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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JEFFREY CRISTINA (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
JEFFREY CRISTINA, APPELLANT



Nos. 128 and 142 March Term 1977, Appeal from Judgment and Sentence and Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division at Nos. CC76-01478A and CC76-02462A

COUNSEL

Samuel J. Pasquarelli, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., Robert L. Eberhardt, Stephanie McKinney, Asst. Dist. Attys., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Larsen, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Roberts, Nix and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 481 Pa. Page 48]

OPINION

On June 29, 1976, Jeffrey Cristina was convicted by a jury in Allegheny County of robbery and of murder of the second degree. On the murder conviction, a sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. Sentence was suspended on the robbery conviction. An appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed on the murder conviction was filed in this Court. An appeal from the order imposed on the robbery conviction was filed in the Superior Court and later certified here. The charges against Cristina arose out of the death of Frank Slazinski, an eighty-two-year-old retired steel worker, from injuries incurred during a robbery in his apartment on December 10, 1975.

Cristina advances four alleged errors as grounds for an arrest of judgment or a new trial: (1) insufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions; (2) admission into evidence of a tape-recorded statement he made while in police custody; (3) failure of the court to charge that, since the Commonwealth made pretrial blood, flesh and hair tests and failed to introduce the results into evidence, the jury might

[ 481 Pa. Page 49]

    infer "that the results were unfavorable to the Commonwealth"; and, (4) a jury instruction that certain pretrial statements exculpating Cristina made by his alleged accomplice could be considered only for the purpose of impeaching the accomplice and not as substantive evidence. We have examined each of the asserted errors, and we affirm the judgment and order of the trial court.

We now turn our attention to the first issue, namely, was the evidence legally sufficient to sustain the jury's verdict.*fn1 The test is whether, viewing all of the evidence admitted at trial in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom, is it sufficient to enable the trier of fact to find every element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt. See Commonwealth v. Bastone, 466 Pa. 548, 353 A.2d 827 (1976).

Murder of the second degree is defined by the Crimes Code as follows:

"A criminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when the death of the victim occurred while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony."

18 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 2502(b) (Supp. 1978-79).

In our view, the evidence in the record is adequate to have enabled the jury to conclude that Cristina participated, either as a principal or an accomplice, in the robbery of Frank Slazinski, during the course of which Slazinski suffered injuries which resulted in his death. Thus, the evidence supports both convictions.

[ 481 Pa. Page 50]

The Commonwealth's principal witness was William Pirozzi, who testified on direct examination as follows: On December 10, 1975, he, Pirozzi, agreed to help Jeffrey Cristina "rob somebody." They proceeded to the apartment building where Slazinski resided and Cristina kicked in a panel of the door to the front entrance and crawled through the opening. Cristina then opened the door from the inside, allowing Pirozzi to enter. Pirozzi remained in the vestibule while Cristina walked down a hallway, kicked open and entered the door to Slazinski's apartment. Pirozzi heard a voice yelling "get out," a person moaning, a cracking sound and a thump. Five minutes later Cristina emerged from the apartment carrying a television set and some money. He gave five dollars to Pirozzi and told him that he ...


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