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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LEVI RHEM (11/21/80)

filed: November 21, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LEVI RHEM, APPELLANT



No. 1116 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, Nos. 736, 737, 738 and 743 July Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

Richard J. Conn, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Lise Rapaport, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Hester, Wickersham and Lipez, JJ.

Author: Hester

[ 283 Pa. Super. Page 568]

Appellant Levi Rhem was convicted in a jury trial of charges of possessing instruments of crime, attempted robbery, and two counts of robbery in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County. Post-trial motions were argued and denied and an aggregate sentence of six to twenty years imprisonment was imposed. This direct appeal followed.

Facts adduced at trial established the following. In the early morning hours of July 3, 1978, complainants Raymond Carter and his sister Joyce were in their home at 2024 North

[ 283 Pa. Super. Page 56920]

    th Street in Philadelphia. Visiting with Mr. Carter at that time was Miss Gustine McKenzie, also a complainant herein. Mr. Carter was summoned by a knock to the front door where he was met by appellant and co-defendant David Benson standing on the porch. One of these individuals inquired of Mr. Carter whether he was "cool",*fn1 to which Carter replied "No." The visitors turned to leave but suddenly spun around brandishing guns and demanded to know where Carter's money and drugs were. Benson accompanied Carter to the upstairs bedroom while appellant proceeded to the living room and relieved Miss McKenzie of her money and a watch. He then ordered her to walk upstairs. In the second floor bedroom, Carter and Miss McKenzie sat on the bed while appellant and Benson struck them with their guns and demanded money. Appellant roused Joyce Carter from her third floor bedroom and ordered her to join the others on the second floor. At this point, the police arrived and began knocking loudly on the front door.*fn2 Appellant and Benson forced their captives downstairs and onto the floor and then hid their guns. The robbers answered the front door and were thereafter arrested.

Both defendants testified at trial as to their version of the events of July 3rd. Essentially, their claim was that in the late evening of July 2nd, they had purchased some poor quality drugs from Raymond Carter, and that early on July 3rd they had returned to Carter's house to demand their money back. They maintained that once inside Carter's house, a fight ensued, instigated by Carter, and that when the police arrived they tried to explain that they, defendants, had been "burned" by Carter, the complainant, in a bad drug buy.

Based upon the foregoing, we must reject appellant's contention that the evidence was insufficient to establish every element of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.

[ 283 Pa. Super. Page 570]

    the court . . . . The practice of a judge entering into the trial of a case as an advocate is emphatically disapproved. The judge occupies an exalted and dignified position; he is the one person to whom the jury, with rare exceptions, looks for guidance and from whom litigants expect absolute impartiality . . . . [H]e should not, during the trial, indicate an opinion, on the merits, a doubt as to the witnesses' credibility, or do ...


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