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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HADDRICK BYRD (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
HADDRICK BYRD, APPELLANT



Nos. 273, 275 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Trial Division, Criminal Section, at Nos. 1721, 1722, 1725 March Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

Paul G. Hughes, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Division, Ellen Mattleman, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 490 Pa. Page 547]

OPINION OF THE COURT

A jury convicted appellant Haddrick Byrd of murder of the second degree, robbery and conspiracy. Appellant's post-verdict motions were denied and concurrent judgments of sentence of life imprisonment for murder and twenty years imprisonment for robbery were imposed; sentence was suspended on the conspiracy conviction. This appeal then followed.*fn1 We have reviewed appellant's various claims of error and now affirm the judgments of sentence.

Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his convictions for murder of the second degree and robbery.*fn2 These convictions are based on appellant's participation in the 1974 killing of Isadore Levin during early-morning religious services at Kesher Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia. Viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, Commonwealth v. Bastone, 466 Pa. 548, 353

[ 490 Pa. Page 548]

A.2d 827 (1976), the evidence is ample to support the convictions.

The Commonwealth's first witness, Isadore Abramson, testified that he arrived at the synagogue at approximately 6:30 a. m. on the Sunday morning of September 1, 1974. Services normally began at 6:45 a. m. and Abramson arrived early to prepare breakfast for the small congregation. Abramson testified that shortly after 6:30 a. m. two men whom he did not know entered the synagogue. When Abramson asked if he could help them they replied that they just wanted "to see how you pray." Abramson told them that the service would begin when the others arrived in about fifteen or twenty minutes. Abramson testified that during this conversation both men stared at the large safe located in the synagogue.

The two men left the synagogue but returned about fifteen minutes later. By this time approximately eleven congregants had arrived and morning services had begun. The two men were again approached by Abramson and, separately, by another congregant and both times expressed a desire to observe the service. Shortly thereafter, however, as the prayers continued, one of the congregants suddenly began struggling with one of the two men, was pushed away and was shot twice at close range. As he fell, the congregant, Isadore Levin, cried, "He got me . . . ." The two men fled. Levin was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Trial testimony by other congregants corroborated this account of the killing. In addition, Abramson and several other congregants made in-court identifications of appellant as one of the two men involved, although each witness indicated that appellant was not the man who fired the shots. A local merchant also identified appellant as one of the two men he saw, shortly after 7:00 a. m., riding a bicycle past his store. It was established that this was a route away from the synagogue and toward appellant's home.

The Commonwealth's final evidence came from Eugene Wharton, who testified to a statement appellant made to

[ 490 Pa. Page 549]

    him when both were incarcerated at the Philadelphia Detention Center in late 1974.*fn3 Wharton testified that he had known appellant for several years and that when he met appellant at the Detention Center he told appellant that a common acquaintance, Lawrence Dunbar, had been picked up for "the synagogue killing." According to Wharton appellant laughed and proceeded to explain that it was he, appellant, along with a friend Larry Smith who had perpetrated the crime. Appellant then narrated to Wharton how he had been in the area on the morning of the killing looking for a way to make some money when he got the idea of holding up the synagogue. Appellant explained how, after surveying the synagogue, he went to find Smith and persuade him to join in the criminal adventure. Wharton related the remainder of appellant's statement as follows:

"[Appellant] [s]aid he asked Larry did Larry want to make any money and Larry asked him, 'Doing what?' He said that he just been down to the synagogue, you know, and that Jews don't put their money in, you know, in no banks. So he said that would be a good place to stick up. So Larry said, 'All right.' So, he said they strapped up, came on downstairs and they got bicycles and he said they rode back down to synagogue, got off the bikes and went inside. He says they was inside. Same guy approached. The man asked, could he help him. He said, no, that him and his friend had just came to observe the services. He said at that time Larry pulled out a pistol and told the guy it was a stick-up and that the guy didn't go for it and the guy rushed him. He says as the guy grabbed him Larry shot him up under the arm, he said and pushed him back, then shot him again in the chest. So then Larry turned around and ran back out the door and got on his bike and ran, you know, rode back, he says. So he went on outside, you know, to see where Larry had went behind the fact that he figured they was going to still go ahead and stick it up as they planned, but as he seen that he left he got on

[ 490 Pa. Page 550]

    his bike and rode -- caught up with him and said he came back down to ...


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