NO. 874 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Criminal, No. 567 of 1979.
William R. Lee, Scranton, for appellant.
Ernest D. Preate, Jr., District Attorney, Lackawanna, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Wickersham, McEwen and Lipez, JJ.
[ 305 Pa. Super. Page 198]
We here consider an appeal from the judgment of sentence imposed after appellant was convicted by a jury of criminal conspiracy. The jury found that appellant, who at the time of the crime was an inmate at the Lackawanna County Prison, had conspired with other inmates to effect the death by hanging of another prisoner, Clifford Doolittle. We affirm.
The evidence at trial established that on November 30, 1978, appellant was committed to the Lackawanna County Prison to serve a sentence for a criminal attempt charge. Another inmate at the prison, Thaddeus Pitta, testified that several times in the weeks preceding the death of Clifford Doolittle, appellant stated: "We have to get a body. We need a body here in this jail. We got to hang somebody and blame it on a snitch." Douglas Palmiter, a fellow inmate, also testified that on numerous occasions prior to the death of Doolittle, appellant stated he wanted to find a stiff and get that stiff hung. Palmiter also testified that on the night of February 4, 1979, he and appellant met with fellow inmates Martin, Karabin, Benjamin and Pitta in the cell of
[ 305 Pa. Super. Page 199]
Martin. Clifford Doolittle, who was awaiting trial for murder, was introduced to the group. A discussion ensued concerning the possible results of the forthcoming trial of Doolittle, during which the inmates explained to Doolittle the "old Farview trick" -- faking a suicide so as to be sent to Farview, a facility for the criminally insane, and thereby avoid being prosecuted for murder. After Doolittle left the cell, appellant suggested that the inmates hold a "mock trial" for Doolittle on the charges confronting him.
The next night, Monday, February 5, 1979, Bossick, Martin and Karabin informed Doolittle that his trial would be held in Bossick's cell. At the mock trial, Doolittle was questioned about his crime and at the conclusion of the trial Karabin pointed his hand at Doolittle and stated, "I sentence you to death." Following the mock trial, Martin stated that Karabin and Bossick were scaring Doolittle into the "Farview trick" and that "Clifford Doolittle thinks we are going to cut him down when we get him in. We're not going to cut him down. We're going to let the son-of-a-bitch hang."
The next morning Karabin, Martin and appellant conferred with Doolittle. Palmiter overheard them telling Doolittle, "to go down to his cell and that they were going to fake the hanging." According to Palmiter, Doolittle entered his cell and Karabin and Martin followed him into the cell and remained in the cell for approximately ten minutes. Martin and Karabin then went to Martin's cell before returning in approximately fifteen minutes to Doolittle's cell. Martin opened the door to Doolittle's cell, looked in, then closed the cell door, looked at appellant who was standing on the second tier and nodded at appellant before returning to his cell. A prison guard testified that Martin notified him of the hanging and when the guard went to Doolittle's cell, Doolittle was already dead by reason of the hanging.
Palmiter testified that on the night of the murder he discussed the hanging with appellant, Karabin and Martin and that Karabin stated that while he and Martin were in Doolittle's cell, they tied up a sheet and got Doolittle in position. Karabin then held Doolittle by the heels until just
[ 305 Pa. Super. Page 200]
before he passed out, at which time Karabin dropped him and they let him hang.
The appellant presents the following questions for review:
Whether the evidence was insufficient to convict the defendant of ...