Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.



filed: January 29, 1982.


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


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:


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 arrest, is impermissibly tainted and should have been suppressed.

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 77]

(1981); Commonwealth v. Hunt, 280 Pa. Super. 205, 421 A.2d 684 (1980).*fn7

Viewed in that light, the record of the suppression hearing reveals that on May 27, 1977, Detective Martin Devlin of the Philadelphia Police Department was assigned to investigate the gang rape of a 12 year old girl, allegedly having occurred during the afternoon hours of the same day.

At 9:00 o'clock that evening, Devlin interviewed the victim in the hospital and again later that night in the P.A.B. During the course of these interviews, the victim told Devlin that one of her attackers was named "Zeke", (Appellant's first name is Ezekiel), and that he was taller than the others, dark-skinned, well-built with short hair, and 19 or 20 years old. Shortly after the second interview with the victim, Devlin interviewed one Marvin Steward, another of the victim's attackers then in custody and ultimately tried with Appellant for the rape as a co-defendant. During the latter interview, Steward told Devlin that both he and "Zeke" were two of the persons who raped the victim. Later, Devlin interviewed a second participant, one Andre "Almond" Harris, also then in police custody. Harris told Devlin as well that he and "Zeke" raped the victim, and that "Zeke" lived at 50th and Reno Streets in the City of Philadelphia. Devlin also interviewed a girl named Mimi who was with the victim shortly before the attack. "Mimi" also told Devlin that "Zeke" lived at 50th and Reno Streets.*fn8

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 79]

Aware that a teenage gang known as the "Hoopes Street Gang" operated near 50th and Reno Streets, and also aware that the victim's four attackers ranged in age from 17 to 19 years, Devlin next contacted his colleagues in the Juvenile Aid Division Of the Philadelphia Police Department to determine if they were aware of a person named "Zeke" who lived near Hoopes Street, perhaps at 50th Street, and a member of the Hoopes Street gang. Juvenile Aid officers, in response and upon hearing the name "Zeke", immediately told Devlin that an Ezekiel Simmons lived at 50th and Reno Streets.

Devlin also went to 50th and Reno Streets and asked persons in the neighborhood where "Zeke" lived. He was told by neighbors that "Zeke" lived at 5035 Reno Street, a few doors from the intersection of 50th and Reno Streets. The next morning, Devlin went to 5035 Reno Street and spoke with Ezekiel Simmon's mother and sister. Devlin asked Mrs. Simmons to describe her son and the description matched that given by the victim.*fn9

Based upon this information, Devlin obtained the foregoing warrant for Appellant's arrest on May 31, 1977, arrested Appellant and charged him with the instant crimes. In the face of this record, then, we must determine whether Appellant was arrested upon probable cause.


Affidavit for Arrest Warrant

Appellant first attacks the "affidavit" section of the complaint underlying the arrest warrant, contending that it contains nothing more than conclusions and fails to set forth any asserted facts from which a magistrate could find probable cause.

Detective Devlin was the complainant, and the "affidavit" in the complaint sets forth in its entirety the following:

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 80]

"On or about Friday 5-27-77, in the County of Philadelphia, the accused committed the following acts: the def. did along with his associates rape [victim's name and address] while inside 871 N. 49th St. CHARGES: Rape 3121F1, Agg. Asslt. 2702 MI, Stat. Rape 3122 F2, Corrup. Minor 3125 M2, Terr. threats 2706 MI, Consp. 903 all of which were against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and contrary to the pertinent Acts of Assembly."

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 81]

This statement is obviously conclusory and devoid of any factual information. On May 31, 1977, however, the date the warrant was issued, the issuance of warrants of arrest was governed by Pa.R.Crim.P. 132-134, and those rules did not require that all information used to establish probable cause be set forth in a written affidavit. Thus it was that an affiant's sworn oral statements or testimony before a magistrate could supplement his written affidavit to form the basis for the issuance of an arrest warrant.*fn10 Commonwealth Page 81} v. Geary, 488 Pa. 174, 411 A.2d 1195 (1980); Commonwealth v. Milliken, 450 Pa. 310, 300 A.2d 78 (1973). Accordingly, the warrant was at least superficially in compliance with the then applicable Rules.

At the suppression hearing, however, the Commonwealth made no effort to elicit from Detective Devlin the information he may have orally imparted to the magistrate before obtaining the warrant. The only testimony on the entire subject in the record is the following:

"Q. [BY THE ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY] . . . When you returned on the 31st, were you armed with any kind of a warrant?


Yes, sir, I was.

Q. What kind of warrant was it, sir?

A. I had a warrant for arrest, which was obtained on 5/31/77 by [sic] Judge Poserina.

Q. Was it so signed, sir?

A. Yes, it was."

N.T.S.H. 69-70

Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(h), in effect at the date of the proceedings below, and yet in effect, places the burden upon the Commonwealth to establish that any evidence sought to be used at trial and which is the subject of a defendant's motion to suppress was not obtained in violation of such defendant's rights. Commonwealth v. Fisher, 466 Pa. 216, 352 A.2d 26 (1976); Commonwealth v. Ryan, 268 Pa. Super. 259, 407 A.2d 1345 (1979).

