from the Judgment of Sentence May 5, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Lycoming County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., SHOGAN, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
Rashawn J. Williams, appeals from the judgment of sentence
entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County on
May 5, 2016, following a six-day jury trial. We affirm.
trial court briefly summarized the facts of the crime and
initial procedural history as follows:
On June 1, 2014, Appellant Rashawn Williams shot and killed
Aaron Lowry [("the victim")] outside the Lamplight
Hookah Lounge on West Fourth Street in Williamsport[, ]
Pennsylvania[, ] and then fled to High Point North Carolina.
On June 6, 2014, when law enforcement officers attempted to
apprehend the Appellant in High Point, he fled from an
apartment and was pursued into a wooded area by a law
enforcement canine, which bit him and caused some injuries to
his face and left ankle that were treated at a local
hospital. Appellant was extradited back to Pennsylvania and
charged with homicide, [two counts of] aggravated assault,
possession of a firearm without a license, person not to
possess a firearm, possession of an instrument of crime
(firearm), simple assault, terroristic threats, and flight to
avoid apprehension or prosecution.
Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion, 2/6/17, at 1.
November 12, 2014, the Commonwealth sought, and was granted,
access to the medical records from High Point Regional
Hospital, where Appellant was treated following his capture
on June 6, 2014. On November 25, 2014, Appellant filed a
motion to quash the November 12 order, asserting that
disclosure of the records violated the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-191,
110 Stat. 1936 (1996) ("HIPAA"). Appellant filed an
omnibus pretrial motion on January 2, 2015,
asserting, inter alia, that the medical records
should be suppressed. On December 23, 2015, the trial court
denied Appellant's motion to quash and suppression of the
Commonwealth filed multiple motions in limine on
March 7, 2016, March 18, 2016, and March 22, 2016, seeking to
preclude, inter alia, the testimony of Dr. Eric Vey,
a defense expert. Also on March 22, 2016, and on March 30,
2016, pursuant to Pa.R.E. 404(b), the Commonwealth filed a
notice of intent to introduce evidence including certified
records of Appellant's prison telephone calls. Appellant
also filed multiple motions in limine on April 4,
2016, and April 7, 2016, along with a motion to introduce
certified police reports. On April 7 and 8, 2016, the trial
court ruled on the various motions in limine and
notices of intent. Order, 4/7/16; Order, 4/8/16.
trial ensued on April 12-18, 2016, following which the jury
convicted Appellant of all charges. On April 21, 2016,
Appellant filed a Post Verdict Motion for Extraordinary
Relief pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 704(B)(1), which the trial court
denied by opinion and order dated May 5, 2016, and filed on
May 10, 2016. Also on May 5, 2016, the trial court sentenced
Appellant to life imprisonment without the possibility of
parole, and a concurrent aggregate sentence of twelve to
twenty-four years of incarceration. Appellant filed
post-sentence motions on May 9, 2016, which the trial court
denied on October 6, 2016. Appellant filed a timely notice of
appeal; both Appellant and the trial court complied with
raises the following eight issues on appeal, which we have
reordered for purposes of clarity and ease of disposition:
I. Was the evidence presented at trial insufficient to prove
that the Appellant had the specific intent to kill as
required to support the guilty verdict for murder of the
II. Was the evidence presented at trial insufficient to prove
malice as required to convict the Appellant of third degree
murder and aggravated assault?
III. Did the Commonwealth fail to disprove the
Appellant's self-defense claim where undisputed evidence
established that the victim and at least one other individual
jumped the Appellant?
IV. Was the first degree murder conviction so contrary to the
weight of the evidence as to shock the conscience of the
court and require that the Appellant be given a new
opportunity to proceed to trial and prevail?
V. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by refusing to
instruct the jury on heat of passion voluntary manslaughter?
VI. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by failing to
suppress the Appellant's medical records from North
Carolina because the Commonwealth unlawfully obtained them?
VII. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by excluding
evidence offered by the defense, including: precluding Dr.
Vey's testimony that the victim could have folded a knife
and put it in his pocket; excluding evidence of the
victim's prior conviction for aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon; and excluding proffered testimony that it is
not unusual for witnesses to be uncooperative?
VIII. Did the trial court err by admitting evidence offered
by the Commonwealth, including: admitting the Appellant's
intercepted telephone calls; admitting testimony that the
Appellant's girlfriend phoned a friend to ask to borrow
money; and admitting, in rebuttal, hearsay testimony that a
witness had informed the Appellant's baby's mother
when the victim died?
