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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIE HILL (07/14/78)

decided: July 14, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIE HILL, APPELLANT



No. 509 January Term 1976, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Trial Division, Criminal Section, at No. 1196 October Term 1975.

COUNSEL

Hugh C. Clark, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Edward G. Rendell, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Marrianne Cox, Asst. Dist. Attys., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 479 Pa. Page 348]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Willie Hill (a/k/a Willie Frank Hill, Willie F. Hill, Frank Hill, and "Blood") was convicted of murder of the first degree of one Allen Murchinson (a/k/a Alan Murchinson) after a jury trial in Philadelphia. Post-verdict motions were denied and Hill was sentenced to life imprisonment. Other indictments charging criminal conspiracy and possession of an instrument of crime were nol-prossed. This appeal challenges the murder conviction and judgment of sentence.

From the Commonwealth's trial evidence, the jury could find the following: At approximately 8:00 p. m. on September 27, 1975, Hill, who was sixteen years old at the time of

[ 479 Pa. Page 349]

    this incident and a member of the Somerville gang, was standing on the corner of Godfrey and Ogontz Streets in Philadelphia with a number of his fellow gang members. Hill saw the decedent Murchinson, Bernard Ezell, who was the decedent's cousin, and another person known only as "Smoke" standing on an adjacent corner. Hill mentioned to his fellow gang members that one of them resembled "Sinbad" who allegedly had stabbed Hill and his brother Calvin sometime previously. Hill, along with fellow gang members Bruce Rozier and Larry McKinney (a/k/a McKenny), walked across the street to the boys and asked if they were from the Clang gang (a/k/a Klang) and whether one of them was named "Sinbad." After denying they were members of the Clang gang and any of their names were "Sinbad," Murchinson and his two friends walked away. Hill then shouted "[G]et them." Murchinson and his two companions, who had done nothing provocative, then started running away and a chase ensued. Hill, Rozier, and McKinney were joined by at least four fellow gang members, including one Terrence Davis who later pled guilty to murder of the third degree and criminal conspiracy and testified against Hill at his trial. "Smoke" escaped, as did Ezell, but only after being beaten by two gang members. Murchinson, however, was caught and thrown to the ground against some steps by McKinney, who held him by the legs while Hill sat on his chest. They along with the other gang members beat him. Murchinson repeatedly screamed for them to stop. Hill asked if anyone had a knife. McKinney provided one, and Hill then stabbed Murchinson at least twice in the heart and once in the liver. Hill and his companions then fled and Murchinson was found dead shortly after. Hill was arrested later that same night.

In this appeal, Hill contends that the trial court committed reversible error in three instances: by denying his motion for trial on the bill of indictment charging criminal conspiracy after the Commonwealth moved for trial on the murder indictment, and by denying his motions for a mistrial based on allegedly improper and inflammatory leading questions by the assistant district attorney and allegedly

[ 479 Pa. Page 350]

    improper and prejudicial comments by the assistant district attorney during his opening and closing arguments.*fn*

It is well established that the propriety of consolidating separate indictments for trial is ultimately within the sound discretion of the trial court and its determination in this regard will not be disturbed unless it clearly appears the rights of the defendant were thereby prejudiced. Commonwealth v. Stock, 463 Pa. 547, 551, 345 A.2d 654, 656 (1975) (citing cases). Instantly, Hill fails to point to any prejudice or possible prejudice following the court's ruling and we perceive none. Under 18 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 110 and Commonwealth v. Campana, 455 Pa. 622, 314 A.2d 854 (1974), Hill could not be subjected to another trial on charges arising from the same incident. Moreover, the trial court at the sentencing proceeding granted the Commonwealth's ...


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