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Commonwealth v. Hathaway

Superior Court of Pennsylvania
500 A.2d 443 (1985)


Byron Hathaway (defendant) met his estranged wife, Bernadette, as she was leaving a church event. After the two spoke for a short period of time, Byron pulled out a handgun. Bernadette began to run away, but Byron followed and fired several shots at her, causing her to fall. As Bernadette was on the ground, Byron reloaded the gun and fired several more shots at her, killing her. Hathaway was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm without a license. At trial, the issue of whether Hathaway had shot Bernadette was not in dispute. The issue was Hathaway’s mental state at the time of the offense. Hathaway presented extensive psychiatric testimony to support his defense that, as a result of intoxication and mental disturbance, he had a diminished capacity and therefore an inability to form the specific intent to commit first-degree murder. Hathaway was nevertheless convicted and he appealed and timely filed motions for a new trial and an arrest of judgment, which was denied. At the same time, Hathaway filed a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court deferred the holding on the writ until the appellate courts disposed of Hathaway’s direct appeal.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Beck, J.)

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