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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. VINCENT COURTS (10/08/76)

decided: October 8, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
VINCENT COURTS, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

William J. Kerpan, Philip D. Freedman, Harrisburg, for appellant.

Marion E. MacIntyre, 2nd Asst. Dist. Atty., Reid H. Weingarten, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 468 Pa. Page 614]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Vincent Courts was arrested for the murder of Ralph Jones, which occurred during the early morning hours of March 24, 1974, in the City of Harrisburg. After trial before a jury a verdict of murder of the first degree was returned.*fn1 Post-trial motions were filed, argued, denied and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. This direct appeal follows in which the only issue presented is the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict.

At approximately 3:00 A.M., appellant was operating a vehicle in which he had a number of passengers. After an accident which caused only slight damage to appellant's

[ 468 Pa. Page 615]

    vehicle, Courts became enraged and blamed one of the passengers, Alan Jones, for the mishap. At gun point appellant demanded that Alan pay him one hundred dollars for the damage. When Alan realized he could not satisfy Courts by explaining that he did not have the money he suggested that they go to the home of Ralph Jones, who Alan thought might be willing to pay the sum for him. Appellant directed that another passenger, Randolph Lee, drive the vehicle to Ralph's home while he sat in the back with a gun pointed at Alan Jones. Jones later identified the weapon as a .22 calibre pistol.

Upon arriving at Ralph Jones' home, Courts and Alan left the vehicle while Lee remained at the wheel. Ralph Jones answered the door clad in his pajamas and the three men discussed the money on the doorstep of the home. Courts pushed Alan Jones across the doorway and shot him once in the head. Alan fell to the floor of the vestibule but remained conscious. He testified that he heard Courts forcing Ralph into his apartment repeating his demand for the money.

Upon hearing the gunshot, Lee left the car, entered the building and found Alan Jones lying conscious in the vestibule. He did not see either Courts or Ralph Jones. Alan Jones was able to get up to his feet and fled from the building. Lee followed shortly afterwards. Several minutes later, as Lee was walking along a nearby street, Courts who was again in the vehicle, approached him and showed him approximately three hundred and twenty dollars in cash, stating "this should take care of the damage to the car."*fn2 Approximately one hour later, Ralph was found dead, lying face down on his bed. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a gunshot

[ 468 Pa. Page 616]

    wound to the left temple and a .22 calibre bullet was removed from his brain. Fortunately, Alan Jones recovered from his wound.*fn3 At the time of his arrest, later during the day of the ...


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