No. 443 January Term, 1977, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, Philadelphia County, as of June Term, 1976, No. 1379.
Timothy A. Crawford, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellant.
Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Dist. Atty., William C. Turnoff, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Eagen, C. J., and Manderino and Flaherty, JJ., concur in the result. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Appellant raises several issues in this direct appeal from the judgment of life sentence imposed after his conviction by a jury of murder in the first degree. Post trial motions were argued and denied.
Appellant's first contention is that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain his conviction of first degree murder. This contention is without merit. Although there were no eyewitnesses to the actual killing in question, the circumstantial evidence reveals the following facts: On the evening of October 12, 1975, Ms. Billie Ann Morris was stabbed to death in a vacant lot across the street from 5973 North Lambert Street in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia medical examiner determined upon conducting a post mortem examination of the victim that death resulted from a single stab wound to the left chest area and that the manner of death was homicide. In the absence of actual eyewitness testimony, the Commonwealth presented testimony of three women who were in the company of Ms. Morris immediately before the killing, and testimony of two neighbors who witnessed relevant occurrences in the vacant lot at about the time of the stabbing.
Ms. Deborah Young testified for the prosecution that she had spent the day with Ms. Morris and two other women, Ms. Doris Dingle and Ms. Julia Ruff. On the evening of October 12, 1975, these four women were present in Ms. Young's home when appellant arrived and asked to see Ms. Morris. Ms. Young testified that she knew the appellant before that night and that he was a former lover of Ms. Morris. Appellant and Morris conversed briefly, the appellant departed and returned shortly thereafter. After another brief conversation, Ms. Morris and appellant left the house. At that time, the victim was wearing a white shawl. A telephone call from a neighbor caused Ms. Young to venture outside where she observed a pool of blood in the lot. She then proceeded immediately to Germantown Hospital.
Ms. Doris Dingle's testimony corroborated Ms. Young's testimony; however, Ms. Dingle observed that keys to the victim's car were found in the puddle of blood. Ms. Dingle testified that she had warned Ms. Morris against leaving with the appellant, and that she had answered her warning by saying, "He will not do anything else to me, he will not hurt me anymore." Ms. Dingle also testified that on the day before the killing she heard the appellant state: "Women do what I say do, if not I kill them." This statement was made in the presence of a few women and was apparently directed at Ms. Morris.
Ms. Aiesha Abdulmalik, one of the two neighbors to testify, testified to looking out of her window after hearing a woman's screams on the night in question. At that time she observed a blue and white Chevrolet Monte Carlo parked on the street; she had observed the same car before, parked in front of Ms. Young's house. She also saw "two silhouettes, one male and one female. The female had a white shawl and got in the car and it drove off." Ms. Abdulmalik went outside immediately, saw blood on the lot and then telephoned Ms. Young.
Mr. Harvey Byrd, another neighbor, testified that he too looked out his window immediately after hearing a woman
scream. He saw the blue and white Monte Carlo and saw a man standing near the car. He said that the man looked directly at him, picked the body of a woman off the ground, placed the body in the car, and then drove off.
Evelyn Jones, the sister of the deceased, testified for the prosecution that she heard the appellant state in December of 1974 that he would "get" the victim. She testified to seeing the appellant punch the victim twice in the jaw and once in the leg, without any apparent provocation on January 3, 1975. She testified that after this incident the appellant was forcibly removed from the house, but that he returned later and fired a pistol breaking a window in the house.
Officer Ronald McClane testified that at 12:30 a. m. on January 3, 1975 he stopped an automobile because of information received from a complainant. The driver of that car identified himself as Comer Glass and had in his possession a .32 calibre revolver containing four live rounds and one spent cartridge.
A registered nurse employee of Germantown Hospital testified that appellant brought the victim into the emergency ward the night of October 12.
Appellant gave a statement to homicide detectives following his arrest which denied any knowledge of the stabbing, but which placed him at the scene of the crime immediately before and after the stabbing. The statement also admitted the fact of his owning and driving a blue and white Monte Carlo on the night in question. In the statement the appellant stated that he and the victim agreed to go to his house in separate cars, that he had driven home in his car, but that the victim never arrived. He stated that he returned to the lot where he saw the victim lying there after having been stabbed.
The testimony of a detective who travelled the route allegedly taken by appellant, together with the testimony of the witnesses who observed a man standing by a blue and white Monte ...