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COMMONWEALTH v. BROWN (04/22/70)

decided: April 22, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BROWN, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware County, June T., 1967, Nos. 419 and 420, in case of Commonwealth v. Mary Frances Brown.

COUNSEL

R. Barclay Surrick, Assistant Public Defender, with him Mervyn R. Turk, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Anna Iwachiw Vadino, Assistant District Attorney, with her Ralph B. D'Iorio, Assistant District Attorney, and Stephen J. McEwen, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones.

Author: Jones

[ 438 Pa. Page 54]

This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence to life imprisonment imposed by the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Delaware County upon Mary Brown (defendant) following her conviction by a jury of first-degree murder, arising from circumstances involving the death of her husband, Tony Brown.

In the early evening of April 11, 1967, the Police Department of Ridley Township received a telephone call from a woman who gave her address and stated she thought she had just killed her husband. Two officers responded to that call, went to the address given, found the apartment unlocked and, upon asking if anyone had called the police, the defendant, then standing in the apartment hallway, answered, "Yes, in here." Upon entering the apartment, the officers found Tony Brown lying in bed in the bedroom. He was still alive, but unconscious, and, in addition to other wounds, had two deep wounds on the left side of his head. The officers

[ 438 Pa. Page 55]

    also found therein an axe upon which there was blood. Tony Brown died the next day.

Defendant was taken by one of the officers, in the police car, to the police station where, after being warned of her constitutional rights, she made a statement to another police officer. In this statement, the defendant said that she had taken the axe from a closet in the living room, had hit the victim with it, she did not remember how many times, while the victim was lying in bed, that she hoped the victim would die and that, if she had known he was still alive, she would not have called the police.*fn1

At the trial, the defendant took the stand and testified that the victim, a mean person, had in the past inflicted bodily injury upon her,*fn2 and claimed that she did not remember what happened,*fn3 and that she was suffering from amnesia at the time of the occurrence.*fn4

Five issues are raised upon this appeal: (1) whether oral statements, allegedly made to the police officer while en route to the police station, were admitted into evidence in violation of her constitutional rights; (2) whether the court erred in instructing the jury that it may return a not guilty verdict if defendant's guilt had not been established beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) whether the court erred in its charge upon the presumption of malice and the presumption of murder in the second degree; (4) whether a court order requiring the accused to submit to examination by a psychiatrist

[ 438 Pa. Page 56]

    for the Commonwealth violated her constitutional rights; (5) whether the court erred in questioning a Commonwealth witness concerning an ...


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