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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EUGENE RICHARDSON (12/17/81)

decided: December 17, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
EUGENE RICHARDSON, APPELLANT



No. 367 January Term, 1979, Appeal From the Judgment of Sentence Entered July 31, 1979 of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Trial Division, For the County of Philadelphia, at No. 0058-0061, November Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

Ronald B. Merriweather, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman, and Wilkinson, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Wilkinson, J., joins. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Flaherty

[ 496 Pa. Page 523]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On March 1, 1979, Eugene Richardson was convicted by a jury of first degree murder, burglary and robbery in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Following denial of post verdict mtions, appellant was sentenced to two consecutive ten-to-twenty year terms for the robbery and burglary convictions, and a concurrent sentence of life imprisonment for the murder conviction. This appeal followed. We affirm.

On June 2, 1978, eight year old Aaron Richardson, appellant's cousin, was found strangled to death on the kitchen floor of his home. The body was found by Norman Richardson, the child's father, when Mr. Richardson returned home from work. Mr. Richardson called the police, who unsuccessfully attempted to revive the boy, but when the first police officer arrived, the body was already cold. The pockets of the victim's trousers were turned inside out and the money his parents had given him that morning, a little more than two dollars, was missing.

The evidence established that the murder took place between 8:00 a. m. and 8:10 a. m. on June 2, 1978. At 8:20 a. m.

[ 496 Pa. Page 524]

    that morning, appellant met one Brian Harvey, told Harvey that he had "knocked someone off" and took Harvey to the scene of the murder, where Harvey observed Aaron's body on the kitchen floor. Appellant then proceeded to school, where he persuaded a teacher to say that appellant was in school during the time of the murder.

Police investigation established that the basement door was forced open, a stereo turntable was moved from its usual position and placed near a door, the bedrooms were ransacked, and the children's banks were broken. A piece of weather stripping, which the medical examiner indicated may have been used to cause death, was also found. Additionally, appellant's palm print was found on the cover of the stereo. Although appellant lived a few doors from his uncle's house, the scene of the killing, evidence at trial established that prior to June 2, 1978, he had not been in his uncle's house since October of 1977, and further, that the palm print was of recent origin.

The first of appellant's thirteen assertions of error is that the trial court erred in failing to declare a mistrial when a defense witness testified on cross examination that the appellant had committed an unrelated crime. The witness, Ray Richardson, the fourteen year old brother of appellant, testified that his brother was last in his uncle's house, the scene of the killing, "when he burglarized it." The answer refers to appellant's October, 1977 burglary of his uncle's house. The exchange at trial went as follows:

BY MR. KING [the prosecutor]:

Q. Mr. Richardson, before June 2nd, 1978, when was the last time you were inside of your Uncle ...


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