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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM LEE (02/02/81)

submitted: February 2, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
WILLIAM LEE, APPELLANT



No. 272 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Order of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, Trial Section at No. 885/887 of September Term, 1979.

COUNSEL

Elaine DeMasse, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wickersham, Popovich and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Wickersham

[ 291 Pa. Super. Page 165]

On August 31, 1979, at approximately 11:40 p.m. on the 1500 block of North Woodstock Street in Philadelphia, defendant stabbed Gerald Freeman in the chest and stomach during an argument over five dollars that the victim owed defendant. Freeman's friends then went to his aid while defendant walked up the street to talk with his girlfriend, Queenie Lighty. Approximately twenty minutes later, at 12:20 a.m., September 1, 1979, defendant stabbed Queenie Lighty in the chest.

Defendant was arrested and charged in two sets of Informations, Nos. 792-794 and Nos. 885-887, as of September Sessions, 1979. Bill Nos. 792-794 involved the incident with Mr. Freeman and Nos. 885-887 pertained to the assault on Queenie Lighty; both sets of Informations charged defendant with recklessly endangering another person, possession of an instrument of crime and simple and aggravated assault. Defendant was tried on the charges arising out of the assault on Mr. Freeman before the Honorable Alexander Bonavitacola, sitting without a jury, between December 12

[ 291 Pa. Super. Page 166]

    and 13, 1979, and convicted of possession of an instrument of crime (No. 793) and aggravated assault (No. 794).

On January 8, 1980, the Commonwealth was prepared to commence defendant's trial before the Honorable Lisa A. Richette on Information Nos. 885 to 887 involving the stabbing of Queenie Lighty. Defendant, however, moved to dismiss these bills on the grounds that this prosecution is barred by double jeopardy because these charges originated from the same criminal episode for which he was previously tried and convicted. That same day, after a hearing, Judge Richette denied defendant's motion. This appeal followed.*fn1

In Commonwealth v. Bolden, 472 Pa. 602, 373 A.2d 90 (1977), Justice Roberts said on this subject:

In short, the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy represents two fundamental and distinct protections: that no person should be harassed by successive prosecutions for a single wrongful act and that no person should be punished more than once for the same offense.

A particularly thorny problem in double jeopardy law is deciding when a second prosecution involves the 'same offense' as a prior prosecution. In Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 90 S.Ct. 1189, 25 L.Ed.2d 469 (1970), the defendant had been acquitted of robbing one of six men who were engaged in a poker game. The Court held that the double jeopardy clause mandated application of the rule of collateral estoppel. The Court applied collateral estoppel in Ashe to hold that the second prosecution violated the fourteenth amendment. Three ...


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