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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD G. MORRISON (04/19/79)

decided: April 19, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
RICHARD G. MORRISON, APPELLANT. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. FLORENCE MORRISON, APPELLANT



No. 87 April Term, 1978, No. 118 April Term, 1978, Appeal from Judgments of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Somerset County at No. 331 Criminal 1976.

COUNSEL

Wilbert H. Beachy, III, Chief Public Defender, Somerset, for appellant Richard G. Morrison.

Sandra W. Upor, Somerset, for appellant Florence Morrison.

Frederick F. Coffroth, District Attorney, Somerset, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jacobs, President Judge, and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Spaeth, J., concurs in the result. Jacobs, former President Judge and Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Cercone

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 366]

Appellants, Florence and Richard Morrison, were convicted of aggravated assault,*fn1 recklessly endangering another person,*fn2 and endangering the welfare of children,*fn3 at a non-jury trial in Somerset County. Appellants' motion for arrest of judgment was granted on the aggravated assault conviction. Additional motions for new trial were denied. Appellants were sentenced to undergo imprisonment for not less than nine months nor more than two years on the recklessly endangering charge, and not less than six months nor more than two years on the charge of endangering the welfare of children. The sentences are to run consecutively. It is from these judgments of sentence that appellants appeal. We affirm.

The appellants were married in 1974 and had six children residing in their home. Four of the children were Florence's by a prior marriage and two, including John, six years of age and the victim in this suit, were Richard's by his prior marriage. Richard's two children had resided with their maternal grandparents but were removed from that home when appellants heard John had been mistreated there. John came to live with appellants in February, 1976, with the other child following in April, 1976.

The day after appellants obtained custody of John, Florence Morrison took him for a physical examination. The doctor reported John was in general good health, slightly anemic and underweight, and getting over the chicken pox.

On May 31, 1976, appellants and all six children attended a Memorial Day picnic. John was playing under or near a picnic table when a ball struck some hot coffee that spilled

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 367]

    on him. John's abdomen, penis, and part of his leg were burned by the hot liquid. A doctor examined John on June 2 and prescribed a salve to be applied to the burns. On June 7, after a return visit to the doctor, John's condition was found to be improving and required no further treatment. Some of the burns were second degree with scarring and scabbing, but there were no open wounds.

From the testimony presented, John developed a wetting problem about the time appellants obtained custody of his sister in April, 1976. Florence kept John in diapers in order to help with this situation. The diapering continued after the Memorial Day incident until July 28, 1976 when John was taken to the hospital for an elbow injury. During this time, Florence admitted putting table salt in John's diaper in an attempt to cure the wetting. She also applied the prescribed salve to the penis area with gauze on top, and on at least one occasion, secured the gauze by a rubber band for want of adhesive tape. One witness testified Florence had done this to prevent wetting which Florence denied. Mr. Morrison admitted he had diapered John several times during this period.

The physicians who testified concerning John's condition when he entered the hospital said John's penis was ulcerated and swollen with only a narrow opening, was scabbed and had been denuded of skin. According to the doctor, the cause of the condition was either from a second burn to the penis or from all the irritation from the diapers, salt, clothing, and John's scratching the area. The doctor testified that the incident involving the rubber band could also have aggravated the situation, and if tight enough, could have cut off the circulation. John was hospitalized for seven weeks*fn4 and the infection required surgery to remove the scabbing and clean the tissues. The urologist estimated that the infection had taken three to six weeks to develop and that death or loss of the organ could have ensued if John had not

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 368]

    received medical attention. At the time of the trial, John had recovered from the infection but it could not be definitely stated whether there had been any permanent injury to the underlying erectile tissues. Appellants denied that they inflicted any type of injury upon John, but Mrs. Morrison admitted to a social worker that she had neglected the child by not taking him to a doctor sooner.

Aside from this incident, there was additional medical testimony and evidence of other bodily wounds on John, some old bruises and fractures, and healed body scars. One physician counted between fifty to sixty healed wounds including wounds that appeared to be from cigarette burns, ...


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