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Commonwealth v. Hicks

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

April 28, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
CHARLES RAY HICKS, Appellee

Argued November 20, 2013

Page 48

Appeal from the order of the Superior Court at No. 1977 EDA 2011 dated June 18, 2012, Reconsideration Denied August 16, 2012, affirming the order of Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, at No. CP-45-CR-0000391-2008 dated July 14, 2011. Trial Court Judge: Ronald E. Vican, President Judge. Intermediate Ct. John L. Musmanno, Judge, Jacqueline O. Shogan, Judge, James J. Fitzgerald, III, Justice.

For Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellant: Elmer D. Christine, Jr., Bradley Andrew Schmidt, Monroe County District Attorney's Office; Michael Mancuso, District Attorney's Office.

For Charles Ray Hicks, Appellee: James Paul Gregor, Jason Allen LaBar, Monroe County Public Defender's Office; Wieslaw T. Niemoczynski.

JUDGES: MR. JUSTICE EAKIN. CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, STEVENS, JJ. Mr. Chief Justice Castille, Messrs. Justice Saylor and Baer, Madame Justice Todd and Messrs. Justice McCaffery and Stevens join the opinion.

OPINION

Page 49

MR. EAKIN, JUSTICE

In this appeal, we consider Pa.R.E. 403 and 404(b). The trial court ruled pre-trial that certain Commonwealth witnesses identified pursuant to Rule 404 would be cumulative, rendering their testimony inadmissible under Rule 403. We conclude this was error, reverse the Superior Court's order, and remand to the trial court.

On January 29, 2008, the dismembered body of Deanna Null was discovered in seven garbage bags strewn along Pennsylvania Routes 80 and 380. After receiving information that Null was last seen riding with appellee Hicks, police interviewed him; he admitted smoking crack cocaine with Null in the past and giving her money and drugs in exchange for sex. After finding blood on a pair of boots in the trunk of appellee's car, police searched his residence and discovered Null's hands wrapped in socks and coated with laundry detergent. Appellee was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and abuse of a corpse.[1] The Commonwealth sought the death penalty.

Prior to trial, the Commonwealth provided notice under Pa.R.E. 404(b)[2] of its intent to present evidence of " prior bad acts" through several named witnesses. The Commonwealth stated the basis for this testimony would be:

to establish defendant's motive for the present offense, his method or modus operandi for the commission of the present offense, to establish his identity as the perpetrator of the present offense, the absence of any accident or mistake as the cause of the victim's death in the present offense, and/or proof of a common plan or scheme on the part of the

Page 50

defendant to victimize prostitutes or women engaging in prostitution to satisfy their addictions to controlled substances, such as the victim ...

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