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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STEVEN CRAWFORD (10/08/76)

decided: October 8, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
STEVEN CRAWFORD, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

William C. Costopoulos, Lemoyne, 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: Manderino

[ 468 Pa. Page 566]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On September 18, 1974, a jury found appellant, Steven Crawford, guilty of murder in the first degree for the September 12, 1970 killing of John Eddie Mitchell.

[ 468 Pa. Page 567]

Post-verdict motions were denied and this appeal followed.

On September 13, 1970, John Eddie Mitchell, then age 13, was found beaten to death in a garage owned by appellant's father. The victim had left his home at about noon on the previous day to turn in money he had collected from his paper route, and had not returned. At that time he was with appellant, then age 14. The next day a neighbor found a sledge hammer, covered with what he suspected to be blood, in an open garage in the neighborhood. The police were called, and they searched all of the garages in the area. During the course of this search, appellant told police that there was no need to search his father's garage because it contained only an old car. Shortly afterward, the victim's body was discovered lying in a pool of blood partially beneath one of the two cars in appellant's father's garage.

Death was caused by blows from a blunt instrument, consistent with the blood covered sledge hammer, between 12:00 p. m., and 1:30 p. m., on September 12, 1970. It was also established that appellant's father owned a sledge hammer similar to the one found covered with blood, and that this hammer had been beneath the front porch of appellant's home on the day before the killing. A few hairs, identical to the victim's hair, were also recovered from the hammer. A prosecution witness testified that appellant was in the area of the garage with another boy at about the time of the murder. This witness, however, could not identify the other boy as the victim. Three partial palm prints, identified as being those of the appellant, were found on a light colored station wagon parked in the garage next to the car under which the victim's body was found. The prints were on the left side of the car, facing the body of the victim and immediately above it. Blood had also been splattered on the left side of this car. Two of the prints were found to have blood on them. The blood was identified as being

[ 468 Pa. Page 568]

    of human origin, but the quantity was so small, four or five pinheads, that it could not be typed and compared to the victim's blood. The prosecution's expert witness testified that this blood was on the hand when it left the print on the car. This witness also testified that, in his opinion, the three partial palm prints identified as belonging to appellant were placed on the car at the time of the killing. No other evidence was produced to establish that appellant was inside the garage at the time of the killing.

Appellant first contends that the charges against him should be dismissed because of a prejudicial delay between the time that the crime was committed, September 12, 1970, and the time that appellant was charged, February 13, 1974. He claims that the delay denied him a fair trial by making it impossible for him to establish an alibi defense for a certain day almost ...


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