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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CAROL DILLON (08/02/89)

filed: August 2, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CAROL DILLON, APPELLANT



Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, Nos. 2376 and 2377 June Term, 1986.

COUNSEL

Manuel Grife, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Maxine Stotland, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia for Com.

Wieand, Montemuro and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 239]

Carol Dillon was found guilty by a jury of murder of the third degree in the stabbing death of her husband on the evening of June 7, 1986. Post-trial motions were dismissed, and she was sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment for not less than three (3) years nor more than six (6) years.*fn1 On direct appeal, she challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the jury's verdict and alleges numerous trial errors. We will consider these issues seriatim.

Appellant's post-trial motions contained only a "boiler-plate" challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. This was inadequate to preserve for appellate review any specific deficiency in the Commonwealth's proof. See: Commonwealth v. Holmes, 315 Pa. Super. 256, 461 A.2d 1268 (1983).

Moreover and in any event, a review of the record discloses evidentiary support for the jury's finding. On June 7, 1986, at or about 7:05 p.m., police found appellant's husband lying unconscious in his home at 5236 Penway Street, Philadelphia. He had sustained a single stab wound of the left chest and was taken immediately to Parkview Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:44 p.m. The decedent's wife, Carol Dillon, initially denied knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the stabbing death of her husband. While she was at the hospital, however, police found a brown-handled butcher knife with blood on it, as well as a blood-stained towel and washcloth in the residence. Police suspicion thereafter focused on the decedent's wife, and she was subsequently transported from the hospital to police headquarters for questioning. After continuing to deny any knowledge of the incident resulting in the stabbing of her husband, police confronted Mrs. Dillon with a neighbor's statement that Mrs. Dillon and her husband had been observed quarreling in their car shortly before he had been stabbed. Mrs. Dillon thereafter gave a statement in which she admitted that she had stabbed her

[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 240]

    husband. This evidence was sufficient to sustain a finding that appellant was guilty of murder of the third degree.

Appellant's defense was that she had acted in self-defense when attacked by an allegedly intoxicated husband. The testimony, however, was contradictory. The Deputy Medical Examiner for the City of Philadelphia testified that there were no traces of alcohol in the decedent's blood. There was testimony that the decedent and appellant had been arguing, immediately prior to the killing and also on the preceding night. Whether the argument was about appellant's seeing her former husband or about the long hours which the decedent spent at his job is not certain. Appellant testified at trial that the argument had become violent on the preceding night and that the decedent had pushed her, causing her to fall and strike her head. She also testified generally that the decedent had beaten her during the course of the marriage. This general accusation, however, was neither corroborated by other evidence nor particularized by specific instances; and other witnesses testified that the decedent had never struck his wife or evidenced a tendency toward violence. His former wife testified that the decedent had never struck her and that even after he had been drinking he was not violent but became either sleepy or "extra happy." It is readily apparent, therefore, that the credibility of appellant's defense was for the jury to weigh and consider in light of the Commonwealth's evidence that appellant had stabbed her husband in the chest with a butcher knife.

Appellant argues that the statement made at the hospital, to the effect that she did not know how her husband had been injured, and the confession made at the police station should have been suppressed because they had not been preceded by Miranda*fn2 warnings. The suppression court found, however, that at the hospital appellant had been neither a suspect nor in custody. She had called police to the home, had denied knowledge of how her

[ 386 Pa. Super. Page 241]

    husband had been stabbed, explained that she had been smeared with blood by handling him, and asked police to take her to the hospital to which her husband had been removed. There, in response to questions, she continued to assert ignorance regarding the circumstances of her husband's wound.

It was when appellant was at the hospital that police located the blood covered knife and learned that appellant and her husband had been arguing in their car before entering their home prior to the stabbing. When the decedent expired at 8:44 p.m., police at the hospital were asked to bring appellant to the police station for questioning. There she was advised of her ...


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