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COMMONWEALTH v. LOPEZ (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LOPEZ, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, No. 412 of 1971, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Heriberto Lopez.

COUNSEL

Leonard J. Gajewski, for appellant.

Grant E. Wesner, Deputy District Attorney, with him James R. Hevalow, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert L. VanHoove, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Jones. Mr. Justice Eagen and Mr. Justice Pomeroy concur in the result. Mr. Justice Roberts dissents.

Author: Jones

[ 455 Pa. Page 354]

During the late evening of March 6, 1971, Ramon C. Santiago was shot in the hallway of his apartment in Reading, Pennsylvania. Witnesses heard gunshots and saw a man run from the building and drive away in a black 1959 Chevrolet occupied by one or more persons. Police were called, and the body of Santiago was found. A radio broadcast describing the getaway car was immediately issued, and approximately one hour later, two Reading police officers spotted such a vehicle. They followed and stopped the car and requested the driver, Lopez, to produce identification, either owner's or operator's cards, which he could not do.*fn1 Appellant was taken to the police station and given the Miranda warnings

[ 455 Pa. Page 355]

    in Spanish through the regular police interpreter. After waiving counsel, he was interrogated in Spanish again through the interpreter in regard to the Santiago shooting. No formal charges had been lodged.

After first denying any knowledge of the shooting, appellant orally confessed in English to a police detective while out of the interpreter's presence for a few minutes. He subsequently repeated the confession in Spanish to the interpreter who took notes in Spanish and translated them into English, from which an English statement was prepared. The interpreter translated and explained the typed statement to appellant, who then signed it. Appellant was thereafter charged with murder, tried by jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County on September 24, 1971, found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to a term of 8 to 20 years. A pretrial motion to suppress the oral statement had been denied on June 2, 1971, as were post-trial motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial. On appeal, we now affirm.

Appellant raises no less than twelve allegations of error in the proceedings of the trial court. Initially, he contends that his warrantless arrest was illegal as not based upon probable cause and that it therefore tainted the subsequent oral and written statements. In the suppression petition, appellant did not raise the illegality of his arrest. Not until post-trial motions was the issue raised, and the trial court properly concluded that this basis for suppression had been waived, relying upon Rule 323 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure*fn2 and Commonwealth v. Turra, 442 Pa. 192,

[ 455 Pa. Page 356275]

A.2d 96 (1971). There are no circumstances in this case that would mandate a different result.*fn3

Appellant next alleges that he was unable to intelligently and voluntarily waive counsel because he had not been informed of the exact nature of the crime for which he was being investigated. It is well-settled law in this Commonwealth that a defendant is sufficiently alerted to the possibility of involvement in a criminal homicide case once he is aware that the victim's death is under investigation. Commonwealth v. McIntyre, 451 Pa. 42, 301 A.2d 832 (1973); Commonwealth v. Boykin, 450 Pa. 25, 298 A.2d 258 (1972); Commonwealth v. Jacobs, 445 Pa. 364, 284 A.2d 717 (1971); Commonwealth v. Cooper, 444 Pa. 122, 278 A.2d 895 (1971). Both the detective who received the first oral confession and the police interpreter testified that appellant had been told in Spanish upon arrival at the police station that he would be questioned about ...


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