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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STEPHEN SISCA (11/22/76)

decided: November 22, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
STEPHEN SISCA, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of October 11, 1974, of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Pa. Criminal Division as of No. 606, March Sessions, 1973. No. 188 October Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

Frank J. Marcone, Media, for appellant.

Ralph B. D'Iorio and John G. Siegle, Assistant District Attorneys, Media, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Hoffman and Cercone, JJ., concur in the result. Price, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Watkins

[ 245 Pa. Super. Page 127]

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Criminal Division, by the defendant-appellant, Stephen Sisca, after conviction of involuntary manslaughter in a jury trial. The defendant was sentenced to a prison term of one (1) to three (3) years.

On August 15, 1972, an accident occurred in which the defendant, operating a 1962 Chevrolet automobile, struck a bicycle, ridden by a nine (9) year old boy, Paul Gross. As a result of the collision the boy was thrown into the air, landing on the hood and windshield of the defendant's vehicle. The boy was killed immediately. The cause of death was decapitation. The trial of the defendant took place on October 29 and 30, 1973, after which the jury returned a verdict of guilty against the defendant on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. A demurrer to the charge of voluntary manslaughter was sustained by the trial court. The defendant was sentenced on October 11, 1974, and this appeal followed.

The defendant raises several issues on appeal. First, he claims that the evidence adduced at trial was not sufficient to sustain a determination of guilt by the jury and that the court below should have also sustained his demurrer on the involuntary manslaughter charge. Secondly, he claims that the prosecutor's reference to "standard charts" for determining the speed of a vehicle by measuring skid marks was so prejudicial so as to require a new trial. Thirdly, he claims that the trial court erred in permitting a Commonwealth witness to testify as to

[ 245 Pa. Super. Page 128]

    the speed of the defendant's vehicle when the witness did not see the accident. He also claims that the testimony of another Commonwealth witness, a passenger in the defendant's vehicle, should have been stricken because of the witness's uncertainty.

At trial the Commonwealth produced testimony that on the date of the accident the defendant was operating his vehicle in an easterly direction in the 1200 block of Fairview Avenue in Haverford Township. Paul Gross rode his bicycle out of the driveway of his home at 1219 Fairview Avenue and turned at an angle in an easterly direction. When the boy was in front of the driveway of the adjacent home at 1215 Fairview Avenue he was struck from behind by the defendant's automobile. As a result of the collision the boy was killed. The defendant's automobile left unbroken skid marks 133 feet in length on the roadway. The skid marks began 15 feet to 18 feet before the automobile reached the driveway out of which the boy rode the bicycle. The bicycle came to rest 53 feet beyond the end of the skid marks and the boy's body came to rest 34 feet diagonally from the end of the skid marks. His body had been thrown into the air to a height exceeding that of a truck which was parked nearby.

A passenger in the Sisca vehicle testified at trial that the defendant had been travelling at about 30 miles per hour at the time of the accident. The witness qualified his testimony by saying he actually couldn't be positive of the speed. This witness was a lifelong friend of the defendant and was not co-operative with the Commonwealth. Another Commonwealth witness, a George Van Dusen, testified that 30 seconds to a minute before he heard the crash he saw the defendant's vehicle pass his house at a speed of 30 miles per hour. He testified that he had been a licensed ...


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