Com. v. Robinson

Decision Date30 December 2004
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. Harvey Miguel ROBINSON, Appellant. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. Harvey Miguel Robinson, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

864 A.2d 460
581 Pa. 154

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee
Harvey Miguel ROBINSON, Appellant.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellee
Harvey Miguel Robinson, Appellant

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Argued April 8, 2003.

Decided December 30, 2004.

864 A.2d 471
Mary Rebecca Ennis, Broomall, Philip D. Lauer, Easton, for Harvey Miguel Robinson, appellant

Jacquelyn C. Paradis, Allentown, Jennifer Lynne LeVan, Amy Zapp, Harrisburg, Maria L. Dantos, Allentown, for the Com. of PA, appellee.



Justice NEWMAN.

Harvey Miguel Robinson (Appellant) brings this direct appeal1 from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County (trial court) that sentenced him to death following his conviction for first-degree murder. After reviewing the record and the claims raised by Appellant, we affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural History

At about 12:35 a.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Allentown police were dispatched to a reported burglary at the residence of Joan Burghardt (Burghardt) at 1430 East Gordon Street, on the East Side of the City of Allentown. Burghardt, a twenty-nine-year-old white female, weighing 225 to 240 pounds, resided alone at that address, a one-bedroom, first-floor apartment in a residential neighborhood. She told the police that someone had entered her apartment between 11:00 p.m. Tuesday and 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, when she returned from taking a friend home. Burghardt noticed that a fan, which she left on before leaving the apartment, had been turned off, the patio door she had left open was closed, and the screen on the door, which was locked, had been ripped about six to eight inches, just enough to get a hand through, near the locking mechanism. Burghardt also reported that $40 to $50 was missing from a bank bag in her dresser drawer. In all other respects, Burghardt reported her apartment appeared to have been undisturbed.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 9, 1992, Burghardt's neighbor telephoned the police to complain that: (1) Burghardt's stereo had been on for three days and nights; (2) no one answered the doorbell; (3) the screen had been out of the window for three nights; and (4) during one of those nights it had sounded like somebody was beating Burghardt up, hitting the walls, and screaming. When the police arrived at Burghardt's apartment they noticed the screen for the front of the apartment was on the ground leaning upright next to the front window, the window was open, and the screen for the rear window was pushed out and lying on the ground beneath that window, which was also open. The screen on the patio door was cut about six inches long next to the door handle. The television was blaring loudly and the front door and the patio door were locked. The patio screen door was closed but not locked.

Upon entering the apartment, the police found Burghardt dead, lying on her stomach on the living room floor in front of her

864 A.2d 472
couch. There was a large amount of blood on the couch, walls, and floor. She was beaten severely about the head. Aside from where the body was found, the apartment appeared to be neat and orderly. With the exception of the screens, there were no pry marks on the doors or windows or other evidence of forced entry. The police concluded that the perpetrator entered the residence through the front window and exited through the rear window

At the time of her death, Burghardt was wearing a sleep shirt and a pair of jockey shorts that were ripped at the crotch and pulled up. She was unclothed from her hips down. A dresser drawer in the bedroom was open and a pair of black shorts was on the floor. There were blood spots and white stains on the back of the shorts. A peach-colored shirt was located on the closet door. It contained a lot of blood in distinctive patterns that appeared to have been made by swipe marks from whatever was used as the murder weapon.

The subsequent autopsy revealed that Burghardt had been sexually assaulted and bludgeoned to death by thirty-seven individual blunt force injuries to her scalp, causing extensive skull fractures and damage to the brain. The weapon was a circular, cylindrical instrument about one-half to three-quarter inches in diameter with a smooth surface and about ten to twenty inches long. The force of the blows was so deliberate and tremendous that, as the instrument came down, it embedded hair between the fracture and skull.

