No. 67 Special Transfer Docket, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of Court of Common Pleas in the Twelfth Judicial District, Criminal, County of Chester, at No. 126876
Thomas R. Wilson, West Chester, for appellant.
Joan D. Lasensky, Assistant District Attorney, West Chester, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Hoffman, Eagen and Hess, JJ.*fn*
[ 267 Pa. Super. Page 67]
On November 30, 1976, James M. Weakland plead guilty to robbery and conspiracy and nolo contendere to a charge of murder. A hearing before a three-judge panel was subsequently conducted in order to determine the degree of murder. Following the hearing, Weakland was found guilty of murder of the first degree in the shooting and resultant death of Cecil Rash. Thereafter, a judgment of sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on the murder conviction. This appeal is from that judgment of sentence.
Weakland and his brother decided to perpetrate a robbery in a service station owned by Cecil Rash and his wife, Florence Rash. The two entered the station unarmed. Once inside, Weakland obtained a wrench and struck Cecil Rash on the head. Cecil Rash fell to the floor, and Weakland took money from his pocket. Weakland then went to the station office where his brother was holding Florence Rash. Weakland took money and other items from the office and carried them to his automobile. Weakland returned to the office to get his brother, and, upon seeing his brother leaving, again left the garage.
In the interim, Cecil Rash had obtained a handgun. Cecil Rash then shot Weakland in the leg. Weakland fell to the ground, and his brother began throwing items at Cecil Rash from his automobile. Cecil Rash then shot at the brother. As this occurred, Weakland threw a trash can at Cecil Rash, knocked him to the ground, and wrestled the gun from Cecil Rash. Weakland then stood some "four yards, five yards" -- "three to four steps" -- from Cecil Rash who was "standing dead still." Weakland held the gun "at shoulder height or slightly lower" and shot Mr. Rash twice. Rash died from the injury.
[ 267 Pa. Super. Page 68]
Weakland argues the evidence presented is insufficient to support a verdict of murder of the first degree. More specifically, Weakland argues the evidence does not establish "the requisite intent to kill necessary for a finding of murder [of] the first degree." A study of the record readily demonstrates this contention is without merit. Commonwealth v. Robinson, 468 Pa. 575, 364 A.2d 665 (1976); Commonwealth v. Carroll, 412 Pa. 525, 194 A.2d 911 (1963). Cf. Commonwealth v. O'Searo, 466 Pa. 224, 352 A.2d 30 (1975); Commonwealth v. Moore, 473 Pa. 169, 373 A.2d 1101 (1976).
Next, Weakland argues that the assistant district attorney in closing argument made reference to Weakland having shot Mrs. Florence Rash during the same criminal event; that no evidence existed to support such an argument; that Weakland was prejudiced by the improper argument; and, that he is entitled to a new degree of guilt hearing as a result.
We first note the inaccurate references of the prosecuting attorney occurred not only during closing argument but at other times during the degree of guilt hearing. More specifically, the attorney asked two hypothetical questions which included a shooting of Mrs. Rash in the factual basis. Objections to the questions were entered on the basis ...