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decided: March 17, 1976.



Daniel M. Rendine, 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.

Author: Nix

[ 466 Pa. Page 502]


Appellant, James H. Hicks, after trial by jury, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the death of one Cullen Turner. Post-verdict motions were filed, argued and dismissed. Thereafter, in accordance with recommendations of physicians who examined appellant, the trial judge committed Mr. Hicks to the Farview State Hospital for a term not to exceed six years pursuant to the Mental Health Act, 1966, Special Session No. 3, Oct. 20, P.L. 96, art. IV, § 410, 50 P.S. § 4410 (Supp. 1975-76). Commonwealth v. Barnes, 448 Pa. 299, 292 A.2d 348 (1972). This direct appeal followed.*fn1

Appellant has raised two allegations of error. Because we find them to be without merit we affirm the judgment of sentence. The facts are not in dispute and reveal that at approximately 9:30 A.M. on November 14, 1972 at Philadelphia, police officers were summoned to 1541 Thompson Street, an apartment house, by Mr. Herbert Chuly and Miss Sally Davis, neighbors of the decedent. The officers responding to the call observed that Cullen Turner was sitting in an upright position on a cot, his body was rigid and showed no signs of life. The police officers observed bruises and dried blood about the decedent's head and body. A three foot long wooden banister rung was found near the body on the floor. The witnesses testified that on this piece of wood there was a substance which appeared to be dried blood.

While the officers were waiting for further assistance from members of the Homicide Division, the front doorbell rang. A detective at the scene told the visitor, James Hicks, that due to a police investigation, no one

[ 466 Pa. Page 503]

    could enter the building. Appellant insisted that he wanted to retrieve a radio he had left in the apartment the day before. He told the detective he knew the man in the second floor apartment had it and had given that individual "a few licks" because he would not return it. At that point, the detective stopped the conversation, arrested James Hicks and informed appellant he would have to go to the Homicide Division. Appellant was transported to the Police Administration Building and at 11:50 A.M. warned of his constitutional rights. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Appellant indicated he understood his rights and was willing to tell the officers what happened. Thereupon, appellant amplified his prior admissions by stating that when the decedent refused to give him the radio, appellant hit him several times about the head and body with a stick and his fists. This beating occurred the previous afternoon.

Appellant now asserts that the evidence of causation was not sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain his criminal responsibility for the death of Cullen Turner. We do not agree. Dr. Halbert Fillinger, Assistant Medical Examiner, testifying for the Commonwealth, described the decedent's lacerations and contusions of the head, face and legs and the fracture of one rib. Dr. Fillinger stated that Mr. Turner, age 61, had severe emphysema and arteriosclerosis. He concluded, based on his personal examination of the deceased, that the multiplicity of blows complicated a pre-existing heart condition causing death. The witness opined that Mr. Turner had been dead approximately 18 hours when examined. This finding was consistent with the appellant's statement as to when the blows were administered by him and would indicate that it was as a result of the injuries sustained during that altercation from which the death ultimately resulted.

[ 466 Pa. Page 504]

Dr. Victor Digilio, a doctor of internal medicine, specializing in cardiovascular diseases, testified on behalf of the defendant. He stated that in his belief, the sudden cardiac arrest was due solely to the coronary disease and from the effects of the significant level of alcohol in the decedent's system. His opinion was based exclusively on his reading of the post-mortem examination report prepared by Dr. Fillinger. Dr. Digilio questioned the conclusions reached by Dr. Fillinger as to the time of ...

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