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decided: July 2, 1973.


Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, March T., 1972, No. 77, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Patricia Roots.


Charles Lowenthal, with him Robert S. Robbins, for appellant.

James J. Wilson, Assistant District Attorney, with him James T. Ranney and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Justice Manderino dissents.

Author: O'brien

[ 452 Pa. Page 536]

Appellant, Patricia Roots, was convicted by a jury of the murder of Herman Wells. After the denial of her post-trial motions, appellant was sentenced to an indefinite term not to exceed fifteen years at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy. This appeal followed.

At the trial, the following facts were presented: Officer Philip Boyd of the Philadelphia Police Department found the body of the deceased at 5:12 a.m., on December 31, 1971, in the 200 block of Melville Street. The body was clad in a red shirt. Eight minutes later, Officer Boyd and his partner answered a radio message to meet a complainant at 217 South Melville Street, which was about twenty-five yards from where he had found the body. At that address, the officers found appellant sweeping up glass from the sidewalk. She denied calling the police, but explained that an unknown person had broken the front windows of the apartment house where she lived. Appellant denied having had an argument with anyone, but stated that

[ 452 Pa. Page 537]

    there had been two males upstairs in the building having a party, one of whom had on a red shirt. Appellant then identified the deceased as one of the persons who was at the party. She then was taken by the officers to the police station, where, after being given her Miranda warnings, she gave a written statement in which she denied any involvement in the killing. After the first statement the police secured a warrant for the search of appellant's apartment, where they recovered a kitchen butcher knife. It was stipulated that blood found on the knife matched that of the deceased. The police again warned appellant of her Miranda rights and obtained an eight-page formal statement in which she admitted killing the deceased with the knife, but claimed self-defense. Both statements were admitted into evidence without objection.

In her second statement, appellant gave the following account of the circumstances surrounding the killing:

"A. I met Herman Wells at the Triangle Bar early Friday morning around 1:30 a.m. or 2:00 o'clock. . . . he said he was hungry, and then Herman said I need something, I knew that he meant dope, 'Drugs', I told him that I didn't have any money. . . . then Herman asked me where did I live? I told him to 'come on up, I didn't have to tell him I could show him', I ask him did he knew where the Brierhurst Hotel is? I live right across from there Herman said 'that's easy pickings Hotel' I told him if he was going to rob something he may as well rob a bank, then we left the bar and walked up to my house, when we got there I fixed him a sandwich and gave him a glass of tomato juice. . . . then Kenneth Shepperson, my boyfriend, . . . come in and . . . Herman started to talking about the Brierhurst Hotel again he said 'I need the money to get a fix and I'm going to rob the Brierhurst Hotel, who is for it?' Kenneth said 'why dont you strighten up'? I told him

[ 452 Pa. Page 538]

    that he sure was dumb, then Kenneth left. . . . after Kenneth left I told Herman he had better leave too, he took a brown paper bag and put the rest of his sandwich in it, I told him I was going over to the brierhurst hotel to get a pack of cigarettes but he left before I did about a couple of minutes after he left I went to the Hotel when I walked in Herman was standing in front of the desk. two men got off the elevator and they were walking toward the door, and both of them said how you doing blue,? Herman waved to them and they went out the front door I went over to the cigarette machine by the side of the desk that's when I heard Herman tell the man at the desk, I dont want to hurt anybody, 'give me your money' I came back from beside the cigarette machine and there was no body in the place except me Herman the man at the desk and the dog, Herman said, 'dont nobody move, for about four or five minutes and that include you' I stood still, the man at the desk was on the floor then Herman ran out but before he ran out the man gave him the money out of the cash register after Herman ran out I waited a couple of seconds and I ran behind him when I got out side and did'nt see anybody except the two Men who got off the elevator they was coming back up towards the ...

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