No. 80-3-446, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Trial Division, Criminal Section, imposed at No. 664 & 665 June Term, 1979.
Stephen J. Margolin, Philadelphia (court-appointed), for appellant.
Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Sarah B. Vandenbraak, Asst. Dist. Attys., for appellee.
O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ.
On May 21, 1979 police found the dead body of Adelaide Bailey in a second floor bedroom of appellant's home. When the body was discovered, appellant told police: "I killed her. I was drunk. I hit her and hit her. I was scared. I covered her. I was drunk." Appellant and Bailey were drinking partners and friends, and had been drinking together for the better part of a week. At some point, however, appellant and Bailey quarreled over the disappearance of money belonging to appellant, and appellant struck Bailey. According to appellant's testimony, after striking Bailey, he fell asleep, and when he awoke, he found Bailey dead beside the bed where they had been sitting. After trial before a judge sitting without a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, appellant was convicted of third degree murder and sentenced to not less than four nor more than fourteen years imprisonment.
The sole issue raised on this appeal is whether the evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that Bailey's death was caused by a criminal act. It is axiomatic that a person may not be convicted of murder unless the Commonwealth is able to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and that one such element is the causal connection between death and a criminal act. See Commonwealth v. Webb, 449 Pa. 490, 494, 296 A.2d 734, 737 (1972).
Prior to the testimony of a police officer concerning an inculpatory statement given to police by appellant, defense counsel objected, in effect, that the Commonwealth had not established a corpus delicti, and could not therefore proceed to introduce evidence of appellant's inculpatory statement, see Commonwealth v. Ware, 459 Pa. 334, 329 A.2d 258 (1974):
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, at this time I am going to renew my objection based upon the fact that Dr.
Segal [the medical examiner] at no time testified with any degree of medical certainty, nor beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was anyone's criminality involved in the death of this individual. The questions that were asked of him were not whether he did agree beyond a medical certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt, merely what his opinion was, and that is not sufficient under the law to support a criminal action for murder.
N.T. 53. In response to this objection, the court continued the case until the next day so that the medical examiner, Dr. Segal, could return to testify. When Dr. Segal returned to ...