Commonwealth v. Rush

646 A.2d 557 (1994)

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Commonwealth v. Rush

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
646 A.2d 557 (1994)

SC

Facts

Larry Rush (defendant) was charged with murder, robbery, and burglary related to the killing of Veranica Hands. In 1987, Hands was found in the bedroom of her Philadelphia apartment stabbed to death. The murderer used one of Hands’s knives, then cleaned it and left it in the apartment after the murder. Hands’s underwear was removed, and small valuables were stolen from the bedroom. Evidence indicated that the murderer had not used force to enter but had likely rung the doorbell. At trial, the prosecution (plaintiff) sought to introduce evidence of Rush’s prior, 1979 conviction for robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, and attempted rape. The prosecution relied on the common-scheme exception to the general rule against the admission of prior bad acts. After that 1979 conviction, Rush had spent all but 84 days in prison prior to the murder of Hands. The prosecution cited the following similarities between the two crimes: they both occurred in a Philadelphia apartment building in which the perpetrator lived; in both cases, the perpetrator got into the victim’s unit without force, likely by ringing the doorbell; both victims were young, Black, and female; both victims had their underwear or nightgown removed and were tied up; both victims were stabbed with a knife from their own apartment; in both cases, the perpetrator cleaned the knife and left it in the apartment; and in both cases, the perpetrator took only small valuables from the bedroom. The trial court admitted the evidence of the prior conviction. Rush was convicted, and he appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Flaherty, J.)

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