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COMMONWEALTH v. MAYBEE (03/15/68)

decided: March 15, 1968.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MAYBEE, PETITIONER



Petition for leave to appeal from order of Superior Court, April T., 1967, No. 226, affirming judgments of sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County, Nos. 3862 and 3863 of 1965, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Frank Maybee, alias LeRoy Coleman, and James McCray.

COUNSEL

Daniel T. Zamos and Anthony C. Troiano, Assistant Defenders, and George H. Ross, Defender, for petitioners.

Edwin J. Martin and Charles B. Watkins, Assistant District Attorneys, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, respondent.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 429 Pa. Page 223]

It has long been fundamental to the criminal jurisprudence of this Commonwealth that a necessary predicate to any conviction is proof of the corpus delicti, i.e., the occurrence of an injury or loss and someone's criminality as the source of this injury or loss. See Commonwealth v. Burns, 409 Pa. 619, 627, 187 A.2d 552, 556-57 (1963); Commonwealth v. Turza, 340 Pa. 128, 133, 16 A.2d 401, 404 (1940). Although the corpus delicti may be proven by circumstantial evidence, see Commonwealth v. Homeyer, 373 Pa. 150, 94 A.2d 743 (1953); Commonwealth v. Gardner, 282 Pa. 458, 128 Atl. 87 (1925), the circumstantial evidence employed must be admissible evidence. The present controversy concerns the application of these principles.

Frank Maybee and James McCray were convicted in November of 1965 by a judge sitting without a jury and received two concurrent sentences of 2 to 4 years for burglary and larceny. These convictions were affirmed

[ 429 Pa. Page 224]

    without opinion by the Superior Court and a petition for allocatur was then filed. This petition is granted, the order of the Superior Court is reversed and the judgment of sentence of the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Allegheny County is reversed.

The totality of the Commonwealth's case consisted of testimony of four police officers.*fn1 Appellants contend, and we agree, that the admissible testimony was insufficient to prove the corpus delicti for the testimony concerning the ownership of the allegedly stolen goods was hearsay. Thomas Prendergast, Chief of Police of the Borough of Sewickley, testified that on the morning of May 21, 1965 two men reported that their automobiles, parked in the lot of the Sewickley Inn, had been burglarized. According to Prendergast, these two men gave the Sewickley Borough police a list of the items taken which was broadcast to the various police departments in the surrounding area. Some time later a call was received from the Moon Township police that they had two men in custody who had been driving an automobile containing clothing which matched the list earlier broadcast. Prendergast further testified that the owners of the burglarized vehicles subsequently identified the clothing as theirs.

The second of the four officers, Police Lieutenant Frank Tyler of Moon Township, testified that he was "staked-out" at the Howard Johnson Motor Inn when a white 1959 Chrysler pulled into the motel parking lot and, upon noticing a police car parked in the lot, immediately returned to the highway. A 100 mile per hour chase ensued; approximately four miles from the motel the Chrysler's engine caught fire and the vehicle's

[ 429 Pa. Page 225]

    two occupants, identified by Tyler as appellants, fled. Although Tyler was unable to apprehend appellants, he testified that he observed a considerable amount of clothing on the back seat of the Chrysler. Patrolman Frank Schramm of Robinson Township testified that he subsequently arrested Maybee ...


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