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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES J. FAIRELL (12/23/77)

decided: December 23, 1977.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JAMES J. FAIRELL, JR., APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Harvey A. Sernovitz, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ. Eagen, C. J., and Manderino, J., concur in the result.

Author: Pomeroy

[ 476 Pa. Page 130]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant James J. Fairell was convicted at a non-jury trial of murder of the first degree and related weapons offenses. The sole issue in this appeal is whether the evidence at trial was sufficient to meet the Commonwealth's burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt specific intent to commit murder, appellant having placed in issue his capacity to form such specific intent due to the use of narcotics.

Appellant was found guilty of murder of the first degree, guilty of possession of an instrument of crime generally, guilty of possession of an instrument of crime, i. e., a weapon, and not guilty of possessing a prohibited offensive weapon on October 6, 1975. Post-trial motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment on the charge of murder and to two and one-half to five years on

[ 476 Pa. Page 131]

    each of the weapons charges, sentences to run concurrently. These appeals followed.*fn1

A summary of the facts of the case are as follows: On April 27, 1975, at or about 1:00 o'clock p.m., appellant entered the home of his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Quartman, and, after a brief, threatening verbal exchange with those present, shot and killed his estranged wife Francine Quartman Fairell in the presence of her parents and other eyewitnesses. The cause of death was attributed to gunshot wounds of the head, right arm and back of thorax.

Appellant's defense at trial was that he was intoxicated by narcotics to the extent that at the time of the incident he was unable to form a specific intent to commit murder. This defense was put forward through the testimony of appellant's half-brother, John Nelson, and that of Dr. Albert M. Levitt, a psychologist. Dr. Levitt testified without objection that appellant had told him of appellant's use of drugs the day of the shooting and on other occasions.*fn2 Dr. Levitt also gave opinion testimony as to appellant's psychological make-up and the possible effect on appellant of the use of such drugs.*fn3

[ 476 Pa. Page 132]

John Nelson testified*fn4 that a few hours before the shooting he saw appellant in possession of a number of glassine envelopes containing a white powder and that ...


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