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COMMONWEALTH v. THOMAS (03/18/59)

March 18, 1959

COMMONWEALTH
v.
THOMAS, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 121 and 122, Oct. T., 1959, from judgments of Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County, April T., 1958, Nos. 548 and 551, in case of Commonwealth v. Leonard Thomas. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

Charles F. Mayer, for appellant.

Martin M. Krimsky, Assistant District Attorney, with him Juanita Kidd Stout, Assistant District Attorney, James N. Lafferty, First Assistant District Attorney, and Victor H. Blanc, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ. (hirt, J., absent).

Author: Wright

[ 189 Pa. Super. Page 27]

OPINION BY WRIGHT, J.

The theory of the Commonwealth in this case is that, on February 26, 1958, Leonard Thomas committed a burglary at the Philadelphia Federal Savings and Loan Association, 1619 Chestnut Street in the City of Philadelphia, taking approximately $36,000.00 in cash and $28,000.00 in checks. Thomas was apprehended and made one verbal and three written confessions, subsequently repudiated on the ground that they were involuntary. On April 17, 1958, he was indicted in the Court of Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia County on a charge of conspiracy at No. 548 April Sessions 1958, and on a charge of burglary and larceny at No. 551 April Sessions 1958. On June 6, 1958, following a four-day trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty. Thomas' motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were subsequently overruled and, September 23,

[ 189 Pa. Super. Page 281958]

, sentence was imposed at No. 551 and suspended at No. 548. These appeals followed.

A brief summary of the voluminous original record is as follows: John J. Collins of the Savings and Loan Association testified that at about 5:00 p.m. on February 25, 1958, currency and checks in total amount of $66,000.00 were placed in three metal boxes in a safe located in a vault on the basement floor, and that shortly after 8:00 a.m. on the morning of February 26, 1958, he discovered that the vault had been tampered with, the safe door opened and its contents removed. Edna Clark testified that appellant visited her at 11:00 that morning, exhibited a large amount of currency, purchased an automobile for her, paying $1,800.00 in cash, and that she subsequently made arrangements through Andy Ames for appellant to discount certain bills of large denomination. Appellant later gave Edna $800.00, and said "it was a clean job and the police would never find out who did it". The transaction relative to Edna's car was corroborated by Emil Matkoski of the Corletto Buick Agency. Leonard Corcia of the same agency testified relative to a subsequent transaction wherein appellant paid $4,200.00 cash for another car. Joe Bolden testified that he saw Thomas and Leroy Tapper in a parking lot near the scene on the early morning of February 26, 1958. Detective McCahan testified that appellant was taken into custody at 1:00 p.m. on March 24, 1958 at the Mercy-Douglas Hospital where he had recently undergone a hemorrhoid operation; that appellant was questioned until 7:30 p.m.,*fn1 at which time he made a verbal statement; that appellant was then taken to New Jersey to search for the money which appellant stated that he had buried; that appellant's statement was reduced to writing at

[ 189 Pa. Super. Page 291]

:30 a.m. on March 25, 1958, after which appellant was "slated" and taken to the Philadelphia General Hospital. He was given a hearing before a magistrate that morning. Appellant made a second written statement at 8:00 p.m. that evening, and a third written statement at 2:00 p.m. on March 27, 1958. The first written statement was to the effect that appellant committed the burglary alone. The second written statement implicated Arthur Davis, a janitor at the Savings and Loan, and also Leroy Tapper. The third written statement, similar to the second, was made in the presence of Davis and Tapper, and denied by them. These statements were received in evidence over objection. The Commonwealth also introduced in evidence a crowbar and a broken lock mentioned in the statements and found at the scene. The metal boxes and their contents were never recovered. Appellant took the stand in his own defense and testified that he was on parole for burglary. He admitted the possession of a large amount of currency, stating that he had "hit the numbers". He testified that he was innocent, that he was at home asleep on the morning in question, and that the statements were secured by force and coercion. Appellant's wife and his parole sponsor testified that appellant was in bed until 11:00 a.m. on the morning of February 26, 1958. In rebuttal, the Commonwealth introduced a note sent by appellant from the prison to Edna Clark.*fn2

Appellant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove the corpus delicti. In Commonwealth v. Ricci, 177 ...


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