No. 19 May Term, 1979, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence imposed by the Court of Common Pleas of 39th Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Franklin County Branch at No. 375 of 1978.
Blake E. Martin, Public Defender, Douglas W. Herman, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant.
John F. Nelson, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman and Wilkinson, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion in which O'Brien, C. J., and Nix and Wilkinson, JJ., join.
In the early morning hours of September 19, 1978 William Paul Williams met his death as a result of a severe beating inflicted upon him in the lobby of the Madden Hotel in Chambersburg and in the alley adjacent to the hotel. Appellant herein and co-defendant, James Harmon, were charged as a result of this incident. Harmon was convicted in a non-jury trial of murder of the second degree and
robbery. Appellant entered a plea of guilty to the charge of murder generally in exchange for the Commonwealth's agreement to nolle pros all other charges against him. A degree of guilt hearing was held on March 5, 1979. On March 7, 1979 the lower court found that the degree of appellant's guilt rose to second degree and on that date sentenced the appellant to life imprisonment. Motions in arrest of judgment were filed, argued and denied. This is a direct appeal from the lower court's judgment of sentence.
At the degree of guilt hearing, by stipulation of counsel, certain documents were admitted into evidence including the autopsy report, excerpts from appellant's guilty plea colloquy, the preliminary hearing testimony of four witnesses and a stenographic report of a statement given by appellant in the presence of his counsel and attorneys for the Commonwealth. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth, Commonwealth v. Bastone, 466 Pa. 548, 353 A.2d 827 (1976), the following facts evinced at the degree of guilt hearing.
Appellant and Harmon were in the lobby of the Madden Hotel along with the victim, Mr. Walters. Earlier in the evening there had been some discussion concerning a gambling debt Mr. Walters allegedly owed appellant. Appellant became upset with Walters, at which time he hit him and demanded that Walters surrender his rings to appellant. Upon Walters' refusal to do so, Harmon and appellant began to kick and hit Walters. After appellant threw Walters to the floor he took Walters' rings. About this time Harmon was going through the victim's pants pockets from which he removed change and a wallet containing $25.00 or $30.00 in cash. The wallet was handed to appellant by Harmon. Harmon also removed the victim's watch, put it in his pocket and later gave it to appellant who attempted to hide it in a police cruiser.
It was apparently at this time that Mr. Harold Keith entered the lobby of the Madden to observe the appellant standing over the victim, whose face had been bloodied by this time. Mr. Walters left the lobby of the Madden and ...