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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CLARICE SMITH (12/13/89)

filed: December 13, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
CLARICE SMITH, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal at No. 3790 and 3791 June Term, 1987.

COUNSEL

Charles J. Cunningham, III, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Hugh J. Burns, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.

Cavanaugh, Montemuro and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Montemuro

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 608]

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division on September 22, 1988. The court convicted appellant at a bench trial of third degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and abuse of corpse. The judge denied defendant's post-verdict motions and this appeal followed. Appellant raises three claims in this appeal. First, appellant claims that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction on any of the three crimes for which appellant was convicted. Second, appellant contends that the trial judge imposed an illegal sentence. Finally, appellant argues that certain physical evidence should not have been admitted, and therefore, she is entitled to a new trial. We affirm.

The trial judge ably summarized the facts established at trial as follows:

Clarice Smith, and the deceased, her three year old daughter Sylvia, lived in a high-rise project on 300 North Busti Street in the Southwest section of Philadelphia. The defendant, a habitual user of cocaine, had a history of neglecting her child. The evidence showed that the defendant, when feeding her child, fed her only once a day. A former paramour of the defendant's testified that when he showed any affection toward the deceased or tried to feed her another time during the day, the defendant became violent toward him. A neighbor testified that on certain occasions she would hear the defendant

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 609]

    screaming and cursing at the deceased. The neighbor also testified that she would hear the deceased crying. Finally, testimony established that the defendant would put the deceased in her room and tie a rope or strap around the door knob on the outside so the deceased could not get out of her room.

On May 21, 1987, the decomposed and mummified body of the child was discovered by maintenance men who had forced their way into the apartment to shut off the utilities. The room in which the deceased was found was at that time locked from the outside by means of a rope or strap which was tied to the outside of the door and attached to another doorknob. The emaciated corpse of the child was found in a kneeling position at the foot of her bed with her head laying over her folded hands on the bed.

The medical examiner testified [to a reasonable degree of medical certainty] that the cause of death was malnutrition and the manner of death was homicide by neglect.

From the testimony it was determined that sometime in February 1987, the child passed away. The defendant, in her statement, admitted that when she discovered that her daughter was dead she moved out of the apartment, doing nothing about properly disposing of the child's body. She also admitted general mistreatment of the child and an inability to care for her. Evidence also established that the defendant returned to the apartment three ...


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