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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Christopher Anthony Lowry

October 26, 2012

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
v.
CHRISTOPHER ANTHONY LOWRY APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence April 6, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-02-CR-0007177-2010

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Olson, J.

BEFORE: OLSON, WECHT and PLATT,*fn1 JJ.

Appellant, Christopher Anthony Lowry, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered April 6, 2011, sentencing him to, inter alia, 14 to 36 months' incarceration, followed by four years' consecutive probation, for convictions of accidents involving death or personal injury*fn2 and summary offenses of operating a motor vehicle without financial responsibility*fn3 and careless driving.*fn4 For the following reasons, we affirm.

The trial court summarized the factual and procedural background of this matter as follows:

Ernest Stevens testified that he was at a gas station on Route 51 in Jefferson Borough on October 1, 2009 when he observed a white male in a red vehicle pull out of the gas station towards Route 51 and make a left turn across two lanes onto the highway. Appellant stipulated that he was the driver of the red vehicle. Stevens testified that Appellant crossed the path of oncoming traffic and that Stevens was surprised that Appellant did not hit either of the two oncoming cars. Stevens noted that Appellant's tires spun and smoke came out of the front tires when Appellant accelerated out of the gas station onto the highway. Stevens indicated that the wheels of both oncoming cars "locked up," and one of them, an SUV, fishtailed, went sideways and spun out of control, striking a car traveling in the opposite direction. Stevens said debris flew everywhere and the collision was very loud.

Joseph Wanielista was the driver of one of the vehicles in the two lanes of traffic crossed by Appellant when executing his left turn. He testified that Appellant pulled out in front of his car and the SUV in the other lane, and did not give him much room to stop. Wanielista immediately hit his brakes and managed to both avoid getting hit and maintain control of his vehicle.

Kevin Poindexter, the driver of the SUV, was not so fortunate. He testified that when Appellant pulled out of the gas station in front of him, Poindexter slowed down and turned his wheel to the left to avoid going over a curb and into the gas station. This action caused his wheels to lock and his car to slide across two lanes and strike a car traveling in the opposite direction of Route 51.

Dr. Todd Luckasevic testified that the individual struck by Poindexter's SUV, Bradley Child, died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the motor vehicle accident.

Trial Court Opinion, 10/5/2011, at 3-4.

From January 21-24, 2011, Appellant underwent a jury trial, at the conclusion of which he was found guilty of accidents involving death or personal injury. The trial court, sitting as a magistrate, subsequently found Appellant guilty of the summary offenses of operating a motor vehicle without financial responsibility and careless driving. The trial court sentenced Appellant on April 6, 2011. This timely appeal followed.

Appellant raises three issues for appeal:

Whether the evidence was sufficient to convict [Appellant] on the charge of [a]ccidents [i]nvolving [d]eath or [p]ersonal [i]njury, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742(a)?

Whether the [t]rial [c]court abused its discretion in denying [Appellant's] [m]otion for a [v]iew by [the j]ury?

Whether the [t]rial [c]court abused its discretion in admitting three color photographs of [the victim] in the hospital, specifically Commonwealth Exhibits 17, 18, and 19?

Appellant's Brief at 5.*fn5

Appellant's first issue on appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his conviction of accidents involving death or personal injury, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3742, on two bases. Appellant's first contention is that the Commonwealth failed to establish that Appellant was "involved" in an accident. Appellant's Brief at 23-31. Next, Appellant claims that the Commonwealth failed to sufficiently establish that Appellant "knew or should have known" that he was involved in an accident. Id. at 32-44. We begin by considering Appellant's challenge to the determination that he was "involved" in the accident.

Pursuant to Section 3742: [t]he driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of section 3744 (relating to duty to give ...


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