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Commonwealth v. Brown

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 6, 2015

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
GENE LEONARD BROWN, Appellant

Submitted January 5, 2015.

Appeal from the PCRA Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Criminal Division, No(s): CP-02-CR-0014850-2000. Before McDANIEL, J.

Christine H. Nooning, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Sandra Preuhs, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., JENKINS, J., and MUSMANNO, J. OPINION BY GANTMAN, P.J.

OPINION

Page 172

GANTMAN, P.J.:

Appellant, Gene Leonard Brown, appeals from the order entered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which dismissed his second petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act

Page 173

(" PCRA" ).[1] We affirm.

The relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as follows. The Commonwealth charged Appellant with criminal homicide in connection with the shooting death of Victim. Appellant proceeded to a jury trial on June 5, 2001. At trial, the Commonwealth presented the following evidence, inter alia : on July 31, 2000, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Victim was sitting on steps on Cresswell Street in the St. Clair Village housing project with some friends, including Daron Freeman. Appellant was walking on a nearby pathway; and when Appellant saw Victim, Appellant began shooting at him. Appellant initially fired three or four shots, reloaded, and then fired an additional thirteen to seventeen shots. During the shooting, Phil Peterson, one of Victim's friends, began firing shots from a nine-millimeter Glock in Appellant's direction to scare him off. Upon Mr. Peterson's firing, Appellant fled the scene and entered his cousin's vehicle. Appellant told his cousin Appellant shot Victim in the leg. Victim sustained two bullet wounds to the chest, which killed him. The Commonwealth's expert in forensic pathology testified that Victim did not sustain any gunshot wounds to his legs, calves, or buttocks.

Investigators recovered thirteen spent shell casings from the crime scene. Police found three of the shell casings, including the casings from the two bullets recovered from Victim's body, in the pathway of the shots fired by Appellant. Police recovered the remaining ten casings, fired from Mr. Peterson's firearm, in two different locations on and around Cresswell Street. Significantly, the Commonwealth's expert in firearms testing opined that the bullets which killed Victim could not have been fired from Mr. Peterson's gun.

Relevant to this appeal, Mr. Freeman testified at trial that he was sitting with Victim on the day of the shooting. When Mr. Freeman noticed Appellant walking toward them, Mr. Freeman stood up and started to walk away because he suspected trouble. Mr. Freeman thought Appellant and Victim would fight due to a prior incident between them, but Mr. Freeman did not know the details of what had transpired between the two men. Mr. Freeman admitted he was concerned for Victim's safety based on this prior incident. When Mr. Freeman began to walk away, he heard gunshots. Mr. Freeman turned around and saw Victim holding his chest and trying to run away. Mr. Freeman did not see Victim carrying a gun on the day of the shooting.

Appellant testified at trial that he shot Victim in self-defense. Appellant explained that, two weeks before the shooting, Appellant was leaving a bar when Victim walked up to Appellant, pulled out a gun, and began patting Appellant's pocket in an attempt to rob him. Appellant maintained the men struggled for a bit, but ultimately Appellant was able to disarm Victim and turn over Victim's weapon to the police. Appellant insisted that, on the day of the shooting, he was on his way to a birthday party for his mother and just happened to see Victim on the steps. Appellant claimed he was carrying his mother's firearm that day for protection after the attempted robbery. When Appellant walked up to Victim and his friends, Appellant alleged Victim stood up and said: " What are you going to do now? Where is the police at now, you little bitch?" Appellant explained Victim had his hands in his pants and reached into his mid-section area under his shirt, so Appellant suspected Victim might have a gun.

Page 174

Appellant then fired three shots toward the ground to scare Victim away. Upon hearing additional shots fire, Appellant ran away. Appellant adamantly maintained that he fired no more than three shots near Victim, and that if Appellant did fire at Victim, Appellant fired only at Victim's legs. Appellant conceded he did not see Victim with a gun on the day of the shooting. Appellant claimed there was ...


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