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COMMONWEALTH v. RUSSELL (07/01/74)

decided: July 1, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RUSSELL, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgments of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, April T., 1970, Nos. 676 to 679, inclusive, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Russell.

COUNSEL

Harry J. Greenstein, for appellant.

Mark Sendrow, Assistant District Attorney, with him David Richman, 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 Eagen. Mr. Justice Pomeroy concurs in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 456 Pa. Page 560]

William Russell was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree, aggravated robbery, burglary and conspiracy. Post-trial motions were denied, and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on the murder conviction as the jury directed in its verdict. Additional prison sentences were imposed on each of the other convictions. Russell filed this one appeal.*fn1

[ 456 Pa. Page 561]

The record discloses the following.

On October 17, 1968, John Seely and Adolph Schwartz entered the home of Dr. Frank Washick in Philadelphia with the intent to rob. Unbeknown to the felons, Mrs. Washick succeeded in phoning the police who arrived on the scene while the robbery was still in progress. One of the officers entered the residence through a rear door and was immediately fatally shot by Seely. In gunfire that followed, Seely was killed by one of the other police officers. Moments later, Schwartz surrendered after being discovered armed and hiding in an upstairs closet.*fn2

In subsequent investigation, the police garnered evidence which indicated that the appellant Russell was the "mastermind" of the robbery. While Russell was not on the scene, this evidence established it was he who selected the house to be robbed, formulated the plan to be followed and recruited Seely and Schwartz to commit the crimes. He was also to share in the loot. His arrest and indictment on the charges here involved followed.

The trial testimony was very much in conflict as to Russell's involvement in the robbery. The Commonwealth called Joseph Grissell and Mary Roth, two individuals not involved directly, but who testified Russell was the "mastermind" of the plan. The defense called Adolph Schwartz, the captured robber, who testified

[ 456 Pa. Page 562]

Russell in no way participated in the robbery. Michael Borschell was called as a Commonwealth witness, apparently to testify to Russell's involvement, but upon taking the witness stand he testified Russell was not connected with the crimes.*fn3 The jury's ...


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