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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. DARCEL HOWARD (04/20/79)

decided: April 20, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DARCEL HOWARD, APPELLANT



No. 209 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section, Nos. 1738-1740, March Term, 1977.

COUNSEL

Stewart A. Bernstein, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Eric B. Henson, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.

Price, Hester and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 536]

Appellant contends that the Commonwealth failed to prove her guilty of involuntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt because the evidence was insufficient to prove that her actions were reckless or directly caused the

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 537]

    death of her five year old daughter. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to prove all the essential elements of the crime, and therefore, we affirm.

Appellant resided with her daughter and a boyfriend, Edward Watts. For a period of several weeks before the child's death, Watts regularly beat the child and subjected her to various forms of sadistic abuse. Appellant also struck the child on occasion, sometimes with a belt or strap. On the evening of March 5, 1977, during the course of a beating by Watts, the child fell and hit her head on a piece of furniture. When appellant could not awaken her child the next morning, Watts called the police and fabricated a story to explain the child's injuries, which included a bloodied nose and bruised forehead. The child was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. The stated cause of death was multiple injuries to the head and trunk.*fn1

Under Section 2504 of our Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2504, "A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of the doing of an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, or the doing of a lawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, he causes the death of another person." Although there was evidence in the record that appellant struck her child on occasion, the lower court in this waiver trial premised appellant's culpability on her failure to protect her child from the

[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 538]

    more regular and severe beatings inflicted upon her by Watts. We affirm because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to prove that appellant's failure to protect the child was a direct cause of her death, and that such ...


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