Appellant's Brief at 4.
first address Appellant's arguments relating to the
sufficiency of the evidence supporting the convictions for
first-degree murder and aggravated assault, along with his
claim of unrebutted self-defense. Because a determination of
evidentiary sufficiency presents a question of law, our
standard of review is de novo and our scope of
review is plenary. Commonwealth v. Sanchez, 36 A.3d
24, 37 (Pa. 2011). In reviewing the sufficiency of the
evidence, we must determine whether the evidence admitted at
trial and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, viewed
in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict
winner, were sufficient to prove every element of the offense
beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Von
Evans, 163 A.3d 980, 983 (Pa. Super. 2017). "[T]he
facts and circumstances established by the Commonwealth need
not preclude every possibility of innocence."
Commonwealth v. Colon-Plaza, 136 A.3d 521, 525-526
(Pa. Super. 2016) (quoting Commonwealth v.
Robertson-Dewar, 829 A.2d 1207, 1211 (Pa. Super. 2003)).
It is within the province of the fact-finder to determine the
weight to be accorded to each witness's testimony and to
believe all, part, or none of the evidence. Commonwealth
v. Tejada, 107 A.3d 788, 792-793 (Pa. Super. 2015). The
Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proving every element
of the crime by means of wholly circumstantial evidence.
Commonwealth v. Mucci, 143 A.3d 399, 409 (Pa. Super.
2016). Moreover, as an appellate court, we may not re-weigh
the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the
fact-finder. Commonwealth v. Rogal, 120 A.3d 994
(Pa. Super. 2015).
first asserts that the Commonwealth failed to present
sufficient evidence that he possessed the specific intent to
kill the victim. In support, Appellant presents a summary of
the evidence in a light most favorable to him, rather than
the Commonwealth, the verdict winner, as required by our case
law. Von Evans, 163 A.3d at 983. Appellant's
Brief at 9-13. Appellant argues that because the victim,
Aaron Lowry, approached Appellant from behind while Appellant
was engaged in a verbal confrontation with Shariah Worthy, the
mother of Appellant's daughter, the victim clearly was
the aggressor. Appellant asserts that he merely reacted and
therefore, did not have the specific intent to kill the
victim. Id. at 11-12. Appellant further argues that
there can be no inference of specific intent in this case
based upon Appellant's use of a deadly weapon on a vital
part of the victim's body due to "numerous factors
[that] negate any permissible inference." Id.
initially that Appellant has failed to comply with our rules
of appellate procedure. In three pages of asserted factual
underpinnings to this argument, Appellant fails to make one
reference to where in the record these facts are located.
Appellant's Brief at 9-11. It is not this Court's
responsibility to comb through the record seeking the factual
underpinnings of Appellant's claim. Commonwealth v.
Samuel, 102 A.3d 1001, 1005 (Pa. Super. 2014) (citing
Commonwealth v. Mulholland, 702 A.2d 1027, 1034 n.5
(Pa. Super. 1997)). See Pa.R.A.P. 2119(c) ("If
reference is made to . . . any . . . matter appearing in the
record, the argument must set forth . . . a reference to the
place in the record where the matter referred to
appears."). See also Commonwealth v. Harris,
979 A.2d 387, 393 (Pa. Super. 2009) ("When an allegation
is unsupported by any citation to the record, such that this
Court is prevented from assessing this issue and determining
whether error exists, the allegation is waived for purposes
of appeal. Pa.R.A.P. 2119(c)"); Commonwealth v.
Einhorn, 911 A.2d 960, 970 (Pa. Super.2006) ("An
appellate brief must provide citations to the record").
Nevertheless, we endeavor to locate support for
individual commits first-degree murder when he intentionally
kills another human being; an intentional killing is defined
as a "willful, deliberate and premeditated
killing." 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 2501, 2502(a), (d). To
sustain a conviction for first-degree murder, the
Commonwealth must prove that: (1) a human being was
unlawfully killed; (2) the accused was responsible for the
killing; and (3) the accused acted with malice and a specific
intent to kill. Commonwealth v. Ballard, 80 A.3d
380, 390 (Pa. 2013). A jury may infer the intent to kill
"based on the accused's use of a deadly weapon on a
vital part of the victim's body." Sanchez,
36 A.3d at 37.
addressing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
first-degree murder verdict, the trial court stated as
The evidence presented clearly established that Appellant
possessed a firearm, which he was not licensed to carry
concealed on his person. In fact, Appellant was prohibited
from possessing a firearm due to a prior conviction for
robbery. Appellant, according to his own testimony, took the
firearm out of his pocket, pointed it at the victim and fired
it. N.T., April 15, 2016, at 59-60.
