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COMMONWEALTH v. WRIGHT (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WRIGHT, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Aug. T., 1970, Nos. 1242 and 1243, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Russell Wright.

COUNSEL

Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr., with him Zack, Myers and Atkinson, for appellant.

Louis A. Perez, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton M. Stein, Assistant 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, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 455 Pa. Page 481]

At about 3 o'clock on the morning of March 14, 1970, Lorraine Miles, a thirteen year old girl, was seen standing on the outside ledge of a fourth story window of a Philadelphia apartment house. She was calling for her brother, David. Russell Wright, the appellant, then 26 years old, was observed leaning from an adjacent window, swinging his arms towards Lorraine. Lorraine lost her balance and fell to her death.

Wright promptly left the scene of the tragedy and the jurisdiction. He was apprehended in New York City nearly two months later. He was charged and

[ 455 Pa. Page 482]

    ultimately convicted by a jury of assault with intent to ravish and of murder in the first degree. Post-trial motions were denied, and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder charge, sentence on the other charge being suspended. This appeal followed.*fn1

Viewing the testimony, as we must, most favorably to the Commonwealth,*fn2 the following facts appear. The apartment from the window of which Lorraine Miles fell was occupied by her and the other members of the Miles family. On the night in question, the only persons in the apartment were the decedent and six younger children: her sisters, Pamela, age 11; Carol, age 8; and Wilhelmina, age 4; her brother, Maurice David ("David"), age 12; and her cousins, Sonia, age 3 and Curtis Osborne, age 12. No adult was present. For several weeks prior to this occurrence, Russell Wright had also been staying in the apartment, sleeping on a couch in the living room. The other children slept in the bedroom.

On the night in question, Lorraine and the other younger children had had an argument, as a result of which Lorraine left the bedroom and entered the living room, which was then empty, and began to knit. Soon thereafter, Russell Wright came into the apartment from the outside. He reprimanded the children for not being in bed, and then ordered Lorraine to take off her clothes and get into bed with him. Lorraine refused, and Wright slapped her, repeating his demand. At this point, the three older children, David, Pamela and Curtis, in the fear that Wright was about to rape Lorraine, tried to enter the living room, but found the door locked. Thinking to telephone the police, the three children ran

[ 455 Pa. Page 483]

    down the outside fire escape, which could be reached from the bedroom window, only to find that they lacked the coins to make the call. It was as they returned to the apartment building that they saw Lorraine on the window ledge, and witnessed her fall. They could not be certain whether the swinging motions which Wright was making with his ...


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