Louis J. Grippo, Andrew M. Schifino, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
John J. Hickton, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Louis R. Paulick, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
Appellant, James Long, was arrested and indicted in Allegheny County for murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. These charges stemmed from the killing of Dorothy Lovrencevic, who was found dead in the bedroom of her home at approximately 3:45 p. m., on September 14, 1973. At trial, counsel agreed that the involuntary manslaughter indictment would be withdrawn from the jury and the charge would be limited to murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and voluntary manslaughter. The jury was so charged and returned a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to five to ten years imprisonment. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a verdict of voluntary manslaughter since
guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt. We agree and reverse the judgment of sentence.
The prosecution's theory of the crime was that the appellant, rather than going to school on the morning of Friday, September 14, 1973, went to the home of the victim, engaged in sexual activity, and then strangled her. Since all of the evidence produced by the prosecution to support its theory was circumstantial and the issue before us is the sufficiency of that circumstantial evidence, we note initially what we have said about circumstantial evidence in the past. In Commonwealth v. Simpson, 436 Pa. 459, 260 A.2d 751 (1970) we said:
"It is true that circumstantial evidence, in itself, may be sufficient to establish the commission of a crime and the accused's connection therewith. Commonwealth v. Finnie, 415 Pa. 166, 202 A.2d 85 (1964). It is equally true that in evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence after a guilty verdict, all of the evidence, be it direct or circumstantial, must be read in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth must be given the benefit of all reasonable inferences arising therefrom. Commonwealth v. Burns, 409 Pa. 619, 187 A.2d 552 (1963). But before a conviction will be sustained, 'the facts and circumstances proved must be of such a character as to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.' Commonwealth v. Garrett, 423 Pa. 8, 12, 222 A.2d 902, 905 (1966). And, where a conviction is based entirely on circumstantial evidence, 'the theme of guilt must flow from the facts and circumstances proved, and be consistent with them all.' Commonwealth v. Clinton, 391 Pa. 212, 218, 137 A.2d 463, 466 (1958). If the conviction is based wholly on inferences, suspicion and conjecture, it cannot stand. Commonwealth v. Townsend, 428 Pa. 281, 237 A.2d 192 (1968); Commonwealth v. Garrett, supra; Commonwealth v. Deyell, 399 Pa. 563,
A.2d 448 (1960); and, Commonwealth v. ...