The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. N.T., April
12, 2016, at 86. The bullet was fired from at least 18 inches
away. Id. at 96. The bullet injured the victim's
upper and lower lobes of the left lung, which is a vital
organ, as well as the victim's sternum, ribs, and the
pericardium or sack surrounding the victim's heart.
Id. at 89, 91. Those injuries led to bleeding which
eventually led to a lack of oxygen to the brain and the
heart. Id. at 91-92. Since the evidence clearly
established that Appellant used a firearm on a vital organ of
the victim's body, the evidence was sufficient to
establish specific intent to kill necessary for first degree
murder. Furthermore, Appellant's possession and use of a
firearm for which he had no license to carry is additional
evidence of his intention to commit the crime. 18 Pa.C.S.
Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) Opinion, 2/6/17, at 22.
testimony at trial established that Archie Bell and the
victim exited Lamplight Hookah Lounge and observed Appellant
engaged in an altercation with Shariah Worthy, a woman Mr.
Bell had danced with earlier that evening and who was the
mother of Appellant's child. N.T., 4/12/16, at 29-47. Mr.
Bell described Ms. Worthy as having a "terrified"
look on her face as she backed away from Appellant.
Id. at 29. Mr. Bell and the victim ran in the
direction of Appellant; Mr. Bell was behind the victim and
was close enough that he "could have rested [his] hand
on" the victim's shoulder. Id. at 33. When
they were within an "arm's length" of
Appellant, Appellant shot the victim. Id. at 32. Mr.
Bell testified that Appellant "put the gun in my face,
told me to back up or he would give me one, too."
Id. At that point, Appellant fled in a car that was
parked around the corner, and the victim, bleeding from his
nose and mouth, collapsed on the pavement as he tried to
escape. Id. at 34-35.
evidence amply proved that Appellant was responsible for
killing the victim. Appellant's use of the gun on the
victim allowed the jury to infer the specific intent to kill
necessary for a finding of first-degree murder.
Appellant's claim that the inference in this case was
improper because "he did not aim the gun at a specific
area of the victim's body, " is specious.
Appellant's Brief at 12. In Commonwealth v.
Washington, 927 A.2d 586 (Pa. 2007), the appellant
argued that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a
conviction of first-degree murder because he merely aimed in
the victim's direction, which could not "rationally
support an inference that he had the specific intent to kill;
rather, the evidence is equally consistent with the
probability that [he] sought only to scare or wound" the
victim. Id. at 607. The High Court found that the
appellant's claim had no merit. It specifically rejected
the proposition that it had to conclude a defendant
intentionally aimed at a vital part of the victim's body
before it could find sufficient evidence to support an
inference of the specific intent to kill. Id.
Rather, our Supreme Court held that "the critical
inquiry is the use of a deadly weapon on a
vital part of the body, not the intentional aiming of the
weapon at a vital part of the body." Id.
(emphasis in original) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). This issue lacks merit.
we address Appellant's claim that there is insufficient
evidence in the record showing that Appellant acted with the
necessary malice for aggravated assault. Appellant's
Brief at 23. Appellant fails to adequately develop this
contention, asserting only that "[d]espite permissible
inferences from use of a deadly weapon to a vital organ and
unlawful possession of a firearm, as argued in his first
argument disputing sufficiency for specific intent, the
Appellant avers the evidence failed to show that he had the
requisite malice as required for . . . aggravated
assault." Appellant's Brief at 23-24. While he cites
to case law defining and describing malice, Appellant wholly
fails to substantiate his claim with citation to relevant
cases or develop his contention. This failure to adequately
develop and support his issue results in waiver. See
Commonwealth v. Woodard, 129 A.3d 480, 509 (Pa. 2015)
(quoting Wirth v. Commonwealth, 95 A.3d 822, 837
(Pa. 2013), which stated that "where an appellate brief
fails to . . . develop an issue in any other meaningful
fashion capable of review, that claim is waived. It is not
the obligation of an appellate court to formulate [the]
appellant's arguments for him.") (internal
not waived, we would reject the claim, as did the trial
court. Opinion and Order,  10/11/16, at 14. Aggravated assault
is defined as follows:
§ 2702. Aggravated assault
(a) Offense defined.-A person is guilty of
aggravated assault if he:
(1) attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or
causes such injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly
under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the
value of human life;
18 Pa.C.S. § 2702. Malice is a crucial element of
aggravated assault and is established when there is a
"wickedness of disposition, hardness of heart, cruelty,
recklessness of consequences, and a mind regardless of social
duty . . . ." Commonwealth v. McClendon, 874
A.2d 1223, 1229 (Pa. Super. 2005). In the absence of any
specific argument, we would rely on the premise that a jury
may infer malice "based on the defendant's use of a
deadly weapon on a vital part of the victim's body."
