Com. v. Frazier

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore BELL; EAGEN; ROBERTS
Citation411 Pa. 195,191 A.2d 369
Decision Date04 June 1963
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v Robert Ogden FRAZIER, Appellant.

Page 369

191 A.2d 369
411 Pa. 195
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v
Robert Ogden FRAZIER, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
June 4, 1963.

[411 Pa. 196]

Page 370

Herman I. Pollock, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Asst. Dist. Atty., William F. Killeen, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Business Frauds Division, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Asst. Dist. Atty., James C. Crumlish, Jr., Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before BELL, C. J., and MUSMANNO, JONES, COHEN, EAGEN, O'BRIEN and ROBERTS, JJ.

EAGEN, Justice.

The appellant, Robert Ogden Frazier, was tried on an indictment charging murder. The jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were dismissed. He was sentenced to spend an indefinite term in a state [411 Pa. 197] correctional institution, the minimum being fixed at two and one-half years and the maximum at five years. 1 From the judgment, this appeal was filed.

A study of the record discloses a most unusual factual background. The pertinent portions of the Commonwealth's evidence may be summarized as follows:

On February 4, 1960, about 1:00 o'clock a. m., the defendant aroused neighbors and told them that something terrible had happened to his wife, Sarah Frazier. The police were called about 1:15 o'clock a. m. and the first officer arrived at the scene about 1:19 o'clock a. m. Sarah Frazier's dead body was lying on the floor in the living room of her home at 2505 North Seventeenth Street in the City of Philadelphia. Rigor mortis was already evident in the ankles, wrists and jaw. 2 A superficial examination disclosed the presence of gunshot wounds. Twenty-two inches from the body a .32 calibre revolver was lying on the floor. It contained three empty casings and apparently had been fired three times. No finger prints were discernible on the gun, due to the roughness of the handle. A bullet hole was found in the wall of the dining room. Two discharged bullets were found, one in

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the dining room, one in the living room. 3 The house was neat, clean and in good array, except in the area of the hole in the wall of the dining room where plaster still remained on the floor. No evidence of a struggle was present.

[411 Pa. 198] The defendant was questioned and stated that on February 3rd he had arrived at his home on Seventeenth Street about 5:45 o'clock in the late afternoon; that his wife returned from work about 7:00 o'clock in the evening; that he left the home about 8:00 p. m. and that his wife was alive. He visited friends in another section of the city until about midnight and upon returning to his home about 1:00 o'clock a. m. on February 4th, discovered his wife's body.

Beginning at 1:00 o'clock a. m. on February 4, a complete medical examination was made of the body. An autopsy revealed the presence of two gunshot wounds: one of which penetrated the left breast, traveled slightly downward and forward existing through the skin adjacent to the breast and was of no serious consequence; the second penetrated the upper portion of the abdomen and certain vital organs of the body before exiting through the back. This latter described wound was the cause of death. A ballistic expert opined that the gun which was used to fire both shots was less than one inch away from the decedent's clothing when fired. A bruise or discoloration was also found on the left cheek. The medical examiner concluded that this bruise may have occurred post-mortem in the handling of the body. He also stated that the gunshot wounds could have been self-inflicted, or inflicted by another person.

The autopsy also revealed the presence of a small quantity of alcohol and the drugs phenobarbital and salicylate in the blood and urine, and indicated consumption sometime within three hours of the moment of death. The time of death could not be fixed.

Subsequently, the police made an intensive investigation. It was revealed that the deceased had been suffering from the disease of tic douloureux or trigeminal neuralgia in the face or head, which is accompanied by severe sharp pain. No evidence was [411 Pa. 199] discovered to establish with any degree of reasonable certainty the manner or circumstances of the death. The gun involved was placed in an envelope marked 'suicide' and filed among police records where information of such cases is retained.

In the latter part of 1952, the defendant began an illicit relationship with one, Miss Beatrice Banks. He cohabited with her in an apartment for which he paid the rent, partially supported her, and fathered two children born to her. In July 1959, he purchased real estate at 2445 North Sydenham Street in the City of Philadelphia about one and one-half blocks from where his legally wedded wife resided, represented Miss Banks as his wife to the people involved in the transaction, and caused the title to be recorded in both names. Two mortgages were executed by the parties as husband and wife. The defendant and Miss Banks established a residence at this address.

