John W. Thompson, Jr., Shoemaker & Thompson, York, for appellant.
Donald L. Reihart, Dist. Atty., York, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Nix, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Manderino, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Appellant, James H. Padgett, was tried by a judge sitting with a jury and found guilty of murder in the first
degree. Post-trial motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. A direct appeal was taken to this court and the case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine if appellant was denied effective assistance of counsel at trial. After the evidentiary hearing on this issue, appellant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was denied by the court below. Thereafter, this appeal was filed in which appellant raises allegations of error concerning his conviction and the ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
The facts surrounding this appeal are as follows. On October 14, 1972 at or about 12:25 a. m., the decedent, Rita Jo Murray, was taken to York Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. The decedent was taken to the hospital by appellant and a passerby whom appellant had stopped and asked for help. At the hospital, appellant told police officers that the decedent was "his woman" and that she had been shot. At approximately 1:00 a. m. on the same day, appellant appeared at police headquarters and stated that he was the person who shot the decedent and handed the police a gun.
At trial, appellant took the witness stand in his own behalf and stated that the shooting had been accidental and that he simply pointed the gun at the decedent, at a distance of six feet from her, in fun, not knowing it was loaded. Moreover, he stated that at the time of the shooting he was "high" from drugs or alcohol. However, on cross-examination appellant stated that he was not completely under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition, he stated that he had shot the gun on the day of the homicide, but was not sure whether he emptied the gun before the shooting of the decedent.
Appellant first argues that the evidence as produced by the Commonwealth was insufficient to support a verdict of murder in the first degree. Appellant premises this argument on the fact that while a deadly weapon was used in the instant case, it was not fired at a
vital organ. Appellant contends that since the shot entered the decedent's arm, and only by fiat proceeded through the heart, the inference of specific intent to kill, which is needed to sustain a conviction of murder in the first degree, is negated. While agreeing with appellant's definition of what is needed to sustain a conviction of murder in the first degree, we are not persuaded that it must be shown that the bullet fired from a revolver, a deadly weapon, initially entered a vital organ before the inference of specific intent to kill can arise. The firing of a bullet in the general area in which vital organs are ...