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COMMONWEALTH v. RIFE (11/26/73)

decided: November 26, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RIFE, APPELLANT. COMMONWEALTH V. HUGHES, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgments of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Adams County, July T., 1971, Nos. 58, 59, 62, and 63, in cases of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Hillen G. Rife; Same v. Larry Eugene Hughes.

COUNSEL

Gerald Alch, with him John A. Daly, John R. Truman, and Ronald J. Hagarman, for appellants.

Oscar F. Spicer, for Commonwealth, appellee.

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

Author: Pomeroy

[ 454 Pa. Page 508]

On March 26, 1971 appellants, Hillen G. Rife and Larry Hughes, and four co-defendants below were engaged in a fight in Abbottstown, Adams County, Pennsylvania with Paul Shoemaker and Austin Shoemaker, two brothers, and one Laverne Legore. The Shoemakers sustained injuries in the affray, and Legore was killed by a severe blow to the chest. Following a trial without jury, appellants were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter with respect to Legore and of aggravated assault and battery with respect to Paul and Austin Shoemaker. Each was sentenced to concurrent terms of 1 1/2 to 7 years on the manslaughter charge and 6 to 12 months on the assault and battery charge. These appeals followed.*fn1

[ 454 Pa. Page 509]

I.

Appellants first contend that the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to establish their guilt of manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. As we said in Commonwealth v. Cimaszewski, 447 Pa. 141, 143, 288 A.2d 805 (1972): "It is axiomatic that where the prosecution has won the verdict at trial, appellate courts are bound to review the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth together with all reasonable inferences flowing therefrom. Commonwealth v. Miller, 445 Pa. 282, 284 A.2d 739 (1971); Commonwealth v. Ewing, 439 Pa. 88, 264 A.2d 661 (1970)."

The evidence in the instant case, considered in light of the above standard, was sufficient for the court to have found the following facts.*fn2 Following a disturbance in the Hofbrauhaus, a bar in Abbottstown, the defendants left at closing time and the Shoemakers and Legore followed. In the street in front of the bar a commotion took place among members of the Shoemaker group and the defendants in which some shoving and threats were exchanged, the defendants participating in varying degrees. The defendants then went to their automobiles and began to drive away. As the cars

[ 454 Pa. Page 510]

    passed the Hofbrauhaus entrance, the Shoemaker brothers kicked at them. Further up the street the defendants stopped their cars and alighted, pursued by the Shoemakers. Shots were fired at the Shoemakers as they approached. A fight then occurred in which all six defendants participated, the two appellants playing principal roles. The Shoemaker brothers were knocked down, whereupon Legore entered the affray with a weapon, a mason's long level, with which he struck Larry Hughes. In the fighting both Shoemakers were felled to the ground, Paul being rendered unconscious; Legore was killed by a blow to the chest from the level. According to their own testimony, both appellants engaged in the struggle with Legore. Appellant Hughes had called to appellant Rife for help when struck by Legore with the level. Rife came to Hughes' aid and together they fought with Legore. Despite their denials that either one struck the deceased with the level, there was ample testimony from which the trial court could infer that one or the other of the appellants had struck the fatal blow.

There was sufficient evidence of shared criminal intent and activity to find that appellants were accomplices, and they may, therefore, be held responsible for one another's acts and those of their co-defendants. Commonwealth v. Coyle, 415 Pa. 379, 203 A.2d 782 (1964); Commonwealth v. Lowry, 374 Pa. 594, 600, 98 A.2d 733, 736 (1953) cert. denied, 347 U.S. 914 (1954); Commonwealth v. Thomas, 357 Pa. 68, 72, 53 A.2d 112, 114 (1947); Commonwealth v. Strantz, 328 Pa. 33, 40, 195 A. 75, 79 (1937); Cf. Commonwealth v. Wilson, 449 Pa. 235 (1972). As we said in Commonwealth v. Strantz, supra ; "If one aids and abets in the commission of a crime, he is guilty as a principal. ...


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