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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ISAAC GRAHAM (05/12/76)

decided: May 12, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ISAAC GRAHAM, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Charles Lowenthal, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Glen Gitomer, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ., join.

Author: O'brien

[ 467 Pa. Page 419]

OPINION

Appellant, Isaac Graham, was tried by a judge sitting with a jury and found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree. Post-trial motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. This appeal followed.

Appellant first argues that the evidence presented by the Commonwealth was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the evidence established the following. Appellant's brother, John Graham, testified for the Commonwealth that on January 24, 1972, appellant and Otis Tate approached John Graham and asked him if he would aid appellant and Tate in the purchase of a handgun. John agreed and drove to the residence of Willie Clinkscales, Jr. in Philadelphia. After some discussion between appellant and Clinkscales, an agreement was reached and a further meeting was arranged in order to transfer possession of the weapon. At this second meeting appellant and Tate paid for the weapon but did not receive it. In an effort to obtain a return of their money John Graham on January 26, 1972 drove appellant and Tate to the Clinkscales residence again but no one was at home. The trio again returned to the Clinkscales home at 1:00 p. m. on January 26, 1972. This time Smith and Clinkscales, the two who were supposed to sell the weapon to appellant, were

[ 467 Pa. Page 420]

    seen walking down the street. At this point appellant and Tate forced Smith and Clinkscales into their automobile and parked in front of the Clinkscales residence. The four then entered the house while appellant's brother, John Graham, remained in the car outside the home. After a short time John Graham entered the home to find Smith and Clinkscales sitting on a couch with Tate pointing a .25 or .32 caliber revolver at them. John Graham stated that Tate accused him of concealing the whereabouts of Smith and Clinkscales and that Tate stated, "I want to blow somebody's . . . head off anyway . . . ." John Graham then told Tate that his car was double parked on the street and that he must move it. John Graham left the residence and did not return. About a week later John stated that he saw appellant at their mother's home and inquired if appellant had heard what had happened to Smith and Clinkscales. Appellant replied, "mind your own business." On January 26, 1972, Pearl Lee Clinkscales, the mother of Willie Clinkscales, returned home at 4:45 p. m. and found Smith and Willie shot to death in the basement of her home with their hands and feet tied behind their backs. A medical examiner testified that he arrived at the Clinkscales' house at approximately 7:35 p. m. that evening and that both victims had been shot with a .25 caliber revolver. Based upon this evidence, the jury found appellant guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree.

In the instant case appellant's conviction was based upon circumstantial evidence which, if believed, was sufficient in law to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. See Commonwealth v. Strand, 464 Pa. 544, 347 A.2d 675 (1975).

Appellant next argues that the district attorney committed reversible error in his summation to the jury. He contends that the district attorney's remarks relating to Otis Tate, appellant's alleged co-conspirator, were inflammatory

[ 467 Pa. Page 421]

    and prejudicial to appellant's cause. The district attorney's remarks referred to statements made by Tate to John Graham during the course of the conspiracy that were admitted into evidence. The district attorney's summation concerned the ...


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