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COMMONWEALTH v. YARNAL (03/15/68)

decided: March 15, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
YARNAL, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Indiana County, Dec. T., 1964, No. 1, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert Virgil Yarnal.

COUNSEL

John S. Fisher, for appellant.

Robert C. Earley, Assistant District Attorney, and W. Thomas Malcolm, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Cohen and Mr. Justice Eagen concur in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Musmanno

[ 429 Pa. Page 7]

Robert Yarnal entered a plea of guilty to a charge of murder generally. After hearing evidence, a two-judge court found that Yarnal's admitted killing of Blair constituted murder in the first degree. Later, Yarnal filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing

[ 429 Pa. Page 8]

Act alleging denial of right to assistance of counsel to prepare, perfect and execute a direct appeal from his conviction, whereupon he was granted leave to take this appeal.

After Yarnal shot Blair he stole his car. He was convicted and sentenced on a charge of larceny for theft of the car. He now claims that since his conviction was for larceny and not robbery, the theft could not be used to find him guilty of murder during the perpetration of a robbery so as to bring the facts within the felony-murder rule. However, the record reveals that the determination of guilt of murder in the first degree was not based on a finding of murder during perpetration of a robbery, but on the facts which established that Yarnal's killing of Blair was wilful, deliberate and premeditated murder.

The trial court found that "Robert Virgil Yarnal wilfully and deliberately and premeditatedly, shot and killed Walter Blair; this shooting occurred under such circumstances as rendered such killing completely unnecessary." The court's opinion pointed out that Yarnal "deliberately took aim and shot the deceased as he was seated therein, under circumstances which were without any justification or excuse." Thus, the felony-murder rule was not a factor in the deliberation which resulted in the verdict of murder in the first degree, and thus we find it unnecessary to determine whether the felony-murder rule would have been applicable in view of Yarnal's prior conviction for the theft of Blair's automobile as "larceny," and not robbery.

Nor do we find it necessary to determine whether the Court improperly permitted the sheriff to testify to Yarnal's reenactment of the crime, this occurring when Yarnal had no counsel.*fn* The testimony of other

[ 429 Pa. Page 9]

    witnesses was more than legally sufficient to support the court's finding that Yarnal's killing of Blair was wilful, deliberate and premeditated murder, necessitating no reliance on the testimony of the sheriff as to Yarnal's reenactment of the crime. Yarnal urges that these witnesses had "an ...


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