No. 322 Special Transfer Docket, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Trial Division, Criminal Section, Nos. 22 & 23 October Term, 1977.
Jack J. Levine, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Robert B. Lawler, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Roberts and Lipez, JJ.*fn*
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 53]
On February 10, 1978, a jury convicted appellant of two counts of murder of the first degree. After denying post-verdict motions, the trial court sentenced appellant to concurrent terms of life imprisonment on each of the counts. Appellant contends that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise in post-verdict motions the trial court's refusal to accept two of his points for charge concerning the relevance of his mental disorder to his claim that he had acted in the heat of passion. We affirm.
Appellant shot and killed his girlfriend and a roomer of his during a card game. At trial, appellant contended that he believed that his girlfriend had had an affair with his roomer. He presented psychiatric evidence that he was an alcoholic suffering from an organic brain disorder caused by alcohol and that he felt that he had to defend himself when the roomer announced angrily that he was leaving and approached appellant on his way out. Appellant submitted the following points for charge, which the trial court denied:
"9. You may determine from the psychiatric evidence that because of mental disorders defendant acted in the heat of passion.
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 5410]
. You may determine that defendant's passion had as its origins his mental disorder as well as his recent awareness of his girlfriend's alleged relationship with roomer Christopher Brunson, and the circumstances immediately preceding the shooting."
In its charge to the jury, the trial court fully set forth the elements of the crime of voluntary manslaughter and the standard for finding that an accused acted in the heat of passion, and reviewed some of the evidence bearing on these issues. The court also instructed the jurors that, in determining whether sufficient provocation existed to support a finding of guilty of voluntary manslaughter, they could rely upon "the cumulative impact of a series of related events" and upon the medical testimony of appellant's alleged mental disorder. See Commonwealth v. McCusker, 448 Pa. 382, 292 A.2d 286 (1972).*fn**
In its charge, a trial court is free to use any language of its choice, so long as it covers the issues in terms understandable to the jury. E. g., Commonwealth v. Perry, 268 Pa. Super. 136, 407 A.2d 867 (1979). Although the trial court's charge may not have been as specific as appellant's requested points, it conveyed the concepts appellant wished to impress upon the jury. See Commonwealth v. Stoltzfus, 462 Pa. 43, 337 A.2d 873, appeal dismissed, 419 U.S. 1065, 95 S.Ct. 651 (1975) (no error in refusing specific instruction covered by general charge); Commonwealth v. Perry, supra (same). Thus, the trial court adequately informed the jury of ...