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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ANTHONY ROBERSON (07/05/79)

decided: July 5, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
ANTHONY ROBERSON, APPELLANT



No. 312 January Term, 1977, Appeal from the Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section of Philadelphia County as of May Sessions, 1976, Nos. 225, 226 and 227

COUNSEL

Austin J. McGreal, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Dist. Atty., Cynthia Severinsen, Philadelphia, for appellee.

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

Author: Manderino

[ 485 Pa. Page 588]

OPINION

Appellant, Anthony Roberson, was arrested and charged with robbery, criminal conspiracy, murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. Prior to trial, the court denied appellant's motion to suppress a signed statement in which appellant admitted responsibility for the incident. Appellant was tried before a jury and was convicted of conspiracy, robbery, and murder of the third degree. Post-verdict motions were denied, and appellant was sentenced to three terms of imprisonment of ten to twenty years. The robbery term was to run consecutive with the murder term, and the conspiracy term was to run concurrent with the robbery term. This direct appeal followed. Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, No. 223, art. II, § 202(1), 17 P.S. § 211.202(1). For the reasons stated, we affirm.

[ 485 Pa. Page 589]

Appellant was convicted of having participated in the robbery and fatal beating of an elderly woman, Genevieve Meier, as she was walking down the street. The victim died about a month after the incident as a result of extensive injuries to the head and chest.

Appellant in this appeal contends that the evidence as to the cause of death and the evidence identifying him as a participant was insufficient. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and accepting as true all the evidence, and all reasonable inferences deducible from it, from which, if believed, the jury could have based its verdict, we conclude that the prosecution met its burden of proving appellant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Helm, 485 Pa. 315, 402 A.2d 500 (1979), Commonwealth v. Horton, 485 Pa. 115, 401 A.2d 320 (1979).

Appellant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the medical causation between appellant's acts and the victim's death. We reject that contention.

Appellant bases his argument on the fact that Dr. Robert Segal, the prosecution's medical witness, referred to pneumonia as the terminal cause of death. Appellant argues that the witness's testimony did not eliminate the possibility that the victim's pneumonia was caused by factors independent of the appellant's conduct. Appellant also argues that the witness's medical opinion was not sufficiently definite as to causation. We cannot agree. The medical witness's testimony left no doubt that appellant's conduct started an unbroken chain of causation which led to the victim's death. Commonwealth v. Green, 477 Pa. 170, 174, 383 A.2d 877, 879 (1978); Commonwealth v. Stafford, 451 Pa. 95, 301 A.2d 600 (1973); Commonwealth v. Carn, 449 Pa. 228, 296 A.2d 753 (1972).

The prosecution's medical witness, who had performed the autopsy on the victim, testified concerning extensive injuries suffered by the victim in her head and chest areas. His external examination revealed areas of bruising over the entire right side of the victim's face and head, on the right

[ 485 Pa. Page 590]

    side of her body above the hip, and on the right thigh. The internal examination revealed mainly head injuries including "extensive hemorrhage in the scalp on the right side of the head," and "arachnoid hemorrhage on the left side," and "hemorrhage in the left cerebellar hemisphere (the back portion of the head, above where the spine attaches to the skull)", as well as "areas of bruising in the brain." Dr. Segal's autopsy also revealed multiple fractures of several ribs, all of which were in the process of healing.

During direct examination, the witness then gave his opinion as follows:

"Q. Now, Doctor Segal, based on the number of autopsies or post-mortems that you have conducted, sir, your observations, both externally and internally, were you able to reach a conclusion as to the cause of death of one Genevieve Meier?

A. Yes.

Q. And what was that conclusion, sir?

A. The cause of death was due to the combined effect of the injuries to ...


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