31 A.2d 155 (Pa. 1943), 53, Commonwealth v. Lettrich

Docket Nº:53
Citation:31 A.2d 155, 346 Pa. 497
Opinion Judge:MR. JUSTICE LINN:
Party Name:Commonwealth v. Lettrich, Appellant
Attorney:Abraham Fishkin, with him Leonard H. Marks, for appellant. Earle R. Jackson, Assistant District Attorney, with him Russell H. Adams, District Attorney, and Louis L. Kaufman, for appellee.
Judge Panel:Before MAXEY, C.J.; DREW, LINN, STERN, PATTERSON, PARKER and STEARNE, JJ.
Case Date:March 22, 1943
Court:Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
 
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Page 155

31 A.2d 155 (Pa. 1943)

346 Pa. 497

Commonwealth

v.

Lettrich, Appellant

No. 53

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

March 22, 1943

January 18, 1943, Argued

Appeal, No. 53, March T., 1943, from judgment of O. & T. Allegheny Co., Feb. Sessions, 1942, No. 106, in case of Commonwealth v. Wilma Lettrich. Judgment affirmed.

Indictment for murder. Before MAYS, J., specially presiding.

Verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree with recommendation of life imprisonment, and judgment and sentence thereon. Defendant appealed.

The assignments of error are overruled and the judgment is affirmed.

Abraham Fishkin, with him Leonard H. Marks, for appellant.

Earle R. Jackson, Assistant District Attorney, with him Russell H. Adams, District Attorney, and Louis L. Kaufman, for appellee.

Before MAXEY, C.J.; DREW, LINN, STERN, PATTERSON, PARKER and STEARNE, JJ.

OPINION

MR. JUSTICE LINN:

The jury found appellant guilty of murder of the first degree and fixed the penalty at life imprisonment.

[346 Pa. 498] The only question meriting discussion is raised by assignments of error asserting that, apart from the confession, there was

Page 156

not sufficient evidence to go to the jury to establish the corpus delicti.

The appellant was indicted for the murder of an eight-day-old child. It was born in the early morning of November 1, 1941, in the Allegheny Valley Hospital. The mother and child were discharged from the hospital on Saturday evening, November 8th, at about nine o'clock and left the hospital in the company of defendant who carried the child. The child's mother was defendant's younger sister who, at the time of the trial, was 21 years old; the defendant was 26; neither was married. They lived at home with their parents near the town of Tarentum. Defendant testified that she graduated from the eighth grade in public school and, for three summers, attended a Slavish school. She did housework at home and at times was employed by others in the same work. In her confession, made in the Allegheny County Detectives' Office, she stated that almost immediately after leaving the hospital, and after sending her sister home in a bus, she suffocated the child by stuffing pieces of Kleenex tissue-paper into its mouth and (omitting details) subsequently concealed the body in the cellar of their home under some papers. On the following Thursday, November 13th, when her family went to market, she burned the body in the furnace. At the trial, she testified in support of her plea of Not Guilty and denied the truth of the confession; her evidence was that, shortly after receiving the child, she gave it to the putative father near the hospital where she found him waiting in his car. He was called by the Commonwealth and denied all her assertions implicating him in the incident.

The Commonwealth concedes appellant's contention that there must be proof of the corpus delicti before the jury may consider the confession; that a conviction cannot be supported on the evidence of the confession alone. The order of proof is of course discretionary. In this [346 Pa. 499] case the Commonwealth contends the rule is satisfied, and, in support of that contention, points to other facts, to appellant's declarations and to her acts and conduct, given in evidence by other witnesses, as sufficient to go to the jury to show compliance with the rule. We shall consider them, first, however, noting the principle commonly applied and stated in our...

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