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COMMONWEALTH v. SPELLER (10/12/71)

decided: October 12, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SPELLER, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Dec. T., 1948, No. 1, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Mack Clinton Speller.

COUNSEL

John W. Packel, Assistant Defender, with him Donald K. Stern, Assistant Defender, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellant.

Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, with him James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 445 Pa. Page 33]

This appeal challenges the validity of the judgment of sentence of life imprisonment imposed on the appellant, Mack Clinton Speller, on December 1, 1949, following his conviction by a jury of murder in the first degree.*fn1

An examination of the trial record manifests adequate evidence to sustain the jury's verdict, and this is not disputed on appeal. From the testimony of the Commonwealth witnesses, the jury could find the following facts.

On October 31, 1948, Speller was a guest at a halloween party in an apartment residence of Norman Edwards in Philadelphia. While Edwards and a Mrs. Saunders, another guest at the party, were talking in one of the rear rooms of the apartment, Speller entered the room, quickly pulled a .32 calibre automatic pistol from an inside coat pocket, pointed it at the head of Edwards and pulled the trigger. A bullet pierced the left frontal area of the skull at the hairline fracturing the cranium bone. Edwards was taken

[ 445 Pa. Page 34]

    to a hospital almost immediately, where he died from the bullet wound eight days later. Speller fled the scene after the shooting and left Pennsylvania. Efforts by the police to locate him failed. Speller voluntarily surrendered to the police in Philadelphia on March 6, 1949.

During the trial of the case, Speller admitted the shooting but said it was unintentional. He stated the gun discharged accidentally as he was exhibiting it to Edwards.

At trial, witnesses testified, over objection, that within a short time after Edwards entered the hospital, he said, "Big Mack shot me." This is assigned as error. We disagree.

Before this challenged testimony was admitted, the doctor, who administered emergency aid to Edwards when he entered the hospital, described his "critical" condition, the nature of the wound and stated that Edwards was then "in imminent danger of death." Under the ...


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