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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PAUL BLACKWELL (09/27/76)

decided: September 27, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
PAUL BLACKWELL, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, of Philadelphia County, Imposed on Indictment Nos. 1911-1912, October Sessions, 1974. No. 1794 October Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

David Rudovsky (Court Appointed), Philadelphia, 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. Hoffman and Spaeth, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Cercone

[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 368]

Appellant, Paul Blackwell, was arrested and indicted on a murder charge involving the stabbing death of one Wade Ford on the night of September 27, 1974. Appellant was also indicted on an assault charge concerning a stabbing occurring on that same night of one Charles Hopson. Appellant was found not guilty on the murder charge, but was found guilty of the assault charge and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of nine months to five years. This appeal followed.

The essential facts relating to the appeal on this assault charge are based primarily on the testimony of the victim, Charles Hopson, age eighteen. On the night in question, at approximately 11:00 P.M., Charles Hopson was walking in the company of Wade Ford and Michael Shillwell, on Fortieth Street near Warren Street, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hopson stated to his two companions at that time that he was going home. As Hopson left, Wade Ford and Michael Shillwell continued on to the intersection of Fortieth and Warren Streets. When Hopson crossed Fortieth Street, appellant approached and asked Hopson if he remembered him. Appellant told Hopson that he would teach Hopson "not to say nothing to Aspen Street no more." After words were exchanged between Hopson and appellant, appellant stabbed Hopson several times in the shoulder, chest and side. Hopson ran from the scene, collapsed, and awoke in Presbyterian Hospital. (Other witnesses testified that Wade Ford then chased appellant, which led to an ensuing fight between Ford and appellant, resulting in Ford's death.)

At appellant's trial, without a jury, it was established that Hopson had known the appellant for about eighteen months, as appellant and Hopson were members of rival

[ 242 Pa. Super. Page 369]

    gangs in West Philadelphia and had fought with each other on prior occasions.

Appellant's sole contention is that it was error to permit testimony with respect to appellant's gang membership. This contention is without merit.

Appellant's argument is based upon the general rule that evidence of prior criminal conduct or bad character is inadmissible against a defendant in a criminal trial. Commonwealth v. Fortune, 464 Pa. 367, 346 A.2d 783 (1975); Commonwealth v. Peterson, 453 Pa. 187, 307 A.2d 264 (1973). We would also accept appellant's statement that the general rule has been expanded to exclude certain evidence from which that prior criminal conduct or bad character could be reasonably inferred. Commonwealth v. Allen, 448 Pa. 177, 292 A.2d 373 (1972). See also Commonwealth v. Clark, 453 Pa. 449, 309 A.2d 589 (1973); Commonwealth v. Groce, 452 Pa. 15, 303 A.2d 917 (1973); and Commonwealth v. Bunch, 454 Pa. 365, 311 A.2d 632 (1973).

However, the evidence admitted in the instant case does not fall under the prohibition of the general rule cited above. The state of mind of a defendant at the time he committed a criminal act is always relevant, and evidence to prove motive, intent, plan or design, ill will or malice ...


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