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COMMONWEALTH v. STUKES (10/09/69)

decided: October 9, 1969.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STUKES, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, Jan. T., 1967, No. 291, in case of Commonwealth v. James A. Stukes.

COUNSEL

James E. Beasley, with him Kip D. Denega, and Beasley, Albert, Hewson & Casey, for appellant.

Benjamin H. Levintow, Assistant District Attorney, with him Roger F. Cox and James D. Crawford, Assistant District Attorneys, 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. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice O'Brien joins in this opinion.

Author: Eagen

[ 435 Pa. Page 538]

The appellant, James A. Stukes, was convicted by a jury in Philadelphia County of murder in the first degree, and the punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. Motions in arrest of judgment and/or a new trial were denied and sentence was imposed as the jury directed. From the judgment of sentence, this appeal was filed. We affirm.

Motion In Arrest of Judgment

Stukes challenges the sufficiency of the trial evidence to sustain his conviction. In evaluating the correctness of this position, all of the evidence must be read in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth and it is entitled to all of the reasonable inferences arising therefrom. Commonwealth v. Tabb, 417 Pa. 13, 207 A.2d 884 (1965), and Commonwealth v. DeMoss, 401 Pa. 395, 165 A.2d 14 (1960). Read in this light, the record amply supports the guilty verdict.

From the evidence the jury could find the following:

During the early morning hours of April 3, 1966, John Burgess, Ronald J. Dessus and Stukes unlawfully entered a home in Southwest Philadelphia occupied by Lena Alexandroff, 78 years of age; her daughter, Natalie

[ 435 Pa. Page 539]

Tuchar, 44 years of age; and Mrs. Tuchar's daughter, Paula, 14 years of age; all three females were brutally beaten and robbed of personal belongings by the intruders. All three were also raped. From the injuries received, Mrs. Alexandroff died nineteen days later.

While the evidence does not establish that Stukes directly participated in the robbing, beating or sexual assault of Mrs. Alexandroff,*fn1 it was sufficient to prove that he raped Mrs. Tuchar and also sufficient to justify the conclusion that he was part and parcel of the entire unlawful occurrence, i.e., that the entire occurrence was a concerted act. The jury could, therefore, properly resolve that Stukes was at least guilty of aiding and abetting in the rape and killing of Mrs. Alexandroff and was equally guilty with those who actually inflicted the injuries which caused her death. See Commonwealth v. Coyle, 415 Pa. 379, 203 A.2d 782 (1964), and Commonwealth v. Lowry, 374 Pa. 594, 98 A.2d 733 (1953).

Motion For A New Trial

Several alleged errors during the proceedings in the court below are asserted in support of the argument that a new trial should be ordered. We have carefully examined each assignment of error in connection with the record and find no error which would warrant a retrial.

For instance, Stukes argues that he was denied the representation of counsel at a critical stage in the proceedings in violation of his rights under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The pertinent record facts are as follows:

Stukes was arrested on April 3, 1966. Able counsel was appointed to represent ...


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