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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STEVE LEONHARD (03/26/84)

submitted: March 26, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
STEVE LEONHARD, APPELLANT



NO. 00746 PITTSBURGH 1982, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Criminal No. 1982 - 7

COUNSEL

Philip B. Friedman, Erie, for appellant.

John M. Dawson, Assistant District Attorney, Meadville, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Spaeth, President Judge, and Brosky and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Spaeth

[ 336 Pa. Super. Page 92]

This is an appeal from judgment of sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol*fn1 and leaving the scene of an accident involving death or bodily injury.*fn2 The only issue is whether the trial court's comments on the evidence in the charge to the jury constituted reversible error.*fn3 We find that on the particular facts, the error, if any, worked no injustice, and we therefore affirm the judgment of sentence.

On December 31, 1981, appellant, heavily intoxicated, drove his car through an intersection in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and collided with a van driven by John Stroup, who was on his way home from work. Mr. Stroup was thrown from the van by the force of the collision and suffered a fractured skull. He was hospitalized for forty-nine days and was permanently injured. Following the collision, appellant

[ 336 Pa. Super. Page 93]

    climbed from the window of his car and ran from the scene. The police arrived within five to ten minutes and, following bystanders' directions, followed appellant's footprints in the snow. They found him approximately one-quarter of a mile from the accident scene, alternately running, walking, and hitchhiking along a four-lane highway toward Ohio, where he lived. (Transcript at 11a-16a; 64a-70a) After the police arrested appellant, they took him to a nearby hospital where the staff closed a cut on his forehead with four stitches and x-rayed his skull. The x-ray showed no internal injury. (Transcript at 71a, 87-88a)

Appellant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident. At trial, he admitted that he had been intoxicated. (Transcript at 111a) He claimed, however, that his head injury was sufficiently severe to render him unable (independently of the alcohol) intentionally to leave the scene of the accident. (Defense closing statement, Record at 43:21-24) In charging the jury, the trial court told the jurors that they were the sole judges of the credibility of all witnesses and that they must apply the same standard in evaluating the testimony of police officers as they did to that of any other witness. (Transcript at 120-121a, 123a) The court concluded by discussing appellant's defense that his head injury was the sole cause of his inability to form the required intent:

THE COURT: . . . So, what are we down to? The Defendant's argument is that he doesn't recall anything about it, he doesn't recall leaving the scene of the accident, because he theorizes he got a cut or a bump on his head, and that is what prevented him from forming the requisite intent, and the argument seems to be that the alcohol had nothing to do with it.

Well, if you would find from all of the evidence, and the evidence is pretty scarce on that point, if you would find from all of the evidence that the reason he left the scene of the accident was because his mind, because of the cut or the bump on his head, because of that, ...


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