from the Judgment of Sentence April 17, 2015 in the Court of
Common Pleas of Chester County Criminal Division at No.:
BEFORE: PANELLA, J., SHOGAN, J., and PLATT, J. [*]
Marquis Lee Rayner, appeals from the judgment of sentence
imposed following his jury conviction of murder of the second
degree, robbery, burglary, and conspiracy to commit
robbery. We affirm.
trial court aptly set forth the facts and procedural history
of this case, as follows:
Shortly after midnight on June 29, 2012, three armed men
burst into the living room of the apartment shared by
Dominick Williams and Aaron Crawford. Mr. Crawford was asleep
in his bedroom. Mr. Williams was awake and playing video
games in the living room. All three intruders wore t-shirts
wrapped around their faces to disguise their identity. One of
the intruders immediately shot Mr. Williams in the groin.
Another of the intruders went to Mr. Crawford's bedroom
and grabbed a clear, plastic jar that contained marijuana,
money and a pack of cigarettes. All three intruders then ran
from the apartment. Dominick Williams remained on his living
room floor bleeding to death. Later, at the hospital, he
Shortly after the robbery[, ] the police located the plastic
jar about two blocks away from the victim's apartment.
Located nearby was a black t-shirt. Subsequent testing
revealed the presence of co-defendant Dominique
Lee's thumbprint on the jar, and
[Appellant's] DNA on the t-shirt. [Appellant] and
Dominique Lee, who are half-brothers, were subsequently
arrested for the murder of Dominick Williams.
On November 20, 2014, after a four-day trial, a jury found
Appellant guilty of second degree murder, robbery, burglary,
and criminal conspiracy. He was sentenced to life in prison
on April 17, 2015. [The trial court] denied his optional
post-sentence motion by order dated April 23, 2015.
This [timely] appeal followed.
(Trial Court Opinion, 5/03/16, at 1-2).
Appellant raises five issues for the Court's review.
1. Were the convictions for murder of the second degree,
robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery and
burglary against the weight of the evidence? Were the
verdicts against the weight of the evidence when the only
evidence was [Appellant's] DNA on a black tee shirt found
[one and one-half] blocks from the crime and [fifteen] feet
from a jar taken from the house, which jar had his
2. Were the convictions for murder of the second degree,
robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery and
burglary not supported by sufficient evidence?
3. Did the Assistant District Attorney err in his opening
statement and err when presenting Detective Dutter by stating
his office received an anonymous tip linking Dominique Lee
(half-brother of [Appellant]) as a participant in the crime?
Did [the trial court] err in denying the defense request for
a mistrial? Did this intentional error violate
[Appellant's] right to confront a critical witness in
violation of the Sixth Amendment of the United States
Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania
Constitution and further, was this improper hearsay,
particularly since [Appellant] was charged with conspiracy?
4. Did [the Commonwealth] err in [its] closing speech by
incorrectly suggesting [Appellant] kept the alibi defense a
secret until the last day of trial when, in fact, the alibi
notice had been filed long before the trial, and did the
[Commonwealth] err in giving [a] personal opinion that
[Appellant] was guilty? Did [the trial court] err in not
granting a timely mistrial?
5. Did [the trial court] err by interfering improperly with
[defense counsel's] cross-examination of a key
prosecution witness on his critical testimony on the tee
shirt, and did [the trial court] err in criticizing [defense
counsel] before the jury? Did [the trial court] further err
in repeatedly and incorrectly criticizing [defense counsel]
during his closing argument on the issue of burden of proof?
Did [the trial court] wrongly criticize [defense counsel] in
front of the jury? Did [the trial court] err in not granting
a mistrial? Did [the trial court's] improper inference
and criticism of [defense counsel] prejudice [Appellant],
deny him a fair trial, and impact on [Appellant's]
[Sixth] Amendment right to effective counsel?
(Appellant's Brief, at 6-8).
Appellant's first two issues challenge the sufficiency
and weight of the evidence to support his convictions.
(See id. at 41-55). For ease of disposition, we will
address Appellant's sufficiency challenge first, and then
his weight of the evidence claim.
second issue, Appellant argues that the evidence was
insufficient to support the verdict because it required pure
speculation. (See Appellant's Brief, at 49-55).
Appellant's issue lacks merit.
