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COMMONWEALTH v. MENNYWEATHER (10/16/74)

decided: October 16, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MENNYWEATHER, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, March T., 1971, No. 44, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Ronald Mennyweather.

COUNSEL

William J. Brady, Jr., for appellant.

Benjamin H. Levintow, 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.

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

Author: Manderino

[ 458 Pa. Page 13]

The appellant, Ronald Mennyweather, was tried for the murder of one Willie Frieson. A jury returned a verdict of first degree murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Post-verdict motions were denied and this appeal followed.

The prosecution has accurately summarized the facts contained in the record. About 12:30 a.m., January 15, 1971, a witness, James Johnson, entered a bar located on Seventh Street, a few doors south of Berks Street, in the City of Philadelphia. He observed appellant, Ronald Mennyweather, sometimes known as "Pompey" seated at the bar together with one Robert Jefferson, also known as "Butch" (a co-defendant, also indicted for murder and tried separately). Johnson also seated himself at the bar. About 12:45 a.m., the deceased, Willie Frieson, entered the bar and seated himself near the witness. The witness, Johnson, later had occasion to go to the men's room. When he came back to the bar he observed that appellant was holding a gun in his hand. Johnson walked around the other side of the bar and sat down next to the deceased. Shortly before 2:00 a.m., Johnson and the deceased left

[ 458 Pa. Page 14]

    the bar and walked south on Seventh Street toward Montgomery Avenue (one block south of Berks Street). Appellant and his companion, Jefferson, followed them. Appellant called out to the deceased "come here." The deceased left the witness standing at Seventh Street and Montgomery Avenue and walked back to the other two. There was some talking among them which the witness could not distinguish; appellant was waving a gun in deceased's face. The witness was directed by someone to "go ahead"; he was unable to recall who told him to go. Johnson "left," and went home.

Several other persons who were patrons of the bar that night also testified. Rebecca Hodges observed appellant and Jefferson seated at the bar, she saw James Johnson enter and saw the deceased enter later; appellant left the bar for about ten minutes and returned; Jefferson inquired, "Did you get what I asked you?"; appellant handed Jefferson a gun. Rebecca Hodges feared trouble, left and went across the street to a house and looked out from a second story window. She saw Johnson and the deceased leave the bar; shortly thereafter, appellant and Jefferson followed them; the two groups spoke to each other; appellant, Jefferson and the deceased turned the corner of Montgomery Avenue and went east toward Marshall Street; the witness then heard three shots fired; the police cars arrived momentarily.

Another patron, Romaine Leggett, corroborated the earlier occurrences; she also observed that when the appellant returned to the bar after having left for a short period he had changed his outer garments; instead of a knee-length cashmere coat he wore a waist size leather coat. Another witness, Ola Mae Cyrus who lived on Marshall Street, a short distance from where deceased's body was subsequently found, heard, at about the time of the incident, two or three gun shots. Police, who responded to a radio call reporting a shooting

[ 458 Pa. Page 15]

    in the 1800 block of Marshall Street searched the area but did not find the body; they did not cover the alley ...


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