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COMMONWEALTH v. LASSITER (07/01/74)

July 1, 1974

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LASSITER, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 23, March T., 1974, from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Allegheny County, Sept. T., 1970, No. 6522, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Ronald Lassiter. Judgment of sentence affirmed.

COUNSEL

James H. Logan, for appellant.

Louis R. Paulick, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert L. Eberhardt, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert W. Duggan, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Eagen, O'brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 457 Pa. Page 584]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE JONES.

On December 16, 1970, appellant was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of one Hampton Johnson and was sentenced to a term of ten to twenty years' imprisonment. This sentence was stayed pending the filing and disposition of posttrial motions which were then filed by appellant and dismissed by the lower court on February 14, 1972. On July 11, 1973, we granted leave to appeal nunc pro tunc and this direct appeal followed.

Appellant's initial argument is that the lower court erred in refusing to suppress certain items of evidence which, he alleges, were the fruit of (1) an illegal arrest and (2) an illegal search. The circumstances of the appellant's arrest and the accompanying seizure of evidence are as follows.

Shortly after noon on June 2, 1970, the stabbing giving rise to this prosecution occurred in the presence of several persons who knew the appellant by name. One of these witnesses, Mrs. Emma Paul, conveyed what she had seen to one Angus B. Hopson, a retired policeman. By coincidence, Hopson had personally witnessed an argument between appellant and the victim which had transpired in a nearby bar just prior to the stabbing. When the police arrived on the scene, Hopson conveyed the information which he had accumulated

[ 457 Pa. Page 585]

    to them. On this basis, a broadcast went out over police radio to the effect that a stabbing had occurred in the vicinity of Hazlett Way and Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh and that one Ronald Lassiter (with a description) was being sought in connection therewith. Being in the vicinity of the crime, Officer James Hintemeyer responded to the broadcast and began looking for the suspect. He was told by an unknown individual that Ronald Lassiter was in a house at 3519 Mulberry Way. Upon arriving at that address, Hintemeyer noticed several people through an open door. One of the women in the house asked Hintemeyer what he wanted, to which he said that he was looking for Ronald Lassiter. The woman, Mrs. Boston, then invited the officer into the house, stating that Lassiter was present. Upon Hintemeyer's entrance into the house, appellant identified himself. At this time, Hintemeyer noticed a knife in a leather scabbard on the coffee table in front of appellant. He then asked appellant to come outside with him where he informed him that he was under arrest. As a result of these occurrences, certain items of appellant's clothing as well as the knife were seized as evidence.

The first question is whether there was probable cause to arrest the appellant. While conceding that an officer may arrest on the orders of superiors if the officer ordering the arrest possesses probable cause,*fn1 appellant nevertheless contends that the present situation is governed by Commonwealth v. Garvin, 448 Pa. 258, 293 A.2d 33 (1972), wherein this Court held an arrest to be illegal where the officer had acted on the tip of an informant who had ...


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