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decided: July 25, 1967.


Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, No. 7605 of 1965, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Stanley Howard.


H. David Rothman, Trial Defender, with him George H. Ross, Public Defender, for appellant.

Edwin J. Martin, Assistant District Attorney, with him Charles B. Watkins, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Justice Jones concurs in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: O'brien

[ 426 Pa. Page 307]

On April 11, 1966, appellant, Stanley Howard, with the advice of counsel, entered a plea of guilty generally to an indictment for murder in the death of Clifford Grogan. After a hearing, wherein extensive testimony was taken and documentary evidence was reviewed, the court en banc fixed the degree of guilt as murder in the first degree and imposed the death penalty. The appellant filed a motion in arrest of judgment and, after submission of briefs and oral argument, the court, on October 25, 1966, by its opinion and order, denied the motion. On November 2, 1966, the death sentence was formally announced in open court, where appellant, with counsel, was present. This appeal followed.

On November 12, 1965, at approximately 3:30 P.M., Lorance J. Weyandt, a lieutenant of the guards, was standing in the yard of the Western State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh conversing with another guard, John Fred Walz. Suddenly and without warning, someone came up behind Weyandt, and he received what he described as "a hard blow in the back". He wheeled around and confronted Stanley Howard, the appellant, who was then an inmate at that institution. Howard was facing him with a knife in his right hand. Howard advanced toward Weyandt, and Weyandt began backing away. Howard then swung the knife and, with a sweeping motion, struck the officer in the chest. Walz ran over to assist Weyandt and the appellant, Howard, turned upon him, cursing, and shouted "Do you want it too?". Walz ran to obtain assistance. Weyandt continued backing away, holding his hands in front of him. At this point, tradesmen instructor

[ 426 Pa. Page 308]

Clifford Grogan came on the scene and approached Howard from behind. Just before Grogan was able to seize the appellant, Howard spun sideways and struck at Grogan with the knife. Grogan jumped backward, attempting to avoid the thrust, and in doing so, fell to the ground. He kicked out at the appellant and in the same motion rolled over onto his right side. Appellant, Howard, thereupon stabbed Grogan in the left side. Howard then stepped over his victim in a straddling position and, while Grogan was on his hands and knees and Howard was straddling him across the hips, Howard proceeded to stab Grogan twice in the right side.

By this time, other guards rushed to the scene and Howard was seized, subdued, and disarmed. It was at this point that Weyandt discovered that the blow which he had felt in his back had been a stab wound inflicted by the appellant. Weyandt recovered from this stab wound, but Grogan died shortly thereafter from the stab wounds which he had received.

Interrogation of Weyandt at trial revealed that he had had no personal contact with the appellant which would have resulted in any animosity between them. Officer Weyandt further indicated at the trial that from the time he felt the pain in his back until he saw Grogan attempting to restrain Howard was only a matter of seconds. Weyandt further indicated at the preliminary hearing that the demeanor of the appellant was that of someone who was mad or angry. There is no evidence to indicate that Grogan was ever known by Howard.

The history of Stanley Howard is very well covered by the court below as follows:

"Stanley Howard was born on May 18, 1939, in New Jersey, the youngest of six children. In November, 1943, following the breakup of his parents' marriage, he was placed in a foster home, under the care

[ 426 Pa. Page 309]

    of a Mrs. Halsey. In January, 1944, Mrs. Halsey reported that he was 'misbehaving' and that she could not handle him, and he was therefore placed with a Mrs. Gilbert. In October, 1947, it is reported that Howard was stealing from Mrs. Gilbert's grandson. In December, 1948, Howard was reported annoying an elderly man on the way to school. In February, 1949, he is reported to have been a school problem, and in July, 1949, he climbed out of a school bus and ran away. In August, 1949, he was reported to have been dumping garbage cans into the hallways of apartment buildings adjacent to his own. By the end of 1949, Mrs. Gilbert reported that he was constantly staying out late and running around and that she was unable to handle him. In January, 1950, he was placed in the home of a Mrs. Ford. She reported that he lied to her as to his activities, stayed out late, and was a disciplinary problem.

"In April, 1950, he was placed in the home of a Mrs. Dumas. On July 10, 1950, he broke the window of a bakery shop, and on October 24, 1950, he broke a number of windows at school. Finally, in October, 1951, Mrs. Dumas reported that Howard had run away for a week-end, had committed thefts from her, and that she was unable to control him. On November 1, 1951, a Juvenile Court hearing was held, involving the thefts from Mrs. Dumas. Howard was placed on one year's probation and placed in an institutional home. He was, at this time, 12 years old.

"In January, 1952, he was placed with his mother, who it appears, was living in Philadelphia in an adulterous relationship.

"Within a relatively short time, Howard was arrested for aggravated assault and battery, and sent to the Glen Mills School. He adjusted poorly at Glen Mills, and was transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill in 1954, where he remained

[ 426 Pa. Page 310]

    until 1958. He returned to living with his mother until 1960 when he enlisted in the Army.

"While in the service, he was court-martialed four times and was given an undesirable discharge in August, 1961. He once again returned to Philadelphia and resided with his mother.

"In April, 1962, Howard was convicted of aggravated assault and battery and sentenced to 6 to 22 months. On October 14, 1962, he was paroled.

"On November 3, 1962, he broke into a home in Philadelphia, stole money and jewelry, and raped the woman occupant. The victim's husband returned while Howard was still present, and a struggle ensued, with Howard inflicting a cutting upon the husband and escaping.

"On November 23, 1962, he robbed a grocery store and physically assaulted the woman proprietor with his fists.

"On December 15, 1962, and again on December 22, 1962, he committed robberies while armed with a rifle, and on December 25, 1962, he robbed a taproom while armed with a shotgun.

"Howard was apprehended on December 26, 1962. He pleaded guilty and, following a hearing on February 14, 1963, was sentenced to a total of 30 to 60 years in prison.

"He was sent initially to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. His record there indicates a number of disciplinary offenses. In June, 1964, he was twice admitted to the hospital following apparent suicide attempts, once by cutting his forearms and the other by attempted hanging by his bedsheet.

"He was transferred to the Eastern State Correctional Institution at Philadelphia on July 14, 1964. On August 25, 1965, Howard attacked an inmate named Murphy with a knife, for which he was tried and ...

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