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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EARL L. RICE (03/23/78)

decided: March 23, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
EARL L. RICE, JR., APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

John R. Merrick, Defender, Robert Shaffer, Charles M. J. Nester, P. A., Asst. Public Defenders, for appellant.

Robert S. Gawthrop, III, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ. Packel, J., took no part in the decision of this case. O'Brien, J., files an opinion in support of affirmance, which Eagen, C. J., and Pomeroy, J., join. Roberts, J., files an opinion in support of reversal. Manderino, J., files an opinion in support of reversal in which Nix, J., joins.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 477 Pa. Page 223]

OPINION

The Court being equally divided, the judgments of sentence remain in effect.

[ 477 Pa. Page 224]

OPINION IN SUPPORT OF AFFIRMANCE

O'BRIEN, Justice.

Appellant, Earl L. Rice, Jr., was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County of murder of the first degree, robbery, theft, and criminal conspiracy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder conviction, and five to ten years for the robbery conviction. No other sentence was imposed.*fn1 Appellant appealed the judgment of sentence for murder to this court and the judgment of sentence for robbery to the Superior Court, which certified that appeal to this court.

We will begin by reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, as we are required to do in a case of murder of the first degree under the Act of February 15, 1870, P.L. 15, § 2, 19 P.S. § 1187. The evidence establishes that in the early morning of September 2, 1973, appellant, who was then seventeen, and David Milburn, another juvenile, observed the victim, Ola Danenberg, walking along the street. During their investigation, the police learned that the victim had been at a club, had had several drinks, and was staggering somewhat. She was carrying a purse containing several hundred dollars. Appellant and Milburn decided to snatch the victim's purse. They waited for her to walk past an alley and then ran toward her from behind. Appellant grabbed the purse as they ran by the victim. The victim spun around, fell and struck her head on the sidewalk, which

[ 477 Pa. Page 225]

    caused fatal injuries. We must determine whether appellant's action constituted robbery, which in turn will determine whether his felony-murder conviction can be sustained.

At the time of the incident, the Crimes Code of 1972, Act of December 6, 1972, P.L. 1482, No. 334, § 1, eff. June 6, 1973, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3701, defined robbery as follows:

"(1) A person is guilty of robbery if, in the course of committing a theft, he:

"(i) inflicts serious bodily injury upon another;

"(ii) threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate serious bodily injury; or

"(iii) commits or threatens immediately to commit any felony of the first or second degree.

"(2) An act shall be deemed 'in the course of committing a theft' if it occurs in an attempt to commit theft or in flight after the attempt or commission. " (Emphasis added.)

We find that the prosecution in the instant case met the requirement that it prove causation of serious bodily injury or the threat thereof by appellant. It is established that the victim fell and suffered fatal injuries when appellant grabbed her purse. These facts support a finding that appellant caused the fall and as such caused Danenberg's death. The robbery and murder convictions were therefore proper. See Commonwealth v. Farmer, ...


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