Appeal, No. 300, Oct. T., 1955, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Montgomery County, June T., 1954, Nos. 39, 39-2, 39-6, and 39-8, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Joseph Krzesniak. Judgment affirmed.
Bernard V. DiGiacomo, for appellant.
C. Howard Harry, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him J. Stroud Weber, District Attorney, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ.
[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 562]
Nine bills of indictment were consolidated for trial before the same jury. Eight of them charged the defendant with arson, under § 905 of the Penal Code of June 24, 1939, P.L. 872, 18 PS § 4905; the ninth indictment charged him with setting a junked automobile
[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 563]
afire in violation of § 907 of the Code, 18 PS § 4907. There were no eyewitnesses to any of the crimes but the defendant, a 19-year-old boy confessed to the commission of all of them after his arrest. At the close of the Commonwealth's case the trial court sustained demurrers to the evidence as to five of the arson indictments because proof of the corpus delicti in each instance was lacking. The defendant however was found guilty on the remaining three charges of felony, Bills 39, 39-2 and 39-6, and on the fourth Bill, 39-8, charging the unlawful burning of personal property, a misdemeanor. A single indeterminate sentence to the Pennsylvania Industrial School at Camp Hill was imposed.
The appeal before us was taken by the defendant from his conviction and sentence in the court below in No. 39 June Sessions, 1954. No appeal was taken in any of the other three cases. Although a single sentence was imposed generally on all four convictions the sentence is valid and cannot be set aside in this appeal since it does not exceed the maximum which could have been imposed on the conviction of arson on Bill 39. Cf. Commonwealth v. Waychoff, 177 Pa. Superior Ct. 182, 110 A.2d 780; Commonwealth v. Logan, 172 Pa. Superior Ct. 365, 94 A.2d 99; Commonwealth v. Amato, 148 Pa. Superior Ct. 151, 24 A.2d 681.
We are unable to agree with the defendant that the corpus delicti was not sufficiently proven in the three arson cases in which he was convicted, including the prosecution on Bill 39. It is a familiar rule that an extra-judicial confession by one accused of a crime cannot be received in evidence unless and until the corpus delicti of the offense has first been established by independent proof. Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 16 A.2d 401. It is said in Commonwealth v. Gardner,
[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 564282]
Pa. 458, 462, 128 A. 87, that "In all criminal proceedings it is incumbent on the Commonwealth to establish beyond a reasonable doubt three elements: (1) the occurrence of an injury or loss ... (2) a criminal agency [in arson that the fire was incendiary in origin] ... (3) that the defendant is the responsible party ..." It is also stated in that leading case, p. 464, "It sometimes happens the circumstances attending the act may be consistent with crime ... or accident. In such cases, the corpus delicti is proven where the circumstances attending the [loss] are consistent with crime, though they may also be consistent with accident." And further: "The corpus delicti is to be proved like other facts, and it may be shown by circumstantial evidence." All that is required under the settled law is that the facts establishing the corpus delicti be proven ...