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COMMONWEALTH v. BROWN (01/09/70)

decided: January 9, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BROWN, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1961, Nos. 1464 to 1466, inclusive, in case of Commonwealth v. Walter Brown.

COUNSEL

Melvin Dildine, Assistant Defender, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellant.

Nicholas Sellers 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 Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 436 Pa. Page 425]

In 1962, appellant pleaded guilty to murder generally. Following a hearing, he was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to five to fifteen years imprisonment. No appeal was taken. In 1967 he filed a petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, alleging that his plea was involuntary, that he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter at most, and that he was unconstitutionally denied his right to appeal.*fn1 After an evidentiary hearing, the court concluded that his plea was voluntary and that he was therefore not prejudiced by the denial of his right to appeal.*fn2 He now appeals the hearing court's adverse decision. We affirm.

Appellant's most serious contention is that the evidence adduced at the degree of guilt hearing showed that he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter at most.*fn3 The facts, briefly, are: On August 31, 1961, appellant's

[ 436 Pa. Page 426]

    wife was at her mother's home. Appellant came there in the evening and asked his wife to come home. She refused and they began to quarrel. Appellant then pulled a penknife out of his pocket, began striking his wife, and attempted to pull her out the door. His mother-in-law attempted to intervene, but appellant pushed her away, cutting her ear in the process. Appellant's wife then ran into the street and he followed. A crowd gathered and appellant fled; he testified that he could not remember any of his actions prior to the time when the crowd gathered in the street. The evidence showed that appellant had been drinking, although it is not clear to what extent he was intoxicated.

As a result of this fight, appellant's wife sustained four stab wounds, three of which were superficial. The fourth wound penetrated the spleen, thereby necessitating an operation to remove the spleen. Although appellant's wife appeared to be making an excellent recovery, eight days after the operation she died suddenly. The cause of death given by the medical examiner was multiple pulmonary emboli -- i.e., blood clots of the lung.

Appellant contends that the Commonwealth has proved neither causation nor second degree murder. As to causation, he urges that Commonwealth v. Radford, 428 Pa. 279, 236 A.2d 802 (1968), controls our disposition in the instant case. In Radford we held that the Commonwealth had proved only that defendant's assault on the decedent probably caused the thrombosis which resulted in peritonitis and finally death. This was insufficient because the Commonwealth must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

The difference between Radford and the instant case is that in Radford, the defendant pleaded not guilty, thereby placing the burden on the Commonwealth to ...


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