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COMMONWEALTH v. DENNIS (04/23/69)

decided: April 23, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DENNIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, June T., 1967, No. 1468, in case of Commonwealth v. William Dennis.

COUNSEL

Michael J. Stack, for appellant.

James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorney, with him Ivan Michaelson Czap, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Bell

[ 433 Pa. Page 526]

On April 7, 1967, defendant was indicted on three bills charging murder, manslaughter and voluntary

[ 433 Pa. Page 527]

    manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend Essmond Davis. Thereafter defendant was arraigned on the murder bill and after pleading not guilty, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The evidence was ample to sustain this conviction and even a verdict of murder.

Defendant went looking for Essmond after he had overheard her talking on the telephone with another man. He stopped at several bars and finally found her dancing with another man. Virginia Mason, Essmond's sister, testified that when defendant entered the bar, Essmond and she started to leave the tavern; just as they were going out the door, defendant said to Essmond, "I will kill you and if your sister says anything, I will kill her, too." Essmond then left the bar with defendant.

Essmond died as the result of a knife wound of the right chest. The blade of the knife passed from right to left, front to back, and slightly downward, cutting through the right lung, the pericardial sac, the upper right portion of the heart, and one of the major heart valves and penetrated to a depth of from nine to ten inches.

Defendant testified that the stabbing was accidental and that although he had a knife he had it for his protection. He testified to drinking on the night of the crime and to hearing sudden sounds of music from the door of the bar across the street. He also testified that Essmond suddenly embraced him and accidentally impaled herself on his knife. Defendant then went around the corner, threw the knife down and came back to see Essmond. The jury returned a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, although there was no evidence of passion, and under the evidence he could have been convicted, we repeat, of murder. Defendant was sentenced to serve a term of from six to twelve years.

[ 433 Pa. Page 528]

On January 31, 1968, defendant was permitted by the lower Court to file nunc pro tunc a motion in arrest of judgment. This motion was denied by that Court and sentence was ...


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