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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES E. BROWN (09/23/80)

filed: September 23, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JAMES E. BROWN, APPELLANT



No. 372 October Term 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence and Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Section, Philadelphia, at Nos. 392, 393, 394 June Term 1978

COUNSEL

Ronald J. Harper, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Eric B. Henson, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wickersham, Brosky and Eagen, JJ.*fn* Wickersham, J., files a dissenting statement.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 305]

On November 17, 1978 after a non-jury trial, James E. Brown, appellant, was found guilty of possession of an instrument of crime-generally,*fn1 possession of an instrument of crime-concealed weapon,*fn2 possession of a prohibited offensive weapon,*fn3 recklessly endangering another person,*fn4 simple assault,*fn5 and aggravated assault.*fn6 Post-verdict motions were denied, and Brown was sentenced to imprisonment for two and one-half to five years on the aggravated assault conviction and to two years probation on the reckless endangerment conviction. Sentence was suspended on the remaining convictions. Brown, represented by new counsel, filed a timely appeal in this Court.

The record reveals the following:

[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 306]

On May 21, 1978, Anita Carter and Georgette Backers were in a bar in Philadelphia. Brown entered the bar and observed Carter and Backers together talking. Carter went to an area for dancing whereupon Brown approached her. Brown said something, undisclosed in the trial transcript, to Carter, removed a straight razor from his pocket, and slashed Carter under her left breast and on her arm.*fn7 The wound on the arm required nine stitches. Brown then ran from the bar and was arrested the following day after Backers pointed him out to a police officer. The police officer found a straight razor secreted in Brown's sleeve. Brown admitted this straight razor was the same razor he used to slash Carter.

Brown contends, inter alia, that the trial court improperly admitted evidence of prior unlawful acts purportedly committed by Brown and that this admission of evidence constituted reversible error. We agree.*fn8

Brown's trial was relatively brief. The Commonwealth introduced the testimony of Backers, an eyewitness, and the arresting police officer whose testimony was limited to the circumstances of Brown's arrest on May 22, 1978 and the seizing of the straight razor. The defense called one witness, Brown. Brown claimed that Carter's dance partner pulled a knife on him and that somehow, during an ensuing scuffle, Carter was cut. During cross-examination, Brown reluctantly admitted that he cut Carter but insisted it was unintentional. Essentially then, the case turned on the credibility of Brown and Backers.

[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 307]

During its case-in-chief, the Commonwealth elicited testimony from Backers that, earlier in May 1978, Brown visited Backers ostensibly to discuss the latter's purchase of a stereo system; that Brown then solicited sexual favors from Backers; that, after Backers refused, Brown punched Backers in the mouth; that, on a later date, Brown threatened to kill Backers; ...


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