Joseph R. Danella, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., Eagen and O'Brien, JJ., concur in the result.
Appellant was convicted in a non-jury trial of voluntary manslaughter for the death by stabbing of one Rodney Fields. After his post-trial motions were denied, appellant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one to ten years in a state correctional institution. This direct appeal followed.
As verdict winner, the Commonwealth is entitled to have the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to it. Commonwealth v. Long, 460 Pa. 461, 463, 333 A.2d 865, 866 (1975); Commonwealth v. Rife, 454 Pa. 506, 509, 312 A.2d 406 (1973); Commonwealth v. Rankin, 441 Pa. 401, 404, 272 A.2d 886 (1971). So viewed, the evidence established the following: On the evening of September 18, 1973, Albert Cropper, the appellant, entered the Star Bar in the City of Philadelphia in the company of Rodney Fields and one Harlem Brown. The three were old friends and had been shooting dice outside
the bar, Fields being the loser. As they came into the bar Cropper and Brown were kidding Fields about having lost. After a few minutes Fields became upset, apparently because he felt that the others had unfairly stopped gambling while they were ahead of him in winnings. When Cropper refused to buy him a drink, Fields suggested that they gamble some more. The others acquiesced and the trio left the barroom.
Returning to the bar a short while later, Brown and Cropper again joked with Fields about his losses. Fields again became angry and punched Brown in the lip; Brown's reaction was merely to laugh because, as he testified at trial, "I knew the man." Still angry, Fields again swung at Brown. This time Brown ducked, shoved Fields out of the way and headed for the door. Fields then became abusive towards Cropper and shouted at him, "If you even speak to me tomorrow I am going to kill you." As if to punctuate his irritation, Fields grabbed a bar stool in one hand and shook it at appellant. Cropper, in turn, picked up another stool so as to be able to joust with Fields. After a standoff with the stools, both men dropped them and took to fighting.
As they were tussling on the floor, Cropper was overheard by the bartender to exclaim, "I got something for you bad ass." Soon afterwards the appellant drew a knife from his pocket and with it stabbed Fields at least four times. Although appellant and another witness testified that earlier on the day of the stabbing they had observed the victim paring his fingernails with a knife, at no time during the fatal struggle did Cropper or anyone else observe Fields with a knife drawn.
Following the stabbing, appellant fled the Star Bar and tossed away the knife he had used. When later the same night he learned that Rodney Fields had died, he surrendered himself to the police. ...