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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EZEKIEL SIMMONS (01/29/82)

filed: January 29, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
EZEKIEL SIMMONS, APPELLANT



NO. 1296 OCTOBER TERM, 1978, Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Trial Division of Philadelphia County, June Term, 1977 Nos. 1470-1473

COUNSEL

William J. Mazzola, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Eric B. Henson, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Spaeth, Stranahan and Sugerman, JJ.*fn*

Author: Sugerman

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 74]

On November 10, 1977, Appellant was found guilty at a bench trial before the Honorable William M. MARUTANI of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County of rape,*fn1

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 75]

    statutory rape,*fn2 corruption of a minor*fn3 and criminal conspiracy.*fn4 Post trial motions were filed, argued and denied, and Appellant was sentenced to a term of 7 1/2 to 15 years upon the rape conviction, and to terms of 2 to 5 years upon the convictions for corruption of a minor and criminal conspiracy. The latter two sentences were to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the sentence imposed upon the rape conviction.

On appeal, as below, the single contention advanced by Appellant is that the admission of his statement at trial was error, as the statement was the tainted fruit of an illegal arrest, made without probable cause.

Appellant was arrested in Philadelphia on May 31, 1977, at 2:15 o'clock P.M. and within minutes after his arrival at the Police Administration Building ("P.A.B."), gave an inculpatory statement to the arresting officer, ultimately reduced to writing, in which he admitted twice raping the victim. Pre-trial, Appellant filed a motion to suppress the statement based upon the ground, inter alia, that the statement was the product of an arrest made without sufficient probable cause and thus illegal.

A suppression hearing upon Appellant's motion was conducted by the Honorable G. Fred DiBONA, and at the conclusion of the hearing, Judge DiBONA denied the motion to suppress the statement, concluding that the arrest of Appellant was based upon probable cause. The statement was ultimately introduced in evidence at Appellant's trial.

Before we address the issue presented by Appellant, however, we must dispose of several threshold questions presented by the record before us, including our scope of review.

Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(i), in effect currently and at the date of the instant suppression hearing, requires the suppression judge to "enter on the record a statement of

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 76]

    findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether the evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant's rights . . ." Id. The purpose of Rule 323(i) is to insure a meaningful review of the lower court's decision. Commonwealth v. Harris, 275 Pa. Super. 18, 24, 418 A.2d 589, 592 (1980).

At bar, the suppression judge failed to make formal findings of fact on the record. During the recorded argument on Appellant's motion, however, the suppression judge made a number of statements that are obviously his findings of fact.*fn5 In those statements, the judge makes clear his findings with respect to the credibility of each witness as well as the facts as he determined them. He then concluded:

"THE COURT:

All right. Motion to suppress is denied. The arrest was made with probable cause which I have outlined, with a warrant. The warrant was not defective in the opinion of this court. The interrogation which ensued was completely in accord with the prescribed Constitutional guarantees. Therefore, the motion to suppress the statement is respectfully denied."

We have also been provided with a comprehensive and scholarly opinion by Judge MARUTANI for the court en banc in which the findings of the suppression judge are again set out and analyzed in depth.

Thus, we are more than satisfied that these findings permit a meaningful review of the decision of the suppression judge. Compare Commonwealth v. Jackson, 464 Pa. 292, 346 A.2d 746 (1975) with Commonwealth v. Harris, supra, and Commonwealth v. Walls, 255 Pa. Super. 1, 386 A.2d 105 (1978) (SPAETH, J., concurring and dissenting).

It must also be noted at the outset that the court en banc specifically found, and the Commonwealth implicitly concedes in its Brief filed here that Appellant's statement was the product of his arrest, and if resulting from an illegal ...


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