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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. THEODORE X. BROWN (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
THEODORE X. BROWN, APPELLANT (TWO CASES)



Nos. 447 and 485 January Term, 1976, Appeals from Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal, of Philadelphia, at Nos. 1427 and 1428 February Term, 1975

COUNSEL

Robert B. Mozenter, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Edward G. Rendell, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Clifford E. Haines, Asst. Dist. Atty., Gaile McLaughlin Barthold, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Larsen, JJ. Manderino, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Nix, J., files a concurring opinion. Eagen, C. J., and Roberts, J., concur in the result.

Author: O'brien

[ 482 Pa. Page 133]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Theodore X. Brown, was convicted of murder of the first degree and criminal conspiracy in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the first degree conviction and five to ten years for the conspiracy conviction, the sentences to run consecutively to each other and to sentences appellant was serving for other crimes. He appealed the judgment of sentence for the murder conviction to this court and appealed the judgment of sentence for the conspiracy conviction to the Superior Court, which certified that appeal to this court.

This case arose from the death of James Price on December 29, 1974, at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. Price was an inmate there, as were appellant and co-defendants Theodore Moody and John Griffin.*fn1

Appellant first argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict. To decide this issue, we will review the evidence and apply the standard which we set forth in Commonwealth v. Rose, 463 Pa. 264, 267-68, 344 A.2d 824, 825 (1975):

"The test of sufficiency of the evidence is whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth and drawing the proper inferences favorable to the Commonwealth, the trier of fact could reasonably have found that all of the elements of the crime had been established beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . Moreover, it is the province of the trier of fact to pass upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be accorded the evidence produced. . . . The fact-finder is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence. . . ." (Citations omitted.)

[ 482 Pa. Page 134]

On the date of Price's death, appellant, Moody and Griffin were all inmates of D Block, a maximum security area of Holmesburg Prison. The inmates of D Block were not permitted to leave it, nor were other inmates permitted to enter it without an institutional escort. Price was seen alive at 8 a. m. on the date of his death. At 3:15 p. m. that day, Philip Harris, a guard, found Price's dead body in a vacant cell while making a routine check. The body was hanging by a sheet from the grating of a ventilator. Dr. Halbert Fillinger, Assistant Philadelphia Medical Examiner, examined the body and found that death resulted from strangulation by a ligature consisting of three shoelaces braided together. The ligature was wrapped tightly around Price's neck when the body was discovered. Fillinger also noted that the victim had been tortured with a sharp instrument prior to death. After the body was discovered, all of the inmates on D Block were locked in their cells. One of the inmates, Calvin Hunter, called Harris over to his cell and said, "They killed that guy back there, didn't they?" Hunter gave information about the killing to the authorities and testified at a preliminary hearing. At that hearing, Hunter testified that while locked in his cell on the day of the incident, he saw appellant, Moody, Griffin and Price walk by in the direction of the vacant cell. He then heard someone yell several times, "Help, they're killing me." Appellant, Moody and Griffin then walked by Hunter's cell without the decedent. Hunter died before appellant's trial and the court, therefore, admitted his preliminary hearing testimony into evidence. The foregoing evidence supports the verdict of murder of the first degree.

Appellant next alleges errors at trial. One of his allegations was that it was error to admit evidence showing that he was convicted, along with three other inmates, of murdering Samuel Molten in ...


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