Chas Lowenthal, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, William Chadwick, Asst. Dist. Attys., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, O'Brien and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result.
The appellant, Arnold Walley, was tried without a jury, convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and sentenced to not less than one and one-half nor more than ten years imprisonment in connection with the stabbing death of one Frank Jefferson. Following the denial of post-verdict notions, appellant brought this appeal*fn1 challenging only the sufficiency of the Commonwealth's evidence to
establish guilt of voluntary manslaughter. We shall affirm.
When the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a criminal conviction is called into question, the test is "whether, accepting as true all the evidence, together with all reasonable inferences therefrom, upon which the [trier of fact] could properly have based its verdict, such evidence and inferences are sufficient in law to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. Scoggins, 466 Pa. 355, 353 A.2d 392 (1976); Commonwealth v. Green, 464 Pa. 557, 565, 347 A.2d 682, 686 (1975); Commonwealth v. Carbonetto, 455 Pa. 93, 95, 314 A.2d 304, 305 (1975); Commonwealth v. Clark, 454 Pa. 329, 331, 311 A.2d 910, 911 (1973). The evidence is, of course, to be viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the verdict winner. Commonwealth v. Tinsley, 465 Pa. 329, 350 A.2d 791 (1976); Commonwealth v. Cropper, 463 Pa. 529, 345 A.2d 645 (1975); Commonwealth v. Robson, 461 Pa. 615, 337 A.2d 573 (1975). So viewed, the evidence adduced at trial supports the following account of the facts surrounding the killing in question.
Shortly after midnight on April 19, 1974 Frank Jefferson, extremely intoxicated, returned to the home he was then sharing with his paramour, Pauline O'Neal, and her 14 year old son, Dennis. Discovering that Pauline was not at home and suspecting that she might be at appellant's apartment, Jefferson set out to find her, accompanied by Dennis. Jefferson was armed with a hatchet, and at Jefferson's request Dennis was carrying a 1 1/2 foot length of pipe. When they reached their destination, appellant's first floor apartment was dark, without any sign of activity within. Jefferson rang the doorbell, pounded on the front door, and called to Pauline. At one point Pauline's voice was heard briefly, but no further response was forthcoming. Jefferson then broke a front window with the hatchet. A few minutes
later, Walley pointed a revolver out of the broken window and pulled the trigger two or three times in rapid succession, but the gun did not fire. Jefferson attempted to enter the apartment through the broken window, but was repelled when appellant struck him with his own 12 inch length of pipe. Jefferson then moved away from the window, his forehead bleeding, and Dennis offered to take him home. Walley shouted from the apartment that he was coming after Jefferson, whereupon the latter began walking away. True to his threat, Walley armed himself with a knife and left his apartment in pursuit, overtaking Jefferson and the boy in a vacant lot nearby. Jefferson obtained his pipe from Dennis and began swinging it at appellant, who responded by swinging his knife at Jefferson. Jefferson then, while still swinging the pipe, began backing away from appellant. As the victim neared a fence, appellant stabbed him in the chest. Jefferson managed to walk a distance of about one block and then collapsed. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead approximately one hour after arrival, the cause of death being a stab wound in the chest.
In this Court appellant does not dispute that he inflicted the fatal stab wound. Rather, he argues that the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt*fn2 that he was not acting in self defense. See 18 Pa.C.S. § 505.*fn3 As a general rule, "[t]he use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that ...