In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we must
determine whether the evidence admitted at trial, and all
reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence, when viewed
in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict
winner, was sufficient to enable the fact finder to conclude
that the Commonwealth established all of the elements of the
offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth may
sustain its burden by means of wholly circumstantial
evidence. Further, the trier of fact is free to believe all,
part, or none of the evidence.
Commonwealth v. Taylor, 137 A.3d 611, 614 (Pa.
Super. 2016) (citation omitted). In this case, Appellant was
convicted of murder of the second degree, robbery, burglary,
to section 2502(b) of the Crimes Code, "[a] criminal
homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is
committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an
accomplice in the perpetration of a felony." 18
Pa.C.S.A. § 2502(b). The Crimes Code also provides, in
pertinent part, that "[a] person is guilty of robbery
if, in the course of committing a theft, he . . . inflicts
serious bodily injury upon another [or] threatens another
with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate serious
bodily injury[.]" 18 Pa.C.S.A. §§
3701(a)(1)(i), (ii). It further provides, "[a] person
commits the offense of burglary if, with the intent to commit
a crime therein, the person . . . enters a building or
occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion
thereof that is adapted for overnight accommodations in which
at the time of the offense any person is present[.]" 18
Pa.C.S.A. § 3502(a)(1). Finally:
A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or
persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or
facilitating its commission he . . . agrees with such other
person or persons that they or one or more of them will
engage in conduct which constitutes such crime . . . or . . .
agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or
commission of such crime . . . .
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 903(a).
this case, the evidence at trial established that three men
broke into Dominick Williams' apartment with the intent
of robbing him. (See N.T. Trial, 11/17/14, at 67,
69, 150). The men were armed with guns and wore t-shirts
across their faces. (See id. at 66-68, 77, 118-119,
132). After shooting Mr. Williams, and pistol whipping his
roommate, Aaron Crawford, one of the men stole a
plastic-lidded jar that contained marijuana and other items.
(See id. 155-57). The individual was not wearing
gloves. (See id. at 150).
As further described by the trial court:
Approximately [ninety] minutes after Dominick Williams had
been shot, police officer Stephen Galletta of the Coatesville
City Police Department located the clear plastic jar tossed
in a hedge row approximately a block and a half from the
crime scene. (See id. at 244). The jar contained a
pack of Newport cigarettes. (See id. at 163).
Located several feet away was a black t-shirt. (See
id. at 244, 248). Witness Aaron Crawford was brought to
the discovery scene and identified the jar as the one taken
from his bedroom earlier that morning, and the t-shirt as the
type of shirt that one of the robbers had been wearing across
his face. (See id. at 161-64).
Chester County Detective Kenneth Beam testified as an expert
in the field of fingerprint analysis. Detective Beam received
as evidence the plastic jar and t-shirt found close to the
scene of the robbery. (See N.T. Trial, 11/18/14, at
49). Detective Bean testified that the print with the
sharpest and clearest detail found on the plastic jar
belonged to co-defendant Dominique Lee. (See id. at
65, 69, 73). Because Detective Bean knew that the t-shirt had
possibly been tied across the face of one of the intruders as
a disguise, he surmised that the intruder might have left
saliva on the shirt. Accordingly, Detective Bean sent the
t-shirt to the State Police Laboratory for DNA analysis.
(See id. at 55).
Michael Gossard, a forensic scientist with the Pennsylvania
State Police, testified as a serology expert. Mr. Gossard
tested the t-shirt for evidence of saliva. (See id.
at 117). His testing indicated the presence of saliva on two
different areas of the t-shirt. (See id. at 121,
Timothy Gavel, a forensic scientist with the Pennsylvania
State Police DNA lab, performed a DNA analysis on the
evidence left on the t-shirt. Mr. Gavel testified that DNA
evidence left on the t-shirt belonged to Appellant .
(See id. at 149, 153). He also testified that the
chance of a coincidental DNA match in the African-American
population was one in 7.9 quintillion. (See id. at
(Trial Ct. Op., at 4-6) (some record citation formatting
on the above evidence, and our review of the record in the
light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict winner,
we conclude that it was sufficient to establish the elements
of the crimes of which Appellant was convicted. See
Taylor, supra at 614. Appellant's
sufficiency challenge does not merit relief.
also challenges the weight of the evidence to support his
convictions. (See Appellant's Brief, at ...