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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN WARD (05/23/78)

decided: May 23, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JOHN WARD, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Lester G. Nauhaus and Stephen P. Swem, Assistant Public Defenders, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Robert L. Eberhardt, Assistant District Attorney, and Robert E. Colville, District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Van der Voort, J., dissents and would grant a new trial. Watkins, former President Judge, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 255 Pa. Super. Page 378]

Appellant was found guilty by a jury of receiving stolen goods*fn1 specifically four credit cards. He alleges the following errors on appeal:

(1) The credit cards, and testimony pertaining thereto, were improperly admitted into evidence because they were obtained as a direct result of an unlawful confession;

(2) Prejudicial references to appellant's prior criminal record were admitted into evidence; and

(3) The evidence was not sufficient to convict appellant.

Defendant was arrested on an arrest warrant for another charge in a bar where he had been drinking for several hours. He was not wearing a coat at the time of his arrest. The arresting officers asked about his coat and he pointed to the table next and directly behind him, within arm's length from where he had been seated. The coat was draped over a chair. The police then secured a brown corduroy coat and told him to put it on. He put the coat on and he was then led from the bar. Four credit cards were found in the pocket of that coat while the officers were making a routine pat down search; and thereafter, it was discovered that they had been stolen.

Appellant's first argument is that the arrest warrant was issued as a result of a confession which defendant had

[ 255 Pa. Super. Page 379]

    been forced to make in violation of his rights, and therefore, under the Poison Tree Doctrine, it was invalid, rendering any evidence secured thereby inadmissible against him. The legality of the initial interrogation of the appellant by police officers was resolved at a suppression hearing. Miranda warnings had been given to the appellant, and until the time the officers delivered the warnings, their attention had not become focused on appellant, as a suspect, to render the warnings ineffective thereby justifying the suppression of statements made. See Commonwealth v. Simala, 434 Pa. 219, 252 A.2d 575 (1969).

Appellant further argues that prejudicial statements referring to appellant's prior criminal record were admitted into evidence. However, after a review of the questionable statements, we find that they fail to meet the standards of prejudice stated in Commonwealth v. Bonnano, 216 Pa. Super. 201, 263 A.2d ...


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