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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLES H. LAWSON (04/28/78)

decided: April 28, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CHARLES H. LAWSON, A/K/A CHARLES H. LAWSON EL, APPELLANT



No. 318 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, of Philadelphia, at No. 1343 August Term, 1974

COUNSEL

Sara Duffy, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Michael R. Stiles, Asst. Dist. Atty. Chief, Appeals Div., Jane C. Greenspan, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Packel, JJ. Manderino, J., files a concurring opinion. Nix, J., concurs in the result. Pomeroy, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Eagen, C. J., joins. Packel, J., took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 478 Pa. Page 202]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Charles H. Lawson, a/k/a Charles H. Lawson El, was convicted at a bench trial of murder of the first degree. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. This direct appeal followed.

The facts are as follows. At approximately 10:30 p.m., on July 27, 1974, Arthur Lewis was shot in front of his aunt's home at 1335 Rodman Street in Philadelphia. The victim's aunt, Lily Purnell, testified that she heard what sounded like two loud firecrackers. She went to the window of her home and saw Lewis lying on the ground. She noticed a young black man riding a bicycle at a fast rate of speed away from the scene of the shooting.

Officer Bernard Brosuski of the Philadelphia police department was in his patrol car on Rodman Street when he heard what he believed were two gunshots. When Officer Brosuski saw two black youths leaving the scene on bicycles, going very fast, he turned his car around and followed the pair. When the bicyclists split up, Officer Brosuski followed appellant and eventually caught up with him. When appellant was arrested, he was on his knees on the ground in a vacant lot. After appellant was taken away in a police wagon, Brosuski returned to the 1300 block of Rodman

[ 478 Pa. Page 203]

Street and determined that a shooting had occurred. He then went to the location of appellant's arrest and found a gun loosely buried in the dirt. The victim died two days later as a result of the gunshot wounds.

Appellant, a seventeen-year-old minor, arrived at the Police Administration Building at 10:55 p.m. Detective James Richardson attempted to contact appellant's stepfather, but was unsuccessful originally. At 12 Midnight, appellant was given his constitutional rights, which he allegedly waived. Appellant then gave an inculpatory statement, telling police that he shot the victim to avenge the shooting of a friend.

During this time, police were able to contact appellant's stepfather, who told police he would go to the stationhouse. Appellant's stepfather and sister arrived at 4:25 a.m., and were allowed to confer with appellant for approximately thirty minutes. Following this consultation, appellant reiterated his ...


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