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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. VAUGN SCUDDER (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
VAUGN SCUDDER, APPELLANT



No. 86 March Term 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania dated November 1, 1978, at Nos. 568 and 802 of April Term, 1977, affirming the Judgments of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Butler, County, Pennsylvania, at C.A. No. 539, 551 and 552 of 1976, Book 65, pages 39, 51 and 52.

COUNSEL

Darrell L. Kadunce, Butler, for appellant.

Robert F. Hawk, Asst. Dist. Atty., Butler, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Kauffman, J., dissents.

Author: Nix

[ 490 Pa. Page 417]

OPINION

On the night of June 21, 1976, or early morning hours of June 22, a van was stolen from in front of a house in the Borough of Etna, Allegheny County. At or about noon on June 22, the wife of the owner of the stolen van was driving on Route 8 when she saw the van approaching from the opposite direction in which she was travelling. She turned her vehicle around, followed the van and when she was satisfied that the vehicle was her husband's van, radioed the police by CB radio. In response to her call, the township police gave chase in two patrol cars over a distance of three miles. The patrol used sirens and overhead lights but the driver of the van refused to heed their direction to stop. The van was eventually stopped by a roadblock set up by the police.

A search of the van revealed two riding mowers, both had also been stolen. One of the mowers was taken from the possession of its owner on June 22 and the other within a day or two prior to the date of the arrest. Also found in the van was a spray can of blue paint that had apparently been

[ 490 Pa. Page 418]

    used to paint the van's side windows after it had been taken from the possession of the rightful owner and a jumped ignition switch hanging under the van's dashboard.

The driver of the stolen van, Wayne Paananen, and appellant, a passenger in the vehicle at the time that it was stopped, were arrested and charged with various offenses. After a trial by jury, appellant was found guilty of three counts of receiving stolen goods for the van and the two mowers. After sentence was imposed, an appeal was taken to the Superior Court which affirmed. We granted allocatur and now reverse.

Appellant charges that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts. The test for sufficiency of evidence is whether accepting as true all the evidence and all reasonable inferences deductible from such evidence, upon which the trier of fact could have based its verdict, the evidence and inferences are sufficient in law to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Williams, 468 Pa. 357, 362 A.2d 244 (1976); Commonwealth v. Ilgenfritz, 466 Pa. 345, 353 A.2d 387 (1976). Moreover, in reviewing the evidence, we must consider it in the light most favorable to the verdict winner. Commonwealth v. Ilgenfritz, supra; Commonwealth v. Green, 464 Pa. 557, 347 A.2d 682 (1975); Commonwealth v. Rife, 454 Pa. 506, 312 A.2d 406 (1973). Guilt may be inferred from circumstantial evidence as well as direct evidence and circumstantial evidence alone, if sufficiently strong to support the inference beyond a reasonable doubt, may ...


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