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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EDWARD CARL MOYER (03/17/76)

decided: March 17, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
EDWARD CARL MOYER, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

William H. Pugh, IV, Norristown, for appellant.

Milton O. Moss, Dist. Atty., William T. Nicholas, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Stewart J. Greenleaf, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Barry M. Miller, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, J., concurs in the result. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Jones, C. J., joins.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 466 Pa. Page 466]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree for the death by stabbing of his nine year old brother. After the denial of his post-verdict motions, Moyer was committed for life to the Farview State Hospital in lieu of sentence, pursuant to section 410 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966.*fn1 This direct appeal followed.*fn2

The evidence at trial established that on the morning of May 15, 1973, at approximately 7:00 a. m., Moyer, then nineteen years of age and living away from home, broke into the home of his parents in Stowe, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.*fn3 Neither of his parents was home at that time; the only person in the house was Moyer's nine year old brother, Harry, who was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. Moyer entered the kitchen of the house, removed a large butcher knife from a drawer and proceeded upstairs to his brother's bedroom. There he repeatedly stabbed his brother in the stomach and

[ 466 Pa. Page 467]

    chest areas. A wound to the heart proved fatal. Appellant fled to his Pottstown rooming house where he was arrested a short time later. Upon questioning by the police, Moyer admitted that he had killed his brother.

At trial Moyer's defense was one of insanity. He produced psychiatric testimony to the effect that at the time of the killing, due to mental disturbance, he did not know the quality of his act or that it was wrong. This testimony thus met both parts of the M'Naghten test for insanity. Commonwealth v. Demmitt, 456 Pa. 475, 481, 321 A.2d 627, 631 (1974). In connection with his insanity defense the appellant submitted the following point for charge: "The Commonwealth has the burden of proving the defendant's sanity beyond a reasonable doubt." The trial court refused to charge as requested,*fn4 and instead instructed the jury that the defendant bore the burden of proving his insanity by a preponderance of the evidence. While this was the law at that time,*fn5 it is so no longer. Commonwealth v. Williams, 463 Pa. 370, 344 A.2d 877 (1975); Commonwealth v. Cropper, 463 Pa. 529, 345 A.2d 645 (1975); Commonwealth v. Simms, 462 Pa. 26, 333 A.2d 477 (1975); Commonwealth v. Vogel, 458 Pa. 200, 321 A.2d 633 (1974); Commonwealth v. Rose, 457 Pa. 380, 321 A.2d 880 (1974); Commonwealth v. Demmitt, supra.

In Commonwealth v. Demmitt, we made it clear that where, as here, there is evidence in the case sufficient to raise the issue of insanity, the burden is then upon the Commonwealth to establish the defendant's sanity beyond a reasonable doubt. This is so because, as we stated in Commonwealth v. Rose, supra, "[i]n any criminal prosecution, the Commonwealth has an unshifting

[ 466 Pa. Page 468]

    burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of the crime. . . . [T]he defendant has no burden of persuasion." 457 Pa. at 389, 321 A.2d at 884. The refusal to charge as requested by appellant was thus ...


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