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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CARL A. BRIDGE (09/24/81)

decided: September 24, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CARL A. BRIDGE, APPELLANT



No. 80-1-75, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Venango, Dated February 27, 1980, at S.D. No. 348, 1979.

COUNSEL

Henry W. Gent, III, Franklin, for appellant.

F. Walter Bloom, III, Dist. Atty., Wm. G. Martin, Franklin, for appellee.

O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts and Larsen, JJ., concurred in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 495 Pa. Page 571]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Carl A. Bridge, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five (5) to ten (10) years following a jury finding that he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The charge resulted from the shooting by appellant of his ex-wife, in the head, causing her death. At trial the Commonwealth attempted to establish murder of the first degree. Evidence was introduced by the prosecution to establish that appellant killed his ex-wife pursuant to a predesigned plan. The defense did not deny responsibility for the death but argued in the alternative, that appellant was not guilty by reason of involuntary intoxication or guilty of no more than involuntary or voluntary manslaughter by reason of the "serious" provocation on the part of the victim and appellant's diminished capacity by reason of intoxication. Post-verdict motions were denied and this direct appeal followed.

The first assignment of error in this appeal is the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury they could consider appellant's claim of voluntary intoxication in determining whether the requisite intent for voluntary manslaughter had been established. This assignment of error focuses upon the

[ 495 Pa. Page 572]

    present draft of section 308 of the Crimes Code.*fn1 That section provides:

ยง 308. Intoxication or drugged condition.

Neither voluntary intoxication nor voluntary drugged condition is a defense to a criminal charge, nor may evidence of such conditions be introduced to negative the element of intent of the offense, except that evidence of such intoxication or drugged condition of the defendant may be offered by the defendant whenever it is relevant to reduce murder from a higher degree to a lower degree of murder.

Appellant initially argued that this section offends equal protection guarantees asserting that a legislature may not limit the use of evidence of intoxication to the crime of murder of the first degree and preclude its use in lesser crimes requiring a specific mens rea.*fn2 In the supplemental brief the argument was rephrased into a due process attack. It was asserted that a defendant could not be precluded from introducing evidence of voluntary intoxication to negate an element of the criminal offense which the prosecution is bound to prove beyond to prove a reasonable doubt. These contentions ...


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