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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. REGINALD S. LEWIS (12/22/89)

decided: December 22, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
REGINALD S. LEWIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of Death Dated April 2, 1985, by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County at Nos. 585-586, February Term, 1983.

COUNSEL

Donald Michael Padova, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Deputy Dist. Atty., Ronald Eisenberg, Chief, Appeals Div., Donna Zucker, Asst. Dist. Atty., Robert A. Graci, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 523 Pa. Page 470]

OPINION

In this appeal, the Court is required to review a sentence of death imposed on the appellant, Reginald S. Lewis, after a jury found him guilty of the first degree murder of Christopher Ellis in the Oxford Bar on November 21, 1982.*fn1 The appellant raises fourteen counts of error for consideration.

[ 523 Pa. Page 471]

After a thorough review of the record in this case, it appears that none of the appellant's claims are meritorious or would require this court to vacate the present sentence. Therefore, the judgment of sentence entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County must be affirmed.

As in all capital cases this Court is first required to review the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether there was the necessary evidence to support the conviction, regardless of whether the appellant has challenged the conviction on that ground. 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 9711(h); Commonwealth v. Aulisio, 514 Pa. 84, 522 A.2d 1075 (1987); Commonwealth v. Zettlemoyer, 500 Pa. 16, 454 A.2d 937 (1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 970, 103 S.Ct. 2444, 77 L.Ed.2d 1327 (1983). The test for establishing the sufficiency of the evidence has been defined as follows:

Where a defendant challenges his conviction on appeal, the test of sufficiency of evidence is whether, viewing all the evidence admitted at trial, together with all reasonable inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the trier of fact could have found that each element of the offenses charged was supported by evidence and inferences sufficient in law to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Commonwealth v. Jackson, 506 Pa. 469, 473, 485 A.2d 1102, 1103 (1984); see also, Commonwealth v. Macolino, 503 Pa. 201, 469 A.2d 132 (1983). The evidence produced by the Commonwealth in this case unquestionably meets the prescribed standard and would support the conviction for first degree murder.

At approximately 6:30 on November 21, 1982, Christopher Ellis was brutally stabbed nine times by a man wielding a butcher knife in the Oxford Bar located on Oxford and Sixth Streets in Philadelphia. The stabbing was observed by all of the patrons of the bar, including the group that accompanied Mr. Ellis to the bar to celebrate one of the members' birthday. The police showed each of the witnesses a photo-array of eight pictures, and each identified the appellant's picture as the one who had committed the murder.

[ 523 Pa. Page 472]

Subsequently, when the police arrested the appellant for shoplifting in Strawbridge and Clothier department store, he had assumed the name of Booker T. Beatty, Jr. While still in police custody on that charge, the appellant was arrested pursuant to an outstanding warrant and charged with the murder of Christopher Ellis.

At trial, the prosecution produced six eye-witnesses*fn2 who identified the appellant as the one they had seen commit the murder. Each witness had been familiar with the appellant, as a person who "hung around" the neighborhood. They all knew him by his first name only, "Reggie" or Reginald. There was also testimony that frequently the appellant was seen wearing clear lens, "schoolboy" glasses prior to the incident, similar to the glasses dropped by the assailant at the scene of the murder. Hattie English testified that the appellant and the victim were arguing over a five dollar debt the victim allegedly owed the appellant immediately prior to the stabbing.

The bartender, Harold Whealton, testified that the assailant was a previous customer at the bar and had a girl friend named Stephanie, who was pregnant at the time and lived on the 1600 block of Marshall Street. The Commonwealth produced the appellant's fiancee, Stephanie McCorey, who testified she was pregnant at the time of the incident and had previously resided at 1610 N. Marshall Street. Mr. Whealton also testified the appellant approached him the next day and told him not to mention the appellant's name with regard to the incident. In defense of this charge, the appellant maintained he was in San Diego visiting his brother at the time of ...


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