No. 88 Special Transfer Docket, Appeals from Judgments of Sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, Philadelphia County, No. 840 January Term, 1976.
Nino V. Tinari, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Clifford I. Haines, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Montgomery, O'Brien and Honeyman, JJ.*fn*
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 162]
After jury trial, appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree, burglary, robbery and conspiracy. Post trial motions were refused and a sentence of life imprisonment on the murder conviction was imposed. Additionally, sentences totaling five years to ten years on the non-homicide convictions were imposed and were directed to be served consecutively to the life sentence. From these judgments of sentence, appeals were taken.
In the early morning hours of December 7, 1975, John Knight was murdered in his Philadelphia apartment. He had been beaten, bound, gagged, and fatally stabbed. Prior thereto, appellant and his two companions named Maleno and Melendez had made plans in a South Philadelphia dwelling to go to Knight's apartment and rob him. A house guest of Knight, who was present in the apartment throughout the commission of the felonious entry by the three men, and the robbery and murder which ensued, identified the appellant, Maleno and Melendez as those who entered the apartment, ransacked it and fled, leaving Knight dead. This particular house guest was bound by the men and placed under a sofa in the living room. Appellant and Maleno left the apartment some time before Melendez. The house guest fled the apartment but was joined in the elevator by Melendez who proceeded to assault her with a knife. Appellant and Maleno fled to New Jersey accompanied by two females, one of whom was named Donna DePaul. Thereafter, appellant summoned Melendez to join them, following which appellant directed Maleno to kill Melendez later in the evening of December 7, 1975. Maleno carried out this order in New Jersey with a gun handed to him by appellant. Maleno took Melendez into a woods, directed him to dig a hole, ostensibly for the purpose of burying some of the loot
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 163]
from the Knight apartment, and then shot him in the head three times. Shortly thereafter, appellant, accompanied by the two girls, went to Miami, Florida, where he was arrested on December 14, 1975 as a result of one of the girls tipping off the police.
Appellant complains that it was error to allow the jury to hear evidence concerning the murder of Melendez. We do not agree. Obviously, under normal circumstances, a fact finder may not be exposed to evidence of participation in other criminal activity by the accused. However, there are exceptions thereto. It is not error to admit evidence of one crime that is so logically connected to the crime for which the accused stands trial that proof of one tends to prove the other. Only a few hours after the commission of the crimes in the Knight apartment, and after their flight to New Jersey, appellant and Maleno discussed a plan to get rid of Melendez, since appellant believed that he was a "weak link" and that there was a likelihood that his continued existence would endanger appellant's efforts to elude detection and apprehension. Thus, evidence concerning the murder of Melendez became an integral part of the murder of Knight so that its admission was necessary to complete proof of the sequence of events, to establish the continuing conspiracy in which appellant was a participant, and to impute "guilty knowledge" to appellant. See Com. v. Brown, 462 Pa. 578, 342 A.2d 84 (1975) and Com. v. Wable, 382 Pa. 80, 114 A.2d 334 (1955). Additionally, evidence tending to show efforts on the part of an accused to destroy or dispose of incriminating evidence is admissible to show a consciousness of guilt. See Com. v. Robson, 461 Pa. 615, 337 A.2d 573 (1975).
In a similar vein, appellant contends that it was error to allow Donna DePaul, as a Commonwealth witness, to testify about the use of drugs by the appellant, Maleno and Melendez in the South Philadelphia apartment, prior to their departure for the Knight apartment. Again, we are satisfied that such evidence was properly admitted as part of the sequence of events. Ms. DePaul's testimony established that
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 164]
appellant prepared and injected drug dosages into himself, Maleno and Melendez, thus putting them under the influence thereof immediately before the commission of the crimes at the Knight apartment. Her testimony further established that their drug usage and their need to obtain money for the support and maintenance thereof were motivating factors in their planning to rob Knight. This evidence was admissible, not to show that appellant participated in other criminal activity, but to further support the conspiracy charge. Furthermore, their activities in the South ...