It is thus obvious and the Commonwealth concedes that it failed to carry its burden of proving that Appellant's statement was not the product of an arrest made pursuant to a warrant issued without probable cause.

Nevertheless, Pa.R.Crim.P. 101.3., also in effect at the date of the proceedings below and yet in effect, provides that an arrest may be made without a warrant (1) when the

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 82]

    offense is a felony, and (2) if the arrest is based upon probable cause. The crimes of Rape, Statutory Rape, and Criminal Conspiracy to commit those crimes are felonies,*fn11 and if Detective Devlin, the arresting officer, had probable cause to arrest Appellant without a warrant, the arrest was lawful and the warrant itself mere surplusage, and the infirmity from which it suffered irrelevant.

We turn, then, to an analysis of the information known to Detective Devlin at the time of the arrest to determine whether it constituted probable cause.


Probable Cause for Warrantless Arrest

In Commonwealth v. Kazior, 269 Pa. Super. 518, 410 A.2d 822 (1979), allocatur denied 269 Pa. Super. 518, 410 A.2d 822 (1980), reiterated recently in Commonwealth v. Allen, 287 Pa. Super. 88, 429 A.2d 1113, 1119-20 (1981), we enunciated the test for probable cause:

"A legal arrest without a warrant n[12] depends upon probable cause. Commonwealth v. Pinney, 474 Pa. 210, 378 A.2d 293 (1977); Commonwealth v. Bishop, 425 Pa. 175, 228 A.2d 661 (1967), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 875, 88 S.Ct. 168, 19 L.Ed.2d 159 (1967). Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances which are within the knowledge of the police at the time of the arrest, and of which they have reasonable trustworthy information, are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that a suspect has committed or is committing a crime. Commonwealth v. Powers, 484 Pa. 198, 398 A.2d 1013 (1979); Commonwealth v. Culmer, 463 Pa. 189, 195, 344 A.2d 487, 490 (1975); Commonwealth v. Jones, 457 Pa. 423, 428, 322

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 83]

A.2d 119, 123 (1974); Commonwealth v. Garvin, 448 Pa. 258, 262, 293 A.2d 33, 35-36 (1972); Commonwealth v. Bishop, supra. The burden of showing probable cause is on the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. Holton, 432 Pa. 11, 14-15, 247 A.2d 228, 230 (1968). The standard of probable cause, however, must be applied to the totality of the circumstances facing the police. Facts insufficient to justify an arrest if considered separately may in combination supply probable cause. Commonwealth v. Roscioli, 240 Pa. Super. 135, 138, 361 A.2d 834, 836 (1976). In Commonwealth v. Tolbert, 235 Pa. Super. 227, at p. 230, 341 A.2d 198, at p. 200 (1975), this Court said: When we examine a particular situation to determine if probable cause exists, we consider all the factors and their total effect, and do not concentrate on each individual element . . . We also focus on the circumstances as seen through the eyes of the trained officer, and do not view the situation as an average citizen might . . . Finally, we must remember that in dealing with questions of probable cause, we are not dealing with certainties. We are dealing with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men act. This is not the same 'beyond-a-reasonable-doubt' standard which we apply in determining guilt or innocence at trial. Commonwealth v. Devlin, 221 Pa. Super. 175, 289 A.2d 237 (1972)."

Id. 269 Pa. Super. at 523-24, 410 A.2d at 824-25.

And see Commonwealth v. Stokes, 480 Pa. 38, 389 A.2d 74 (1978); Commonwealth v. Patterson, 266 Pa. Super. 167, 403 A.2d 596 (1979).

When we apply this test to the facts at bar, probable cause to arrest emerges with singular clarity. As one example, it will be recalled that two of Appellant's confederates, Marvin Steward and Andre Harris, named "Zeke" as a participant in the crimes while giving Detective Devlin statements incriminating themselves. This Court, and our Supreme Court as well, have frequently held that the uncorroborated confession of an accomplice which implicates the

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 84]

    suspect will, alone, supply probable cause for a warrantless arrest. Commonwealth v. Stokes, supra; Commonwealth v. Jenkins, 288 Pa. Super. 232, 431 A.2d 1023 (1981) (collects cases); Commonwealth v. Patterson, supra. While it is correct to note that neither Steward nor Harris used Appellant's surname when giving their statements to Detective Devlin, the connection between the "Zeke" named by Steward and Harris and Appellant, was supplied by Juvenile Aid Division officers and "Mimi".*fn13

Appellant next attacks separately each category of information in the possession of Detective Devlin at the time of the arrest and argues that standing separately, no category supplies probable cause. We will respond, as we have often stated in the past, that facts insufficient to justify an arrest separately may in combination supply probable cause. Commonwealth v. Allen, 287 Pa. Super. 88, 429 A.2d 1113 (1981); Commonwealth v. Kazior, supra; Commonwealth v. Roscioli, 240 Pa. Super. 135, 138, 361 A.2d 834, 836 (1976).

