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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ERNEST ADKINS (10/08/76)

decided: October 8, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
ERNEST ADKINS, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Mead S. Spurio, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Deborah E. Glass, Asst. Dist. Atty., Carolyn E. Temin, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Eagen

[ 468 Pa. Page 466]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On March 13, 1974, Ernest Adkins was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree*fn1 following the

[ 468 Pa. Page 467]

    fatal shooting of Gregory Williams. Post-verdict motions were denied and a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. Adkins appealed from the judgment of sentence asserting three assignments of error.*fn2 Since we have determined a new trial is required because prejudicial remarks made in closing argument by the attorney for the Commonwealth were not based on facts in evidence, we need not discuss Adkins' other assignments of error.*fn3

During his closing argument, the assistant district attorney stated:

"The one key to this case is this: Daniels testified, as was his testimony in court, and then I went over the testimony he gave to the police. He told the police something that Paul Walker didn't tell them. My question to Daniels was do you remember being asked the question, 'What was this all about?' And the answer was I don't know, except I think it was because I think the deceased was selling drugs in Fat Butch's [Adkins'] territory. That is what happened.

"In this city there are different areas where narcotics are sold or where you can go and buy heroin. A lot of times, as in the case here, the deceased used narcotics. When you use narcotics, you buy maybe five or ten bags extra because then you go out in the street and if you sell a couple of extra bags, that pays for what you use. That is probably what happened here, except that Gregory Williams made one mistake, he

[ 468 Pa. Page 468]

    went into the wrong territory, this defendant's territory and that is what cost him his life. It probably wasn't the first time he did it. But he went into this defendant's territory and that is why he was executed on August 29, because he was selling drugs in the wrong territory."

This argument stressed Adkins killed Williams because Williams was selling narcotic drugs ...


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