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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ERIC WILLIAMS A/K/A DAVID MURPHY (12/30/82)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


filed: December 30, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
ERIC WILLIAMS A/K/A DAVID MURPHY

No. 1759 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section, of Philadelphia County at No. 80-04-2369-72.

COUNSEL

Kenneth S. Gallant, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Paul Messing, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Wieand, McEwen and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 65]

This is an appeal filed by the prosecution from an order of the court below which granted appellee's motion to suppress.*fn1 We reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The facts as found by the trial court reveal the following:

On January 24, 1980, James Dugan was robbed of a bank bag. On February 6, 1980, Detectives Walsh and Russell arrested the appellee, Eric Williams, in connection with the robbery. Detectives Walsh and Russell were informed prior to appellee's arrest that a warrant had been issued. This information proved later to be erroneous. Detective Walsh had also been informed by Detective Kuhlmeier that an identification of appellee as one of the actors in the crime had been made. Detective Walsh testified finally that he had received information on the street that appellee had been involved in the robbery. Detective Walsh, however, never testified to the source of the information, nor did he state a basis for his belief in the reliability of the information.

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 66]

Detective Walsh took the appellee into custody based on the above information.

At approximately 7:00 p.m., the appellee, at the time of the arrest, was a juvenile and was interviewed by Detective Robert Kuhlmeier. At this time, Detective Kuhlmeier informed appellee of the reasons for his arrest and the circumstances of the crime. Appellee was asked whether his parents were at home. After appellee was informed that his father was home, Detective Kuhlmeier proceeded to appellee's home, and approximately one half hour later, the detective returned to the police station with Mr. Ollie Williams, appellee's father.

Prior to the time either appellee or his father was informed of appellee's Miranda rights, the detective permitted the appellee and his father a few minutes in which to consult. The detective thereafter advised the appellee and his father of appellee's rights. Shortly after advising appellee of his rights, a statement was obtained which was signed by appellee and his father. The trial court granted appellee's motion to suppress the statement, physical evidence and identification, and this appeal followed.*fn2

In his motion to suppress, appellee asserted various grounds in support of his contention that the evidence was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights: (1) the arrest was illegal because it was not supported by probable cause; (2) the appellee's statement was the product of physical or psychological coercion; (3) appellee's questioning was not preceded by adequate warnings; and (4) appellee was subjected to unnecessarily suggestive identification procedures at the preliminary hearing and at the photographic identification. The suppression court conducted a hearing and concluded that "due to the fact that the juvenile Defendant was not offered the opportunity to consult with his father after being advised of his rights, the Commonwealth failed to show that the Defendant's statement

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 67]

    was made after he had an opportunity to consult with an informed and interested adult." Record D-15 at 7-8. In view of the court's disposition, it did not reach the merits of the other issues.

On appeal, the prosecution raises three issues: (1) whether appellee's statement was given knowingly and voluntarily after consultation with an informed interested adult; (2) whether appellee was sufficiently knowledgeable and mature that he could knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights without consulting an adult; and (3) whether the requirement of the presence of an adult advisor before a juvenile knowingly and voluntarily made a statement should be replaced by a test which considers the totality of the circumstances in determining whether a statement has been made in a knowing and voluntary manner. We agree in part with the prosecution's contentions; however, a remand is necessary for the reasons herein stated.

Initially, we note that the following standards are applicable to determining whether a juvenile defendant has effectuated a valid waiver of his Miranda rights: "(1) the juvenile must be given the opportunity to consult with an adult;*fn3 (2) the adult must be one who is genuinely interested

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 68]

    in the welfare of the accused juvenile;*fn4 and (3) the interested adult must be informed and aware of those Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights guaranteed to the juvenile."*fn5 Commonwealth v. Barnes, 482 Pa. at 560, 394 A.2d at 464 (citations added).

Additionally, we recognize the following standard of review in suppression cases: in reviewing the suppression court's findings, our inquiry is limited to determining whether the inferences and legal conclusions based thereon are correct. Commonwealth v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 361 A.2d 282 (1976). Although the record supports the suppression court's factual findings, we are unable to agree with the legal conclusions drawn therefrom. The court stated the following in its opinion:

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 69]

"In the instant case, the Defendant was permitted to consult with his father prior to either one of them being informed of the Defendant's rights; however, after the Warnings were given they were not offered an opportunity to consult out of the presence of the police." Trial Court's Opinion at 4. (Emphasis added).

Although we agree with the trial court that the relevant time period in determining whether a waiver had occurred was after the Miranda rights were administered by the police, we are unable to conclude that the waiver was ineffective because appellee and his informed adult were not afforded an opportunity to consult "out of the presence of the police". Id.

