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COMMONWEALTH v. WILLIAMS (11/27/68)

decided: November 27, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WILLIAMS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1967, Nos. 339, 340 and 341, affirming judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer and Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, May T., 1966, Nos. 6492, 6495 and 6502, in case of Commonwealth v. Ronald Williams.

COUNSEL

Benjamin Lerner, Assistant Defender, with him Melvin Dildine, Assistant Defender, and Herman I. Pollock, Defender, for appellant.

David L. Creskoff, Assistant District Attorney, with him Michael J. Rotko, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Cohen and Mr. Justice Eagen concur in the result. Mr. Justice Musmanno did not participate in the decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Bell

[ 432 Pa. Page 559]

The defendant, Ronald Williams, was indicted on bills of indictment charging him with rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and battery, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and conspiracy. At the conclusion of his trial, on August 8 and 9, 1966, a jury convicted him of all charges. Defendant's motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were denied, and sentence was duly imposed.*fn1

Defendant appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed the judgment of sentence in a Per Curiam Order.*fn2 We allowed an allocatur.

There is not the slightest merit to support defendant's motion in arrest of judgment. It is hornbook law that the test of the sufficiency of the evidence, irrespective of whether it is direct or circumstantial, is whether accepting as true all the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom upon which if believed the jury could properly have based its verdict, it is sufficient in law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged. Commonwealth v. Finnie, 415 Pa. 166, 202 A.2d 85; Commonwealth v. Burns, 409 Pa. 619, 187 A.2d 552; Commonwealth v. Kravitz, 400 Pa. 198, 161 A.2d 861; Commonwealth v. Melton, 406 Pa. 343, 178 A.2d 728.

On the evening of May 6, 1966, the prosecutrix, Mrs. Mary Benton, was visiting her friend, Mrs. Smith, at Mrs. Smith's home on North Eleventh Street in

[ 432 Pa. Page 560]

Philadelphia. Some time after midnight, Mrs. Smith's son, Floyd Smith, came home and offered to accompany Mrs. Benton to her home. They left the Smith home together and proceeded to a bar at Eleventh and Norris Streets, where Smith telephoned for a taxi to take Mrs. Benton home. Smith was told that there would be about an hour's wait for a taxi. He and Mrs. Benton then had a drink in the bar and decided to walk the rest of the way to Mrs. Benton's home.

Mrs. Benton and Smith left the bar and began walking west on Norris Street. About two blocks from the bar, according to Mrs. Benton's testimony, defendant and another man approached them from the rear, held a knife to Smith's neck, and said, "This is a stickup." The two men robbed both Mrs. Benton and Smith of some money, and then defendant knocked Smith unconscious. Mrs. Benton testified that defendant and his companion then beat her severely about the face, forced her to walk with them for about a block and a half, and then dragged her into an alley where defendant raped her.

While defendant was having sexual intercourse with her, police officer Bennett arrived on the scene and arrested the defendant. Mrs. Benton was taken to the Philadelphia General Hospital, where she was examined by a doctor.

Floyd Smith testified that while he was walking with Mrs. Benton to her home, defendant and another man came up behind them and robbed them. He further testified that defendant held a knife to his throat and then knocked him unconscious, and when he regained consciousness, he went home and went to sleep, and made no complaint to the police.

Defendant, Ronald Williams, testified in his own behalf. His testimony may be thus summarized. He denied participating in any of the alleged crimes. He

[ 432 Pa. Page 561]

    and his brother William met the prosecutrix in the bar at Eleventh and Norris Streets at about 12:30 a.m. on May 7. While he was talking to the bartender, his brother and Mrs. Benton left the bar together. Defendant followed them out to the street, where his brother told him to "come on." Defendant then followed his brother and Mrs. Benton to an alley. Mrs. Benton and his brother then went into the alley together while defendant waited outside. After about ten minutes, defendant started to go into the alley, when Officer Bennett suddenly appeared and arrested him. Defendant further testified that while following his brother and Mrs. Benton, he did not hear Mrs. Benton cry out or see her attempt to leave his brother at any time.

Defendant presses two contentions -- (1) the Court's charge on "reasonable doubt," and (2) the admission of police testimony regarding defendant's conduct at the time of the arrest.

Reasonable Doubt

We have never adopted and required a standard charge or definition of reasonable doubt. In Commonwealth v. Burns, 409 Pa. 619, 187 ...


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