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COMMONWEALTH v. HARRIS. (04/14/64)

April 14, 1964

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
HARRIS.



Appeals, Nos. 144 to 171, inclusive, Oct. T., 1964, from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Philadelphia County, March T., 1963, Nos. 781 to 808, inclusive, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Henry D. Harris. Order reversed.

COUNSEL

Paula S. Rand, Assistant District Attorney, with her Thomas M. Reed, Assistant District Attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

George S. Pressman, for appellee.

Before Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ. (rhodes, P.j., absent).

Author: Ervin

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 145]

OPINION BY ERVIN, J.

The court below granted the prayer of a petition of the appellee, Henry D. Harris, to suppress certain evidence (payroll checks, stubs, income tax notification slips) claimed to have been obtained through an illegal search and seizure from his apartment and certain other evidence (samples of handwriting) claimed to have been obtained by fraud, trickery and coercion.

Harris had been an employe of Sun Oil Company for approximately five years prior to the afternoon of January 14, 1963. At that time he was one of the mail drivers and he had been identified by several bank tellers as having passed certain Sun Oil checks which were not made out to him. These checks were dispatched to the mail room and then were sent to various parts of the country. Reports were received that some of these checks were never received and some of them had turned up as being cashed in Philadelphia. A conference was held in the office of the Sun Oil Company and Harris was asked to report at this conference. The questioning commenced at approximately 2:15 p.m.

Frank McCorkle, a detective in the Intelligence Unit of the Philadelphia Police, read from certain notes which he had prepared concerning the meeting of January 14 as follows: "At this time Harris stated to the assigned detectives and officers of the Sun Oil Company that he was not involved in any theft from the mail department and that he would consent to take a lie detector test, he also said he would be glad to accompany the assigned detectives to his apartment and allow them to search same. He stated he had nothing

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 146]

    to hide and would voluntarily consent to said search in attempt to clear his name."

McCorkle also testified that before they left for the apartment they asked Harris where his car was and he told them he had loaned it to a friend and that possibly it might be parked at a train station in Germantown. They then went to Germantown but the car was not there. They then went to Harris' apartment, arriving there about 6:00 p.m., and found certain check stubs and other evidence which linked Harris to the checks which had been irregularly cashed. After finding these articles in his apartment, they asked him whether he had any more checks and he said he had one more. They asked him where it was and he said it was in his car and he gave them a parking check where he had parked the car near the Sun Oil Company office. They subsequently went to the car and found that check. They testified that they would not have known where the car was had not Harris told them and given them the parking check.

It is also clear from the testimony of the officers, as well as Harris, that he was not placed under arrest until after the incriminating evidence was discovered in his apartment. Harris himself corroborated the police officer's testimony. Under examination by his own attorney he testified as follows: "Q. When they asked you to go to your apartment did you request it or did they request it? A. No, chief Kelly came back in from outside the office and he asked me did I have anything of Sun Oil Company in my apartment. And I knew about the stubs but I didn't think to say it was the same thing they were talking about because I didn't know anything about it. So I told them no. So they asked me would I object to going to my ...


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