In a recent case, Commonwealth v. Rochester, supra, this Court addressed the identical issue herein presented and held that "the prosecution met its burden in establishing that appellant [, the defendant,] entered into a voluntary, understanding, and intelligent waiver of [his] Miranda rights since the record indicates that a parent was present during [the] interrogation." Id., 305 Pa. Superior Ct. at 375, 451 A.2d at 696. Therefore, despite the fact that a private meeting was not conducted between appellee and his father prior to appellee's confession because the record establishes that the father was present during the interrogation, appellee's waiver of his Miranda rights is valid.*fn6

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 70]

However, because the court below granted the relief appellee requested, it did not address the other issues raised in appellee's motion to suppress; that is, appellee's constitutional rights were violated because his arrest was illegal and also because appellee was subjected to unnecessarily suggestive identification procedures at the preliminary hearing and at the photographic identification. Some of the facts pertinent to the suppression issues were contained in the court's opinion. These facts, although set forth above, will be repeated below for purposes of clarity.

On January 24, 1980, James Dugan was robbed of a bank bag. On February 6, 1980, Detectives Walsh and Russell arrested the appellee, Eric Williams, in connection with the robbery. Detectives Walsh and Russell were informed prior to their arrest of the appellee that a warrant had been issued. This information proved later to be erroneous. Detective Walsh had also been informed by Detective Kuhlmeier that an identification of appellee as one of the actors in the crime had been made. Detective Walsh testified finally that he had received information on the street that appellee had been involved in the robbery. Detective Walsh, however, never testified to the source of the information, nor did he state a basis for his belief in the reliability of the information. Detective Walsh took the appellee into custody based on all of the above information. The prosecution rested its case at the suppression hearing without presenting additional testimony, and the evidence proffered by the appellee also did not contradict that of the prosecution in this respect.

Initially, we reiterate that our scope of review in an appeal from an order of a suppression court has been set forth in the following manner:

"When ruling on suppression motions, the suppression court is required to make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether evidence was obtained in violation of

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 71]

    the defendant's constitutional rights, Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(i), and must determine whether the Commonwealth has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the challenged evidence is admissible. Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(h). On review, this Court must 'determine whether the record supports the factual findings of the court below and the legitimacy of the inferences and legal conclusions drawn from those findings.' Commonwealth v. Brown, 473 Pa. 562, 566, 375 A.2d 1260, 1262 (1977); Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 460 Pa. 516, 521, 333 A.2d 892, 895 (1975). In doing so, we will consider 'only the evidence of the prosecution's witnesses and so much of the evidence for the defense as, fairly read in the context of the record as a whole, remains uncontradicted.' Commonwealth v. Brown, supra, 473 Pa. at 566, 375 A.2d at 1262; Commonwealth v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 280-81, 361 A.2d 282, 290 (1976). See Commonwealth v. Silo, 480 Pa. 15, 18, 389 A.2d 62, 63 (1978); Commonwealth v. Harris, 479 Pa. 131, 138, 387 A.2d 869, 873 (1978); Commonwealth v. Crosby, 464 Pa. 337, 342, 346 A.2d 768, 771 (1975). See also Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 604, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 1880, 61 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961)."

Commonwealth v. Davis, 491 Pa. 363, 367, 421 A.2d 179, 181 (1980).

The uncontradicted evidence introduced below revealed that an eyewitness identified appellee as one of the actors in the crime. This information was known by the arresting officers at the time of the arrest. As such, assuming arguendo that the court finds that the identification procedure which led to appellee's arrest was not necessarily suggestive, probable cause existed despite the fact that the police believed erroneously that an arrest warrant had been issued. See Commonwealth v. Irving, 485 Pa. 596, 560, 403 A.2d 549, 551 (1979); cert. denied Irving v. Pennsylvania, 444 U.S. 1020, 100 S.Ct. 676, 62 L.Ed.2d 651 (1980); Commonwealth v. Carter, 444 Pa. 405, 409, 282 A.2d 375, 377 (1971).

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 72]

Because the suppression court did not reach the merits of the other issues raised in appellee's motion to suppress and also because neither the prosecution nor the defendant addressed the other issues in the briefs, the matter must be remanded since "the [court's] failure to reduce the []record to specific findings of fact in relation to each of [defendant's] claims prevents meaningful appellate review." Knapp v. Knapp, 267 Pa. Super. 554, 555, 407 A.2d 48, 49 (1979) (footnote omitted) (emphasis added). See also Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(i) ("the judge shall enter on the record a statement of findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether the evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant's rights.").

Accordingly, we remand the matter with instructions to the court below "to review and rule on all arguments raised in defendant['s] suppression petition[] to prevent [a] piecemeal litigation of this case." Commonwealth v. Ryan, 296 Pa. Super. 222, 232-233, 442 A.2d 739, 745 (1982).

Reversed and remanded. Jurisdiction is relinquished.


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