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COMMONWEALTH v. EDWARDS (06/28/72)

decided: June 28, 1972.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
EDWARDS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, March T., 1971, No. 178, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Edwards.

COUNSEL

Nelson Romisher, for appellant.

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

Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy. Mr. Justice Eagen dissents. The former Mr. Chief Justice Bell and the former Mr. Justice Barbieri took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 448 Pa. Page 80]

On Saturday, February 6, 1971, at approximately 7:20 P.M., Willie Ray Pierce was shot and killed in the dwelling house located at 1924 N. 8th Street, Philadelphia. Charles Edwards, the appellant, was indicted on four bills charging murder, voluntary manslaughter,

[ 448 Pa. Page 81]

    involuntary manslaughter, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. A non-jury trial resulted in a verdict of voluntary manslaughter. Following the denial of post-trial motions, appellant was sentenced to imprisonment at the State Correctional Institute for a period of one to five years. This appeal followed. The sole issue is whether the evidence supports the finding of voluntary manslaughter or whether, on the contrary, it establishes that the shooting of Pierce was an act of self defense.

The evidence showed that appellant, who was separated from his wife, and Margaret Pierce, estranged wife of the deceased, had met in South Carolina and there entered into a meretricious relationship. Early in 1971, they moved with Margaret's children to Philadelphia and took up residence at 1924 N. 8th Street in a single family dwelling owned by appellant's sister, Mrs. Rutha Schofield, who herself lived at another address. Appellant rented sleeping quarters on the third floor of this building, and had free use of the entire house, including the bathrooms on the first and second floors. Appellant was employed at a gasoline service station where from midnight until eight o'clock in the morning he was the sole attendant.

According to undisputed testimony, Willie Ray Pierce had left his home in South Carolina to come to Philadelphia to confront appellant and recover his family. He learned from Mrs. Schofield, through a ruse not here important, where Edwards was living, and proceeded to the 8th Street address. In front of the house he encountered and spoke to his young daughter, who commenced to cry. At this point Pierce's wife, Margaret, looked out an upstairs window, and seeing her husband, closed the window and pulled the blind. Pierce then entered the house, and the fatal confrontation with Edwards ensued.

[ 448 Pa. Page 82]

The Commonwealth's evidence of the quarrel was supplied by one Bertha Isaac, appellant's niece (daughter of Rutha Schofield) and a signed statement made by appellant after his arrest. Miss Isaac was in the basement when the altercation began. Hearing noises, she immediately went upstairs to investigate and found appellant and the deceased fighting on the second floor landing. According to her account, appellant's head was being battered against the wall, while he was struggling to get away.*fn1 Edwards succeeded in this effort momentarily, whereupon Pierce glanced at Bertha Isaac and she ordered him to leave; instead, he renewed the fight. At this point, according to Miss Isaac, the appellant pulled his gun and fired the fatal shot from point-blank range.

Appellant's signed statement does not vary from the testimony of Bertha Isaac in any material respect. His explanation for carrying the gun, purchased the year before in South Carolina, was that he had left it in his trousers pocket that morning after returning from ...


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