610 A.2d 11 (Pa. 1992), Commonwealth v. Burgos

Citation:610 A.2d 11, 530 Pa. 473
Opinion Judge:Author: Zappala
Party Name:COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Jerry BURGOS, Appellant.
Case Date:May 18, 1992
Court:Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
 
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610 A.2d 11 (Pa. 1992)

530 Pa. 473

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee,

v.

Jerry BURGOS, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

May 18, 1992

Argued Oct. 22, 1991.

Reargument Denied June 19, 1992.

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[530 Pa. 475] Marshall E. Anders, Stroudsburg, for appellant.

E. David Christine, Jr., Dist. Atty., Robert A. Graci, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

Before NIX, C.J., and LARSEN, FLAHERTY, McDERMOTT, ZAPPALA, PAPADAKOS and CAPPY, JJ.

OPINION

ZAPPALA, Justice.

On April 15, 1989, a jury convened in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, convicted Appellant, Jerry Burgos, of first degree murder, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2501; two counts of arson endangering property, 18

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Pa.C.S. § 3301(c)(2) and (3); and abuse of corpse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 5510, in the strangulation death of his wife, Nilsa Burgos. Following the jury's pronouncement of its verdict of guilt, a sentencing hearing was conducted in accordance with 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711 resulting in a determination by the jury that Appellant should be sentenced to death. Post-trial motions [530 Pa. 476] were filed, argued and denied. Appellant was formally sentenced to death on August 23, 1990. Direct appeal from the judgment of sentence was taken to this Court pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711(h).

In cases where the capital sanction is imposed we are obliged to independently examine the sufficiency of the evidence. Commonwealth v. DeHart, 512 Pa. 235, 516 A.2d 656 (1986), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1010, 107 S.Ct. 3241, 97 L.Ed.2d 746 (1987); Commonwealth v. Zettlemoyer, 500 Pa. 16, 454 A.2d 937 (1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 970, 103 S.Ct. 2444, 77 L.Ed.2d 1327, reh'g. denied, 463 U.S. 1236, 104 S.Ct. 31, 77 L.Ed.2d 1452 (1983). The test for determining the sufficiency of evidence is whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict winner, and drawing all proper inferences favorable to the Commonwealth, the jury could reasonably have determined all elements of the crime to have been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Syre, 507 Pa. 299, 489 A.2d 1340 (1985), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 935, 107 S.Ct. 1577, 94 L.Ed.2d 768 (1987); Commonwealth v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 361 A.2d 282 (1976). This standard is equally applicable to cases where the evidence is circumstantial rather than direct so long as the combination of the evidence links the accused to the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Sullivan, 472 Pa. 129, 150, 371 A.2d 468, 478 (1977); Commonwealth v. Farquharson, 467 Pa. 50, 354 A.2d 545 (1976).

A review of the record reveals that Appellant arrived home at 2:30 AM on May 31, 1988 after working a second job as a disc jockey at a Mount Pocono's bar. He removed his two children, Jerry Michael Burgos, then age 6, and Jason Burgos, then age 3, from the house and put them into his...

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