, had entered the building, descended the stairs and, then noticing a door ajar in deceased's apartment, he entered that apartment; while walking around the apartment, he noticed the deceased lying in bed; he then tiptoed into the kitchen, took a steak knife out of one of the kitchen drawers and started to look for money; while so doing, he bumped a chair and then heard a voice, whereupon he entered deceased's bedroom and saw her sitting up in bed; when the deceased started to scream, he lunged at her, struggled with her and stabbed her in the chest; he then went into the kitchen to wash the blood from his hands and, in so

[ 416 Pa. Page 345]

    doing, left his wrist watch on the drainboard; after looking around, he found and took some money from a purse in the living room; recalling that he had left the knife in the deceased's body, he re-entered the bedroom, removed the knife from deceased's chest, wiped it off and left it on the bedroom floor; he then left the apartment but, recalling that he had left his watch in the kitchen, he returned to but did not re-enter the apartment. In this original statement, Mount claimed that he took the knife simply to scare the deceased and that he stabbed her only because he became "panicky" when she screamed.

Four days later, Mount made another statement to the police wherein he related an attempt he had made to sexually assault the deceased as she lay dead.*fn1 In this additional statement, Mount stated that after he "had stabbed the woman [he] had got up, went into the living room and took off [his] clothes and was going to have sexual intercourse with the woman"; that he "went back to where she was lying and got down on [his] knees, picked her legs up and then [he] dropped them again, [he] could not go through with it, so [he] went back into the living room, put on [his] shorts, then went and washed [his] hands, came back and got dressed." Mount denied that he had penetrated deceased's body and stated that he had stopped his actions prior to such penetration.

Represented by counsel, Mount entered a plea of guilty to murder generally. After a hearing, the three-judge court unanimously found him guilty of murder in the first degree.*fn2 Upon finding Mount guilty of ...


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