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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MATTHEW S. MOTLEY (04/28/77)

decided: April 28, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MATTHEW S. MOTLEY, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Marilyn J. Gelb, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven, H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Harry M. Spaeth, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 472 Pa. Page 423]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Matthew S. Motley was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree. Post-trial motions were denied and a sentence of life imprisonment imposed. Appellant asserts that he is entitled to a new trial because the court erroneously instructed the jury on the

[ 472 Pa. Page 424]

    standards for determining the voluntariness of appellant's statements to police. We agree, reverse the judgment of sentence, and grant a new trial.

On July 31, 1960, the body of Reynold C. Tropman was discovered in the bedroom of his Philadelphia apartment. Pieces of pillowcase bound Tropman's legs; a bloody handkerchief lay near his head. The Philadelphia medical examiner determined that death was caused by manual strangulation.

Appellant, who had worked from time to time for Mr. Tropman doing odd jobs and running errands, was arrested later that day. He subsequently was charged with murder. In 1962, appellant was convicted by a jury of murder of the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. On an appeal taken as if timely filed*fn1 this Court reversed the judgment of sentence and granted a new trial. Commonwealth v. Motley, 448 Pa. 110, 289 A.2d 724 (1972). At the subsequent trial in January, 1973, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Appellant was again tried in January, 1974, and found guilty by a jury of murder of the first degree. Post-trial motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were filed. The trial court denied the motions and imposed sentence of life imprisonment. This appeal ensued.*fn2

[ 472 Pa. Page 425]

I

In all cases of first degree murder this Court is required by statute to "determine whether the ingredients necessary to constitute murder in the first degree shall have been proved to exist."*fn3 In so doing we must consider the record in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth's case. Commonwealth v. Brown, 467 Pa. 388, 392, 357 A.2d 147, 149 (1976); Commonwealth v. Caye, 465 Pa. 98, 101, 348 A.2d 136, 137 (1975); Commonwealth v. Robson, 461 Pa. 615, 625, 337 A.2d 573, 578, cert. denied, 423 U.S. 934, 96 S.Ct. 290, 46 L.Ed.2d 265 (1975); Commonwealth v. Boyd, 461 Pa. 17, 22, 334 A.2d 610, 613 (1975); Commonwealth v. Bundy, 458 Pa. 240, 328 A.2d 517 (1974); Commonwealth v. Petrisko, 442 Pa. 575, 275 A.2d 46 (1971); Commonwealth v. Mount, 416 Pa. 343, 205 A.2d 924 (1965); Commonwealth v. Johnson, 410 Pa. 605, 190 A.2d 146 (1963); Commonwealth v. Dickerson, 406 Pa. 102, 176 A.2d 421 (1962); Commonwealth v. De Moss, 401 Pa. 395, 165 A.2d 14 (1960). The settled test for sufficiency of the evidence is whether, accepting as true all of the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, upon which, if believed, the jury could have based its verdict, it is sufficient in law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime of which he has been convicted. Commonwealth v. Thomas, 465 Pa. 442, 444-45, 350 A.2d 847, 848-49 (1976); Commonwealth v. Stanley, 453 Pa. 467, 469, 309 A.2d 408, 410 (1973); Commonwealth v. Paquette, 451 Pa. 250, 253, 301 A.2d 837, 838-39 (1973); Commonwealth v. Agie, 449 Pa. 187, 189-90, 296 A.2d 741, 742 (1972). Reviewing the record in this light we are persuaded that the jury's finding of the necessary elements of the offense is supported by sufficient evidence.

[ 472 Pa. Page 426]

The Commonwealth proceeded solely on a theory of felony murder.*fn4 A statement which appellant gave to police after his arrest was admitted into evidence and constituted the bulk of the Commonwealth's case. In this statement, appellant said:

". . . I walked in the bedroom, and he must have figured that I was trying to rob him. So I walked towards him and he ran around the bed, so I said to him, 'No, Mr. Tropman, I'm not trying to rob you.' So I pulled him towards me by the waist. Then I figured he would say I am trying to rob him, so I may as well get something out of it. After I pulled him off the bed I accidentally shoved him. So then, you know, I took his handkerchief which I saw on the dresser and put my right arm under his throat. I then tied his handkerchief around his mouth with the knot at the back of his head. As I tied the handkerchief . . . I looked around to see what I could find. He was laying on the floor then. Then I heard him grunt . . . and I took the handkerchief off his mouth, and then I saw the money on the dresser, and then I pulled out the drawers, you know, and ransacked that. Then after that I looked down at him, and then looked at him ...


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