Burghardt also had defensive injuries on both hands, evidencing that she was alive and attempting to protect herself from her assailant. Serology tests established that all of the blood and hair found at the scene, including those samples found on the black shorts and peach colored shirt, were consistent with those of the victim. However, the shorts had seminal stains on the outside, as though someone had ejaculated onto them. Tests of the semen stains on the shorts showed the deoxyribonucleic (DNA) profiles that were later matched to the DNA profiles obtained from Appellant's blood.2 An analysis of the blood spattering at the crime scene indicated the perpetrator was approximately 5'10" tall and stood over the victim during the attack.3

Approximately ten months later, at about 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 1993, Allentown police responded to a call of a reported missing person at 1058 East Gordon Street, a residential neighborhood, also on the East Side of Allentown. A resident became suspicious when the normally punctual newspaper delivery girl, Charlotte Schmoyer (Schmoyer), failed to deliver the newspaper. Her newspaper cart was left unattended for approximately thirty minutes in front of a neighbor's house and the newspaper had been delivered to another neighbor. Upon their arrival, the police found the unattended newspaper cart half-filled with the day's newspapers in front of the house; a separate copy of the newspaper; a Walkman radio and its headset separated from each other on the ground between two houses; and finger streaks on the windowpane of the door to the nearby garage of one of the houses. Police concluded that a struggle had ensued and Schmoyer, a fifteen-year-old white female, weighing 180 pounds, had been abducted.

Later that day, while searching a heavily wooded area at Allentown's nearby East Side Reservoir (Reservoir), the police found a bloody trail that led them to the

864 A.2d 473
body of Schmoyer, which was buried beneath some logs. Her sweatshirt was slightly pulled up; her sweatpants and underpants had been pulled down toward her knees. She had a large, gaping wound in her throat, separate stab wounds below that gash, multiple stab wounds on her back, and a patterned bruise on the right side of her cheek. An autopsy revealed twenty-two stab wounds, sixteen in the back (including seven that were fatal), and six in the front area of the neck (of which any combination of one or three would have been fatal). In addition, there were cutting and scraping wounds in the neck area, indicating they were inflicted while the victim was conscious and her neck bent down as a protective measure, and seven more cuts to the back of the sweatshirt, indicating that some struggle occurred in that the sweatshirt was cut but the body was not penetrated. The weapon was a single-edged knife about four inches long. At least two of the wounds were up to the hilt of the blade

Subsequent serology and DNA tests indicated that Schmoyer had intercourse shortly before death. Appellant's DNA was found on her vaginal swab and blood consistent with that of Appellant and inconsistent with that of Schmoyer's blood, was found on her sweatshirt and sweatpants, along the trail leading to her body, and on leaves at the crime scene near her head.4 All of the blood found on or about Schmoyer was consistent with that of either Schmoyer or Appellant; none of the blood was inconsistent with one of their profiles. A comparison of a hair found on the right knee of Schmoyer was consistent with hair from Appellant's head and inconsistent with Schmoyer's own hair; and a comparison of a hair found on the sweatshirt of Schmoyer was consistent with Appellant's pubic hair and, again, inconsistent with Schmoyer's own hair.

On June 28, 1993, Denise Sam-Cali (Sam-Cali), a thirty-eight-year-old white female weighing 160 to 165 pounds, and her husband resided at 1141 East Highland Street, on Allentown's East Side. That evening she was home alone; her husband was out of town. She awoke during the night to noises from within a walk-in closet near her bedroom door. As Sam-Cali attempted to flee the house, an assailant grabbed her. She exited the house, but the assailant grabbed her again on the front walk, flipped her on her back, and got on top of her using his knees to hold her down.

As Sam-Cali and the assailant began to fight, he pushed down on her mouth, choked her, and punched her face at least four times. She tried to punch him and bit him on the inside of his upper right arm. He raped her and then ran through the house to escape by way of the back patio-door. Afterwards, Sam-Cali called the police. She had been beaten severely about the head, her neck had strangulation marks, and her lip was slashed. A large butcher knife wrapped in a paper napkin from her kitchen was found lying on the floor outside of her bathroom door. Following this incident, Sam-Cali and her husband left their East Allentown residence for a few days.

Approximately two weeks later, shortly after 7:00 a.m. on July 14, 1993, Jessica Jean Fortney (Fortney), a forty-seven-year-old white female, weighing 235 pounds, who resided with other members of her family at 407 North Bryan Street, on Allentown's East Side, was found dead in her bed. Fortney was half-naked; her shorts and underpants were pulled down mid-way between her knee and groin area

864 A.2d 474
and around only one thigh. Her face was swollen and black....

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