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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES A. WATTS (02/01/80)

decided: February 1, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JAMES A. WATTS, APPELLANT



Nos. 460 and 472 January Term, 1977 Appeals from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Trial Division, of Philadelphia, at Nos. 124 and 125 August Term, 1976

COUNSEL

Daniel M. Preminger, Philadelphia, for appellant.

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

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Larsen, J., joins in the Opinion of the Court and files a separate concurring opinion in which Flaherty, J., joins. Nix, J., files a dissenting opinion. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 488 Pa. Page 215]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, James Watts, was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia of murder of the first degree

[ 488 Pa. Page 216]

    and criminal conspiracy. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life for murder and five to ten years for conspiracy, the sentences to run concurrently. He appealed the judgment of sentence for murder to this court and appealed the judgment of sentence for conspiracy to the Superior Court, which certified that appeal to this court.

Appellant was charged in connection with the shooting death of Andre Washington, whose body was discovered in the front seat of a car on Vertel Road in Philadelphia at 1:35 a. m., on September 24, 1974.

Elliot Burton, a prosecution witness, testified as follows: Decedent, for several weeks prior to his death, had been trying to be admitted to the Twentieth and Carpenter Street Gang, of which Burton and appellant were members. Donald Robinson, the leader of the gang, suspected decedent was a spy for a rival gang. During the evening of September 23, 1974, Robinson arranged for appellant and gang members Albie Sims and Jeffry Johnson to kill decedent. The three were to take decedent out on the pretext they were initiating him into the gang. They were to go in two cars, one of which belonged to Robinson and one of which had been stolen. Decedent was to ride in the stolen car and was to be shot and left in it. The others were to return in Robinson's car. Robinson was to pay each perpetrator $100 and a quarter of a pound of marijuana. Shortly after midnight, they left as planned, and later returned to report to Robinson that Washington had been killed. They said they had shot him while he was in the back seat of the car and again while he was in the front seat, and had left his body in the front of the car. Burton claimed he was present during the discussion, but did not take any part in the shooting.

In defense, appellant attempted to impeach Burton's credibility by calling Fulton Jones, appellant's stepbrother, to testify. Jones testified Burton had accused appellant of going with his, Burton's, girlfriend, and that appellant and Burton had been in a fight. ...


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