Commonwealth v. Hitcho, 123 A.3d 731, 746 (Pa. 2015)
(citing Commonwealth v. Arrington, 86 A.3d 831, 840
address Appellant's claim that the Commonwealth failed to
disprove he acted in self-defense. Appellant's Brief at
18. He suggests that the uncontested evidence established
that he did not provoke the use of force. Id.
Appellant acknowledges that he had a duty to retreat but
asserts that he did not have the ability to do so.
Id. at 18-19. Once again, Appellant liberally refers
to testimony at trial without supporting reference to the
notes of testimony. Id. at 18-19.
of self-defense requires evidence establishing the following
"(a) that the defendant reasonably believed that he was
in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury and that
it was necessary to use deadly force against the victim to
prevent such harm; (b) that the defendant was free from fault
in provoking the difficulty which culminated in the slaying;
and (c) that the defendant did not violate any duty to
retreat." Commonwealth v. Samuel, 527 Pa. 298,
590 A.2d 1245, 1247-48 (1991). See also Commonwealth v.
Harris, 550 Pa. 92, 703 A.2d 441, 449 (1997); 18 Pa.C.S.
§ 505.2. Although the defendant has no burden to prove
self-defense, . . . before the defense is properly in issue,
"there must be some evidence, from whatever source, to
justify such a finding." Once the question is properly
raised, "the burden is upon the Commonwealth to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting
in self-defense." Commonwealth v. Black, 474
Pa. 47, 376 A.2d 627, 630 (1977). The Commonwealth sustains
that burden of negation "if it proves any of the
following: that the slayer was not free from fault in
provoking or continuing the difficulty which resulted in the
slaying; that the slayer did not reasonably believe that he
was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and
that it was necessary to kill in order to save himself
therefrom; or that the slayer violated a duty to retreat or
avoid the danger." Commonwealth v. Burns, 490
Pa. 352, 416 A.2d 506, 507 (1980).
Commonwealth v. Mouzon, 53 A.3d 738, 740-741 (Pa.
Pennsylvania Crimes Code governs self-defense and provides,
in relevant part, as follows:
§ 505. Use of force in self-protection
(a) Use of force justifiable for protection of the
The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable
when the actor believes that such force is immediately
necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the
use of unlawful force by such other person on the present
(b) Limitations on justifying necessity for use of
* * *
(2) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this
section unless the actor believes that such force is
necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily
injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force
or threat; nor is it justifiable if:
(i) the actor, with the intent of causing death or serious
bodily injury, provoked the use of force against himself in
the same encounter; or
(ii) the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using
such force with complete safety by retreating. . . .
* * *
(2.3) An actor who is not engaged in a criminal activity, who
is not in illegal possession of a firearm and who is attacked
in any place where the actor would have a duty to retreat
under paragraph (2)(ii) has no duty to retreat and has the
right to stand his ground and use force, including deadly
(i) the actor has a right to be in the place where he was
(ii) the actor believes it is immediately necessary to do so
to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury,
kidnapping or sexual intercourse by force or threat; and
(iii) the person against whom the force is used displays or
(A) a firearm or replica of a firearm as defined in 42
Pa.C.S. § 9712 (relating to sentences for offenses
committed with firearms); or
(B) any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal
18 Pa.C.S. § 505(a)-(b); Commonwealth v. Smith,
97 A.3d 782, 786 (Pa. Super. 2014).
on the trial court's rejection of this claim:
Appellant avers the Commonwealth failed to disprove
self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt where all uncontested
evidence established that the victim and at least one friend
jumped Appellant. The evidence was not uncontested. The
Commonwealth presented evidence that although the victim
approached Appellant neither the victim nor his friend
punched Appellant or jumped him. Archie Bell testified that
neither he nor the victim punched Appellant and [no] one else
was with them at the time. N.T., April 12, 2016, at 36-37.
Christofer Snyder testified that he saw Appellant, his
baby's mother (Shariah Worthy), and two Indian/Native
American-looking men (the victim and Archie Bell) discussing
something loudly or having an irritable moment. N.T., April
12, 2016, at 104-105, 118. They were just at the end of the
building talking. Id. at 116. He didn't see the
two men running down the street toward the end of the
building. Id. He didn't see any altercation; he
heard noises ...