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COMMONWEALTH v. PITTS (03/16/73)

decided: March 16, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PITTS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1967, No. 518, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Glenn C. Pitts.

COUNSEL

Louis Lipschitz and Perry S. Bechtle, for appellant.

Benjamin H. Levintow and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Justice Nix took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 450 Pa. Page 361]

This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence of life imprisonment imposed by the court after appellant was found guilty by a jury of the first-degree murder of Harriet Washington and appellant's post-trial motions were denied.

Appellant first contends that the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As we have said on many occasions: ". . . the test to be applied in determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether accepting as true all of the evidence, be it direct or circumstantial or both, and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, upon which, if believed, the jury could properly have based its verdict, it is sufficient in law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime of which he has been convicted. Commonwealth v. Rankin, 441 Pa. 401, 272 A.2d 886 (1971)." Commonwealth v. Williams, 443 Pa. 85, 87, 277 A.2d 781 (1971).

The evidence in the instant case, considered in the light of the above-stated standard, was ample to establish the following:

Mrs. Harriet Washington, an eighty-four year old woman, who lived alone, was discovered by her neighbors in a semi-conscious state at or about 7:30 a.m., on June 17, 1967. She never regained consciousness and died on July 4, 1967. The neighbors who found Mrs.

[ 450 Pa. Page 362]

Washington, after hearing groans emanating from her bedroom, stated that they found her on the floor, covered with blood, her dress torn completely down the front. The presence of spermatozoa and the condition of her clothes established that she had been sexually assaulted. Her apartment had been ransacked with bureau drawers pulled out and furniture turned over. Officers noted that the door into the building was locked and there was no evidence of forcible entry. However, another neighbor, who resided across the street from the decedent, noticed a window screen under his car and also noticed that a screen was missing from one of Mrs. Washington's two front windows. He picked up the screen and replaced it in the window. A fingerprint of the appellant was found on the sash of this window. In addition, a number of appellant's associates testified that around midnight he was with a group of youngsters at Eighteenth and Dickinson Streets, approximately one block from the scene of the crime, and that he later left to take Sandra, a friend, to her home. Sandra and her father testified that appellant left their home before 2 a.m. He was next seen by his friend, Robert Mangum, at about 3:45 a.m., and he then had blood on his shirt, which he later changed. Several other of appellant's companions corroborated the fact that appellant changed his shirt. It was also established that he later took the pants he was wearing on the night of the crime to the cleaners.

Another fingerprint of appellant was found on the inside of an inner vestibule door, although appellant told the investigating detectives that he had never entered the premises at 1531 South Cleveland. Brenetta Kearse, a thirteen year old girl, who resided at 1516 South Cleveland Street, placed ...


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