In the latter part of 1959, arguments and trouble began in this relationship. On April 6, 1960, Miss Banks moved from the Sydenham address and took up abode with her mother at 70 East Walnut Lane in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. After she left Sydenham Street, the defendant threatened the safety of Miss Banks on several occasions. In September and November 1960, the parties were involved in hearings in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia concerning the custody of the children wherein the defendant charged that Miss Banks was an unfit mother. During 1960, warrants were caused to be issued and counter complaints filed by one party against the other. In April 1961, Miss Banks caused a warrant to be issued charging the defendant

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with threats to kill. At or about the same period of time, he caused a warrant to be issued charging her with larceny of furniture from the Sydenham address. These issues came on for hearing before a judge on May 18, 1961, and through an [411 Pa. 200] amicable understanding entered into by the attorneys, the charges were withdrawn.

On March 31, 1961, the defendant attempted to gain admittance to the residence on East Walnut Street, but Miss Banks...

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58 practice notes
  • Com. v. Gockley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...and his body contained shotgun discs, wadding and pellets. Commonwealth v. Kravitz, 400 Pa. 198, 161 A.2d 861; Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 191 A.2d 369; Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743; Commonwealth v. Lettrich, 346 Pa. 497, 31 A.2d 155; Commonwealth v. Turza, 34......
  • Com. v. Smith
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 22, 1989
    ...v. Williams, 455 Pa. 539, 316 A.2d 888 (1974); Commonwealth v. Dews, 429 Pa. 555, 239 A.2d 382 (1968); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 191 A.2d 369 (1963); Commonwealth v. Deyell, 399 Pa. 563, 160 A.2d 448 (1960); Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743 In assessing the suff......
  • Com. v. Whitfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 1, 1977
    ...571, 576-77, 220 A.2d 807, 810 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 420 Pa. 209, 211-13, 216 A.2d 337, 338 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 202, 191 A.2d 369, 373 (1963); Commonwealth v. Moore, 398 Pa. 198, 157 A.2d 65 (1959); Commonwealth v. Nelson, 396 Pa. 359, 363, 152 A.2d 913,......
  • Com. v. Moore
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 3, 1975
    ...576--577, 220 A.2d 807, 810 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 420 Pa. 209, 211--213, 216 A.2d 337, 338 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 202, 191 A.2d 369, 373 (1963); Commonwealth v. Moore, 398 Pa. 198, 157 A.2d 65 (1959); Commonwealth v. Nelson, 396 Pa. 359, 363, 152 A.2d 913, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • Com. v. Gockley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 2, 1963
    ...and his body contained shotgun discs, wadding and pellets. Commonwealth v. Kravitz, 400 Pa. 198, 161 A.2d 861; Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 191 A.2d 369; Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743; Commonwealth v. Lettrich, 346 Pa. 497, 31 A.2d 155; Commonwealth v. Turza, 34......
  • Com. v. Smith
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 22, 1989
    ...v. Williams, 455 Pa. 539, 316 A.2d 888 (1974); Commonwealth v. Dews, 429 Pa. 555, 239 A.2d 382 (1968); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 191 A.2d 369 (1963); Commonwealth v. Deyell, 399 Pa. 563, 160 A.2d 448 (1960); Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743 In assessing the suff......
  • Com. v. Whitfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 1, 1977
    ...571, 576-77, 220 A.2d 807, 810 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 420 Pa. 209, 211-13, 216 A.2d 337, 338 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 202, 191 A.2d 369, 373 (1963); Commonwealth v. Moore, 398 Pa. 198, 157 A.2d 65 (1959); Commonwealth v. Nelson, 396 Pa. 359, 363, 152 A.2d 913,......
  • Com. v. Moore
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 3, 1975
    ...576--577, 220 A.2d 807, 810 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 420 Pa. 209, 211--213, 216 A.2d 337, 338 (1966); Commonwealth v. Frazier, 411 Pa. 195, 202, 191 A.2d 369, 373 (1963); Commonwealth v. Moore, 398 Pa. 198, 157 A.2d 65 (1959); Commonwealth v. Nelson, 396 Pa. 359, 363, 152 A.2d 913, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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