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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LEONARD REEL (12/17/82)

decided: December 17, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LEONARD REEL, APPELLANT



No. 80-3-376, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Criminal Trial Division, at No. 1671 November Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

Darryl A. Irwin, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Gail Thackeray, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. Larsen, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Flaherty

[ 499 Pa. Page 383]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On October 13, 1978 at approximately 12:00 a.m. one Wylie A. Howie was stabbed to death in a Philadelphia bar. Appellant was accused of this crime and was brought to trial before a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On May 24, 1979, he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. This appeal was taken from that conviction and sentence.

The facts of the case are as follows. When police officer Isreal Raynor, in response to a radio call, arrived at Jake's Lounge, the scene of the crime, at approximately 12:30 a.m., he encountered two young women coming out of the door. The officer asked one of the women, Lisa Heard, what had happened, and she told him that a dark complexioned Negro male, of slender build with a medium bush haircut, approximately eighteen to twenty years of age and wearing a green

[ 499 Pa. Page 384]

    army jacket had stabbed the victim. She told him that although she did not see the stabbing itself, the victim and the suspect had been standing at the bar together talking, and she saw the suspect folding something that looked like a knife just as the victim backed away from the suspect saying that he had been stabbed. She added that although she did not know the suspect personally, she had been told that his name was Sonny. An unidentified woman who was with Ms. Heard added, "You know, Black Sonny."

Officer Raynor had been assigned to this particular neighborhood for fourteen years, knew Ms. Heard, the witness, was familiar with this bar, and had known the appellant for five years. He testified during the suppression hearing that Ms. Heard's physical description of the suspect suggested to him that the appellant was the person she was describing and that her statement of the suspect's name confirmed his view that appellant was the person described. Further, during the week prior to the stabbing, he had seen the appellant wearing a green army jacket. Approximately one month later, on November 6, 1978, Officer Raynor arrested appellant without a warrant after seeing him on a street corner. After appellant was arrested and transported to the homicide division, appellant was warned of his rights and gave a voluntary inculpatory statement to police which was introduced as evidence at trial. The first issue raised is whether appellant's statement to police should have been suppressed because his arrest was without probable cause.

Appellant's claim is that Officer Raynor would not have been able to connect appellant with the crime in the absence of Ms. Heard's statement that she had been told that the suspect's name was "Sonny," and her companion's comment, "You know, Black Sonny." The argument is that the witnesses' information is hearsay and may not be used to establish probable cause to arrest unless the information meets the two pronged tests of Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 12 L.Ed.2d 723 (1964) ...


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