Michael M. Mamula, Butler, for appellant in No. 1.
Robert E. Pryde, Kittanning, for appellant in No. 2.
Joseph A. Nickleach, Dist. Atty., Kittanning, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, J., concurs in the result. Roberts, J., files a concurring opinion. Manderino, J., dissents.
Appellants, Franklin Duane Crawford and Nancy Elaine Young, were tried by a judge and jury and found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Thomas Young, Jr., age two and one-half years, the son of Thomas Young, Sr. and appellant Nancy Elaine Young. Appellants' post-trial motions were denied, and they were sentenced. These appeals followed.*fn1
Appellants first argue that the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to establish the corpus delicti of the crime of voluntary manslaughter. We do not agree. The Commonwealth's pathologist, Dr. Miller, who performed the autopsy on the victim, testified that the infant's death was caused by a severe fracture of the skull and internal hemorrhaging. Dr. Miller further testified that, in his opinion, the skull fracture was caused by a blunt instrument. On cross-examination, the doctor was asked if the injury could have been caused by the child's being hit with an automobile bumper. He answered it was possible, but that if an automobile had struck the child, there would have been areas of trauma other than the single area of the victim's skull. He further testified that, because of the pressure needed to cause such a fracture as was found in the victim's skull, it was not likely that the victim had fallen or struck his head on a stone or other hard substance. Moreover, the Commonwealth's witness testified that there was a search of the area in which the infant's body was found and there were no objects discovered that would be the type to cause the fracture, even if the infant had fallen from the top of an enbankment near where the body was
found. This proof was necessary to eliminate the pathologist's testimony on cross-examination that if the child had fallen on a hard object, from a sufficient height, the fracture could have resulted. Finally, the child's body was found some six-tenths of a mile from his home, which by the shortest route, would have required the two and one-half year old infant to cross two bridges.
Under these facts, we are of the opinion that the Commonwealth, by means of circumstantial evidence, has established that the infant died as a result of criminal means. In Commonwealth v. May, 451 Pa. 31, 301 A.2d 368 (1973), we stated:
"It has long been the law of this Commonwealth that the prosecution has no duty to affirmatively exclude the possibility of accident or suicide in order to establish the corpus delicti. Commonwealth v. Ross, 403 Pa. 358, 169 A.2d 780 (1961); Commonwealth v. Bishop, 285 Pa. 49, 131 A. 657 (1926); Commonwealth v. Puglise, 276 Pa. 235, 120 A. 401 (1923). Such a requirement would, in effect, require the Commonwealth to exclude every possibility of doubt that death was caused by criminal agency.
"In Commonwealth v. Boykin, 450 Pa. 25, 298 A.2d 258 (1972) . . ., the court held that the Commonwealth was merely required to establish that the death ...