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[U] Commonwealth v. Howkins
Superior Court of Pennsylvania
February 7, 2014
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
SEQUOYAH NATIVE HAWKINS Appellant
Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of June 5, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County Criminal Division at No.: CP-36-0000235-2010
BEFORE: BOWES, J., WECHT, J., and PLATT, J. [*]
Sequoyah Native Hawkins ("Hawkins") appeals from his June 5, 2012 judgment of sentence. We affirm. The trial court aptly has summarized the factual and procedural history of this case as follows:
On August 24, 2009, [Hawkins] was involved in an altercation in the 600 block of Marietta Avenue in Lancaster City, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. That afternoon Crishon Gray, Rafik VanHook and Thomas Wiley were walking across town towards Buchanan Park where they planned to play basketball. On their way to the park, the group encountered Martine Ferber, [Hawkins'] girlfriend. VanHook approached Ferber and attempted to engage her in a conversation. Ferber informed VanHook that she had a boyfriend, sparking a brief verbal argument between them.
As the conflict concluded and Ferber turned to leave, [Hawkins] approached the scene. [Hawkins] told Ferber to "keep walking" and proceeded over to Gray, VanHook[, ] and Wiley. After shaking Gray's hand, [Hawkins] grabbed VanHook from behind and punched him. [Hawkins] and VanHook fought for a short period of time. Once the fight concluded, [Hawkins] walked across the street where he was joined by Ferber. A few moments later, VanHook crossed the street to talk to [Hawkins.] In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, VanHook told [Hawkins:] "It's okay, it's not that serious, " and placed his arm around [Hawkins] in a friendly-type gesture. While VanHook and [Hawkins] were talking, Gray walked over and punched [Hawkins.] In response, [Hawkins] reached to his waist, pulled out a knife and stabbed Gray in the neck. Gray died as a result of the knife wound.1
1 The entire episode, from the initial interaction between VanHook and Ferber through the stabbing and Gray's death, was recorded by cameras of the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition. These videos were shown multiple times during trial.
After stabbing Gray, [Hawkins fled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and, the following day, to Columbus, Ohio. Hawkins] was eventually apprehended on November 10, 2009[, ] in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania.
[Hawkins] was charged with Criminal Homicide. After a three-day jury trial, on March 8, 2012[, Hawkins] was convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter. On May 22, 2012, [Hawkins] was sentenced to 8-20 years['] incarceration. [Hawkins] filed a Post Sentence Motion to Modify Sentence on June 1, 2012, which . . . was denied on June 4, 2012.
Following a timely appeal from his judgment of sentence, on July , 2012[, Hawkins] filed his Statement of [Errors] Complained of on Appeal and on August 8, 2012[, ] the Commonwealth filed a [r]esponse.
Trial Court Opinion ("T.C.O."), 11/7/2012, at 1-3 (internal citations omitted). Hawkins has raised the following issues for our consideration:
I. Whether the evidence demonstrated by the Commonwealth was insufficient as a matter of law to establish Appellant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the charge of Voluntary Manslaughter?
II. Whether the verdict of guilty to the crime of Voluntary Manslaughter was against the weight of the evidence?
III. Whether the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on Involuntary Manslaughter?
IV. Whether the trial court erred by denying [Hawkins] his request for a private investigator and gang expert witness to establish the practices and habit of violent organizations in which the deceased victim was a member?
V. Whether the trial court erred by denying [Hawkins'] motion to exclude a highly prejudicial video depicting [Hawkins] singing a fictional rap song?
VI. Whether the trial court erred by denying [Hawkins'] request to permit the jury to hear about one of the Commonwealth's witness' ...
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