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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. KENNETH C. MORRIS (07/07/89)

filed: July 7, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
KENNETH C. MORRIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of McKean County, No. 243 Criminal 1986.

COUNSEL

William P. McVay, Public Defender, Bradford, for appellant.

Brosky, Rowley and Montemuro, JJ. Brosky, J., files a concurring statement.

Author: Rowley

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 564]

This appeal of Kenneth C. Morris is from the judgment of sentence of life imprisonment that was imposed following a non-jury verdict of guilty of murder of the first degree but mentally ill. Appellant's sole argument on appeal is that a defendant who has been found "mentally ill" pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 314 is necessarily incapable of the "willful, deliberate and premeditated killing" upon which a guilty verdict of murder of the first degree, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502, is based. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

The facts of the case, briefly summarized, are as follows: On August 30, 1986, appellant, accompanied by his girlfriend, Donna Kilpatrick, drove to the home of Kilpatrick's daughter Tina in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in order to retrieve a hunting rifle belonging to appellant. Kilpatrick, fearing that appellant was suicidal, had earlier taken the rifle to her daughter's home. As they were parked in the driveway outside Tina's home, the couple argued, and Kilpatrick attempted to leave the car and go into the house. Appellant pulled her back into the car, stabbed her with a hunting knife that he had brought with him, and drove off. An autopsy revealed a total of nine stab wounds. Appellant eventually wrecked the car in New York State. After putting Kilpatrick's body in the trunk of the car, he wrote a note explaining that a former girlfriend had "caused all this" and that "Donna was good to me so I wanted to take her with me." At some point appellant also stabbed himself in the abdomen in an apparent suicide attempt. In statements to police officers, emergency and hospital personnel, and an examining psychiatrist, he admitted killing Kilpatrick.

At the non-jury trial, defense counsel attempted to prove that appellant was not guilty by reason of insanity. The expert witness for the defense, Dr. Jodh Sanghi, testified that he had diagnosed appellant as suffering from "bipolar

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 565]

    illness," formerly called manic-depressive disorder, and that he saw no evidence to indicate that appellant had the willfulness or the premeditation to commit harm to Kilpatrick (N.T., 151, 166). His testimony was disputed by that of the Commonwealth's witness, Dr. Anthony Montecalvo, who diagnosed appellant as suffering from an adjustment disorder and not from bipolar illness (N.T., 244-47).

The trial court, after concluding that appellant had understood both the nature and the wrongfulness of his act, found him legally sane and guilty of murder of the first degree but mentally ill. Post-trial motions were filed and denied. On September 23, 1987, the court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 1102(a) and directed that appellant receive treatment pursuant to the Mental Health Procedures Act, 50 P.S. § 7101 et seq. This timely appeal followed.

The argument raised by appellant in this appeal turns upon the Crimes Code's allegedly incompatible definitions of "guilty but mentally ill" and "murder of the first degree."*fn1 Section 314(a) of the Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S. § 314(a), states that

[a] person who timely offers a defense of insanity in accordance with the Rules of Criminal Procedure may be found "guilty but mentally ill" at trial if the trier of facts finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person is guilty of an offense, was mentally ill at the time of the commission of the offense and was not legally insane at the time of the commission of the offense.

As defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 314(c)(1), a "mentally ill" person is "[o]ne who as a result of mental disease or defect, lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law." This definition establishes a less rigorous standard than, but is ...


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