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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MATTHEW EPPS (10/05/79)

filed: October 5, 1979.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
MATTHEW EPPS, APPELLANT



No. 1705 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the judgment of sentence of Common Pleas Court, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, Nos. 1746 to 1752, May Term, 1976

COUNSEL

John J. Poserino, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellant.

Andrew B. Cohn, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Price, Hoffman and Dowling,*fn* JJ. Hoffman, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Dowling

[ 270 Pa. Super. Page 297]

Appellant, Matthew Epps found guilty of robbery, aggravated assault, resisting arrest and possession of an instrument of crime was denied post trial relief and sentenced to prison. His appeal is without merit.

The factual scenario as seen through the eyes of the convicting jury reveals appellant held up a street corner steak shop whose victim immediately notified police. Epps was stopped some ten blocks from the scene by Officer Eastburn who had received an alert giving defendant's description. When the Officer asked for identification, Epps reached into his raincoat pocket and shot through his coat striking Eastburn in the chest.

Shortly thereafter he was discovered hiding under a nearby hedge. A patrolman was knocked down as appellant attempted to flee. He was finally subdued after a brief struggle and was taken to the hospital where he was identified by Officer Eastburn as his assailant. Thereafter appellant was admitted to the hospital.

Appellant raises a number of grounds for relief. Initially, it is argued that he was incompetent to stand trial because he was suffering from amnesia*fn1 as a result of his injuries and thus was unable to effectively consult with his attorney in the preparation of a defense. Under the Mental Health Procedure Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 817, 50 P.S. ยง 7403, appellant, as the moving party, has the burden of proving his incompetency. The test or standard by which incompetency is measured is set forth in Section 402(a) of the Act, which states that a defendant is incompetent to stand trial if

[ 270 Pa. Super. Page 298]

    he is "substantially unable to understand the nature or object of the proceedings against him or to participate and assist in his defense."

Appellant has consistently denied any knowledge or memory of the events surrounding the robbery. Significantly, there is no contention or evidence to support a contention that appellant was suffering from a mental disease or that his amnesia had otherwise impaired his thought or behavioral processes. Under these circumstances, the trial court found that appellant's amnesia neither diminished his capacity to understand the proceeding against him nor prevented him from synthesizing an accurate account of what transpired from available sources so as to assist in his own defense.

Absent evidence of a mental disability interfering with the defendant's faculties for rational understanding, it is settled that mere vacuity of memory is not tantamount to legal incompetency to stand trial. It is only where the loss of memory effects or is accompanied by a mental disorder impairing the amnesiac's ability to intelligently comprehend his position or to responsibly cooperate with counsel that the accused's guaranties to a fair trial and effective assistance of counsel are ...


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