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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLES GARRISON (09/27/76)

decided: September 27, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CHARLES GARRISON, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, of Philadelphia County at Nos. 232, 233, and 235 January Term, 1974. NO. 1763 OCTOBER TERM, 1975

COUNSEL

James J. DeMarco, Philadelphia, (Court Appointed), for appellant.

Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 512]

The appellant, Charles Garrison, was tried by a jury and found guilty of charges of arson endangering persons, burglary and conspiracy. Following post-trial motions and sentencing, he filed this direct appeal with our Court.

The charges arose out of a series of incidents wherein the appellant was involved in a heinous series of acts calculated to terrorize a female acquaintance and her roommate. These acts included the burglary of their premises, setting of a fire at their door which fortunately expired before it could consume the whole apartment house in which they resided, and personal threats of violence towards both women both before and after the arson. Appellant acted with the aid of others in some of these escapades.

On this appeal, several claims of error are raised. The appellant first contends that the trial judge committed several errors in his charge to the jury.*fn1 It is argued, inter alia, that the trial court erred by incorrectly charging the jurors on the element of recklessness in the arson crimes charged and by unfairly commenting upon the evidence presented. Neither of these allegations of error were raised at trial at the conclusion of the

[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 513]

    charge. While some specific claims of error were brought to the court's attention by defense counsel, his general exception to the charge does not adequately preserve the questions discussed above for appellate review and must be deemed to have been waived. See Rule 1119(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure; Commonwealth v. Carbonetto, 455 Pa. 93, 314 A.2d 304 (1974); Commonwealth v. Riddick, 232 Pa. Super. 333, 334 A.2d 705 (1975).

Appellant raises other contentions concerning the jury charge which were preserved by appropriate specific objection at the conclusion of the charge and by inclusion in post-trial motions. Appellant's claim that the charge incorrectly explained the reasonable doubt standard to the jury is completely devoid of merit. Our review of the charge reveals that the explanation of that standard by the trial judge was clear, correct and in compliance with a multitude of appellate decisions.

The appellant also argues that the lower court incorrectly defined the requisite elements necessary to prove the arson charge. It is claimed by appellant that the Commonwealth had to prove the burning of a building and not a mere scorching or discoloration. The relevant law, prior to 1973, was contained in 18 P.S. § 4905, which defined arsonist as one who ". . . sets fire to or burns . . . any dwelling house." However, the present Crimes Code, applicable in the instant prosecution, provides guilt for one who ". . . starts a fire or causes an explosion." See 18 Pa.C.S. § 3301, effective June 6, 1973, While appellant cites cases dating back to the early eighteenth century to support his rationale, his contentions clearly lack merit under ...


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