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COMMONWEALTH v. PRIDE (03/16/73)

decided: March 16, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PRIDE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1971, No. 471, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Richard Allen Pride.

COUNSEL

Edward K. Nichols, Jr., for appellant.

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

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

Author: Eagen

[ 450 Pa. Page 558]

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed upon Richard Allen Pride following his conviction of voluntary manslaughter in a non-jury trial.

[ 450 Pa. Page 559]

The prosecution emanated from the fatal shooting of one Leroy Smith. That Pride shot Smith is not disputed, but it is argued the record is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain the conviction, because the trial testimony established the shooting was in self-defense.

It is true the Commonwealth has the burden of proving a felonious homicide beyond a reasonable doubt before the accused may be convicted of even voluntary manslaughter, and if the Commonwealth's own evidence establishes the killing was either justifiable or excusable it has failed in this burden. Commonwealth v. Vassar, 370 Pa. 551, 88 A.2d 725 (1952); and, Commonwealth v. Flax, 331 Pa. 145, 200 A. 632 (1938). However, the record must be read in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth (Commonwealth v. Wrona, 442 Pa. 201, 275 A.2d 78 (1971)), and when the instant record is so read, we have no difficulty in concluding the Commonwealth's evidence did not establish a killing in self-defense.

In order for a killing to be excusable on the ground of self-defense, the slayer must, inter alia, reasonably believe he is in imminent danger of death, great bodily harm or some felony, and that there is a necessity to kill in order to save himself therefrom. Commonwealth v. Johnston, 438 Pa. 485, 263 A.2d 376 (1970). If such a belief exists, but is not reasonable, the killing is manslaughter and is not excusable. Commonwealth v. Miller, 313 Pa. 567, 170 A. 128 (1934).

As part of the Commonwealth's case, an extra-judicial statement signed by Pride (the admissibility of this statement was not challenged in the trial court, nor is it questioned here) was admitted in evidence wherein he described the occurrence in the following manner.

About 8 p.m., on April 28, 1971, the decedent, Leroy Smith, was a customer in ...


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