By Burt Rose
In Commonwealth versus Antoine Miller, number 58 MAP 2010, 2012 wl 165147, decided January 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that a verdict of a jury of guilt on a second-degree murder charge with an acquittal on a predicate felony of robbery was not impermissibly inconsistent. In an opinion by Mr. Justice McCaffery, the Supreme Court ruled that an acquittal of the felony upon which a second-degree murder charge was predicated does not necessitate reversal of the second-degree murder conviction. To convict an accused of second-degree murder, the Commonwealth is not required to prove that the accused actually committed the predicate offense. Unlike the offense of ethnic intimidation, second degree murder does not require, as an element of the crime, the completion of the predicate offense. The court relied heavily on a decision in 1979, Commonwealth versus Gravely, 404 A2d 1296. In that case, the defendant was found guilty of second-degree murder but the jury was unable to reach a verdict as to the predicate charge of rape and the Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for second-degree murder even though the jury was unable to reach a verdict as to the rape charge.
All of the justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania joined this opinion.