Commonwealth v. Malone

Decision Date12 October 1971
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Julian MALONE, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Mary Alice Duffy, Duffy & Duffy, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Arlen Specter, Dist. Atty., James D. Crawford, Deputy Dist. Atty Mark Sendrow, Asst. Dist. Atty., Milton M. Stein, Asst. Dist Atty., Chief, Appeals Division, Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before BELL, C.J., and EAGEN, O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, POMEROY and BARBIERI, JJ. OPINION

EAGEN, Justice.

On November 20, 1956, the court below accepted a general plea of guilty on behalf of Julian Malone to an indictment charging him with murder. After an evidentiary hearing, Malone was found guilty by the court of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to life imprisonment. No appeal was then filed, but on March 9, 1970, after a hearing sur a petition seeking post conviction relief, the trial court permitted this direct appeal to be filed as if the same were timely filed.

The first assignment of error challenges the sufficiency of the evidence at the hearing to adjudicate the degree of guilt to sustain a finding of murder in the first degree. As we have stated many times, the test to be applied in determining the sufficiency of the evidence, is whether, accepting as true all of the evidence, be it direct or circumstantial, and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom upon which, if believed, the trier of facts could properly have based the verdict, it is sufficient in law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime or crimes of which he has been convicted. Commonwealth v. Whitaker, 440 Pa. 143, 269 A.2d 886 (1970), and Commonwealth v. Commander, 436 Pa. 532, 260 A.2d 773 (1970). The evidence in this case meets this test.

From the testimony, the trial court was warranted in finding the following facts:

Malone, the appellant, and Samuel Broodus engaged in a verbal argument over the payment of an alleged debt, while seated in Broodus' automobile parked on a street in Philadelphia. Following this dispute, Malone left the Broodus vehicle and sat for a short period in a second automobile parked nearby. He then walked to the residence of a friend, situated about two and one-half blocks away, secured a rifle and some ammunition, loaded the gun with ammunition and returned to where the Broodus automobile was parked. When Broodus refused his demand to pay the debt Malone said he owed, Malone, without more, used the rifle to shoot Broodus in the chest. The bullet pierced the heart causing instant death.

On the foregoing facts, the trial court was fully justified in entering an adjudication of guilt of murder in the first degree. Cf. Commonwealth v. Schnur, 440 Pa. 132, 269 A.2d 691 (1970), and Commonwealth v. Iacobino, 319 Pa. 65, 178 A. 823 (1935).

It is next urged that the guilty plea should be declared invalid and of no effect because: (1) it was...

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