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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PATRICIA ANN CAPITOLO (09/24/85)

decided: September 24, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
PATRICIA ANN CAPITOLO, CURTIS JAY SELL, STEPHEN E. ANDERSON, EDWARD S. WAGNER, AND SUE HEILMAN, APPELLEES



40 W.D. Appeal Docket 1984, Appeal from the Order of Superior Court at Nos. 811-815 Pittsburgh, 1980 Entered on January 13, 1984, Reversing the Judgments of Sentence Entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County on July 16, 1980 at Nos. 559-563 of 1979, Criminal Division, 324 Pa. Superior Ct. 61, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Papadakos

[ 508 Pa. Page 375]

Opinion OF THE COURT

This case raises the sole issue of whether the defense of justification as defined in Section 503 of our Crimes Code*fn1 is available to Appellees (Patricia Ann Capitolo, Curtis Jay Sell, Stephen E. Anderson, Edward S. Wagner, and Sue Heilman) who were charged with criminal trespass.*fn2

On July 15, 1979, Appellees, violating a clearly visible "No Trespass" sign, crawled under a fence surrounding the Shippingsport Power Plant in Beaver County and sat down holding hands. Told to leave by a plant security guard and a deputy sheriff, or face arrest for trespassing, Appellees remained seated. They were then bodily removed by Deputy Sheriffs from the property and each charged with criminal trespass. No injuries or property damage resulted from the trespass at the plant, which was in a two-week shutdown at the time.

At a trial by jury, presided over by the Honorable John N. Sawyer, President Judge of the Beaver County Court of

[ 508 Pa. Page 376]

Common Pleas, Appellees attempted to defend their actions, relying on Section 503 of the Crimes Code which provides:

ยง 503. Justification generally.

(a) General rule -- Conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid a harm or evil to himself or to another is justifiable if:

(1) the harm or evil sought to be avoided by such conduct is greater than that sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense charged;

(2) neither this title nor other law defining the offense provides exceptions or defenses dealing with the specific situation involved; and

(3) a legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed does not otherwise plainly appear.

(b) Choice of evils -- When the actor was reckless or negligent in bringing about the situation requiring a choice of harms or evils or in appraising the necessity for his conduct, the justification afforded by this section is unavailable in a prosecution for any offense for which recklessness or negligence, as the case may be, suffices to establish culpability.

Appellees demanded to present evidence from experts which they ...


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