Finally, Appellant relies upon Commonwealth v. Brooks, 468 Pa. 547, 364 A.2d 652 (1976), wherein the Supreme Court found an absence of probable cause upon which to base a warrantless arrest, and argues that the facts in the instant case are virtually indistinguishable from the facts there. In Commonwealth v. Jenkins, supra, 288 Pa. Super. at 238, n. 7, 431 A.2d at 1026, n. 7, Judge Price, writing for a panel of this Court, set forth the operative facts of Brooks upon which the Supreme Court found that the Commonwealth had failed to establish probable cause for appellant's arrest:

"Detective O'Brien was the police officer assigned to investigate the homicide for which appellant was arrested. While at the scene of the crime, Detective O'Brien received

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 85]

    information from witnesses to the shooting, and other young, people in the area, that the 'Cedar Street gang' was responsible, and that this gang had been involved in several similar incidents in the past four weeks. Detective O'Brien then began to patrol the area looking for suspects and '. . . tried to cultivate more information . . .' At approximately 11:30 p.m., December 10, 1973, approximately three hours after the shooting, Detective O'Brien received information from police headquarters that an anonymous phone caller had stated that 'Brooks from Baltimore Avenue was one of the persons responsible for this shooting'. Detective O'Brien also received information that several persons responsible for the shooting were in a bar located at Rogers Street and Baltimore Avenue. The source of this information does not appear on the record. At approximately 12:45 a. m., December 11, 1973, while patrolling near the intersection of Rogers Street and Christian Street (near the location of the bar named by the anonymous caller) in an effort to locate members of the Cedar Street gang and obtain information Detective O'Brien stopped appellant who was walking on the street to ask him some questions. The detective's intent in questioning appellant was to ascertain the validity of the anonymous telephone tip, and to ascertain the identi[t]y of 'Brooks from Baltimore Avenue'. At this time the detective did not know appellant's identity. In fact, he knew nothing about appellant but suspected that the person walking along the street might be a Cedar Street gang member. Detective O'Brien asked appellant his name and was told 'Richard Brooks'. The detective then asked appellant where he lived, and upon hearing that appellant lived on Baltimore Avenue, placed appellant under arrest. Commonwealth v. Brooks, 468 Pa. 547, 551-52, 364 A.2d 652, 654 (1976).

Appellant's reliance upon Brooks is severely misplaced as the case is readily distinguishable from the case sub judice. Instantly, Detective Devlin had received information directly from two of Appellant's co-felons implicating themselves

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 86]

    and "Zeke". One of co-felons told Devlin that "Zeke" lived at 50th and Reno Streets. "Mimi" confirmed that address and Juvenile Aid Division officers supplied the complete name and approximate address of Appellant. Finally, neighbors furnished Devlin with Appellant's specific address several doors from the intersection of 50th and Reno Streets. This information can hardly be equated with the anonymous telephone call that essentially led to the arrest in Brooks.

In Commonwealth v. Jenkins, supra, quite similar on its facts to the case at bar, the arresting officer arrested appellant's co-felon for participation in two robberies. At the time of his arrest, the co-felon admitted his involvement in the crimes and also implicated one "Jinx" (appellant) who "hung out" between the 1400 and 1600 blocks of Susquehanna Avenue, in Philadelphia with one Moore, a third co-felon. On the basis of this information, the arresting officer commenced a patrol of the area identified by the co-felon as Jinx's "hangout". The officer asked residents whether they knew a person called "Jinx", who was a friend of Moore and was frequently in that neighborhood. The officer subsequently received information from a telephone caller, not identified on the record, that he knew Moore and his friend "Jinx". In a second telephone call, the caller later told the officer that Jinx was then at a specified location, between the 1400 and 1700 blocks of Susquehanna Avenue, wearing a new brown cashmere coat. The officer arrived at the location, approached appellant who was wearing a "new-looking gray wool coat". As the officer drew near to appellant, whose identity was then yet unknown to the officer, he asked, "Jinx?" Appellant replied "yes", was thereupon arrested, and gave an incriminating statement later introduced at his trial. Appellant in Jenkins contended on appeal, as does Appellant here, that the statement was improperly admitted as the product of an illegal arrest, made without probable cause. Id., 288 Pa. Super. at 234-35, 431 A.2d at 1024.

The Court disagreed and found probable cause on the basis of the co-felon's statement alone. We are more than

[ 295 Pa. Super. Page 87]

    satisfied that there is no substantive distinction between Jenkins and the case before us and we must reach the same result.*fn14

*fn* Pres. Judge John Q. Stranahan, of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, is sitting by designation.

Judge Leonard Sugerman, of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, is sitting by designation.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.