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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT L. HINCHCLIFFE (07/14/78)

decided: July 14, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT L. HINCHCLIFFE, APPELLANT



No. 23 March Term 1977, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County, Criminal Division at No. 1080 of 1974.

COUNSEL

Norman E. Levine, Public Defender, New Castle, for appellant.

Donald E. Williams, Dist. Atty., New Castle, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Manderino, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 479 Pa. Page 553]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed upon Robert L. Hinchcliffe following his conviction of murder of the third degree by a jury in Lawrence County.*fn1

The prosecution emanated from the untimely death of Floyd Ross whose lifeless body was found wrapped in large plastic garbage bags and encased in a securely tied sleeping bag, by the police in the residence of Hinchcliffe's mother in the City of New Castle.

Ross died from a compound fracture of the skull, laceration of the duramater, laceration of the brain, and a subarachnoid hemorrhage. At trial it was admitted Hinchcliffe struck the blows which caused Ross's fatal injuries. However, according to the evidence, Hinchcliffe and Ross were alone at the time, and Hinchcliffe, testifying in his own defense at trial, claimed he acted in self-defense. Since no other eyewitness was available to contradict this testimony, it is argued the trial evidence is insufficient to sustain a finding of murder of the third degree and the Commonwealth failed in its burden to prove the killing was not in self-defense. Hence, it is argued, Hinchcliffe is entitled to have the judgment arrested.

The Commonwealth has an unshifting burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime charged. See, e. g., Commonwealth v. Rose, 457 Pa. 380, 321 A.2d 880 (1974). Furthermore, where, as here, a claim of self-defense is made, the Commonwealth must show beyond a reasonable doubt the killing was not in self-defense. Commonwealth v. Cropper, 463 Pa. 529, 345 A.2d 645 (1975). See Commonwealth v. Lynch, 477 Pa. 390, 383 A.2d 1263 (1978).

[ 479 Pa. Page 554]

A summary of the evidence follows:

On December 9 and 10, 1974, Hinchcliffe chauffeured Ross from Ohio to various locations in Pennsylvania so Ross could sell the illicit drugs marijuana and "angel dust." About 5:30 a. m. on December 10, they arrived at the apartment of Mrs. Merle Newton and Dwight Lee Newton ...


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