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Pennsylvania v. Potts

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
566 A.2d 287 (1989)


Facts

The home of Ernest Potts (defendant) was burglarized. David Owens informed Potts that Michael Cunerd committed the crime. Potts, accompanied by Owens, drove Cunerd to a deserted area and questioned Cunerd about the burglary. Owens was armed with a knife, and Potts carried a pen-gun. Cunerd denied any involvement in the burglary. Potts parked the car and ordered Cunerd out to fight. After a brief tussle between Potts and Cunerd, Owens exited the car, and Cunerd fled. Owens chased Cunerd, caught him, and stabbed Cunerd to death. Potts watched the murder from about 30 feet away. After Cunerd died, Potts approached the body and told Owens to look through Cunerd’s pockets. At Owens’s suggestion, both men then fled. Potts later admitted to police that he knew that Owens was armed when Potts drove Cunerd to the deserted area. A witness, William Dales, told police that two days before the murder, Potts had told Dales that Potts was going to kill Cunerd. At trial, Potts testified inconsistently with statements previously given to police. Potts was convicted as an accomplice to murder in the first degree. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Potts argued that, because Potts only intended to physically assault Cunerd, the evidence was insufficient to establish that Potts intended to aid Owens in Cunerd’s murder.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Beck, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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