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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HARRY JAMES BRANTNER (10/01/79)

decided: October 1, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
HARRY JAMES BRANTNER, APPELLANT



No. 6 May Term, 1978, Appeal by the Appellant from Judgment of Sentence of Adams County Court to No. CC-47-77 dated January 31, 1978

COUNSEL

Robert E. Campbell, Public Defender, for appellant.

Gary E. Hartman, Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Eagen, C. J., concurred in the result. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Nix

[ 486 Pa. Page 521]

OPINION

This is an appeal from judgments of sentence of life imprisonment entered upon each of two jury verdicts finding appellant guilty of the first degree murder of Robert Witta and his female companion, Julia Egnatosky.*fn1 Appellant testified at trial that early in the evening of November 5, 1976, he went to Witta's home to go deer hunting with Witta. Appellant entered the living room of the house and propped his rifle up against the inside door frame. At this time, Witta was in the living room seated on a love seat, and Ms. Egnatosky was in the kitchen. Appellant testified that Witta asked him if he had brought the money that appellant owed him, and when appellant replied that he was unemployed, Witta ordered Ms. Egnatosky to get a gun, and he himself pulled a carbine out from under his seat, operated the bolt, and aimed it at appellant. At or about the same time, appellant testified, Ms. Egnatosky entered the living room armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Appellant then started firing his rifle at Witta and Egnatosky. Appellant also testified that he then ransacked the house to give the appearances of a burglary or robbery, because he did not think anyone would believe his self-defense story. On cross-examination,

[ 486 Pa. Page 522]

    appellant had some difficulty explaining how he turned and retrieved his rifle, which was by the door, and then fired at the victims, who were then supposedly both armed. Expert medical testimony established that Egnatosky died as a result of two bullet wounds to the head, one of which was in the back of her head. Similarly, it was established that Witta was wounded in four places, once in the chest and four times in the head; two of the latter wounds were in the back of the victim's head. Although the medical expert could not specify the order in which the wounds were sustained, the expert stated that death was caused by chest and brain hemorrhage.

In a shotgun approach, appellant urges that the Commonwealth evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to establish the presence of a specific intent to kill, which was required for a finding of murder of the first degree.*fn2 He argues that the Commonwealth did not show any motive for the crime. It is, however, axiomatic that the Commonwealth is not required to prove motive to establish guilt even where the crime charged is murder of the first degree. Commonwealth v. Fugmann, 330 Pa. 4, 39 A.2d 838 (1944); Commonwealth v. Bussieri, 153 Pa. 535, 26 A. 228 (1893). See also, Commonwealth v. Nasuti, 385 Pa. 436, 123 A.2d 435 (1956) (arson); Commonwealth v. Truitt, 369 Pa. 72, 85 A.2d 425 (1951) (assault and battery); Commonwealth v. De Petro, 350 Pa. 567, 39 A.2d 838 (1944) (arson).

[ 486 Pa. Page 523]

Though the evidence against her was circumstantial, if it satisfied the jury of her guilt she is not to be saved from the consequences of her crime because a motive for its commission, however important a matter the same might be, had not been disclosed. There can be no escape from punishment for crime when all the elements of it are proved, whether the evidence be positive or ...


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