NOS. 791, 792, 841 AND 842 PITTSBURGH, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentences of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Crawford County, at Nos. 1981-57, 1981-58, 1981-59, 1981-60.
Anthony J. Vardaro, Meadville, for appellant.
Donald E. Lewis, District Attorney, Meadville, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Popovich and Van der Voort, JJ. Popovich, J., concurs in the result.
[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 40]
A jury convicted appellant on four charges of theft by receiving stolen property. The lower court refused motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment. President Judge Thomas imposed a cumulative sentence of three to six years imprisonment.*fn1 The appellant raises five contentions relating to alleged trial errors, and an additional contention as to the sentences imposed. In our discussion we will follow the same order as that used by appellant.
1. Were the four counts improperly consolidated for trial?
The indictments resulted from a series of four burglaries that occurred in the City of Meadville between October and December of 1980. The burglaries involved the theft of a wide assortment of items, from jewelry to stereo systems. Much of the property was found at and recovered from the
[ 314 Pa. Super. Page 41]
residence of a Mary Lee Jones, a girl-friend of the appellant.
Over appellant's objection, the lower court entered an order consolidating all four counts for trial. Appellant contends that this order and the resulting consolidated trial, improperly prejudiced the defense. Appellant concedes that consolidation of indictments is frequently appropriate in the interests of judicial economy, Commonwealth v. Lasch, 464 Pa. 573, 582, 347 A.2d 690 (1974); but argues that judicial expedience must be weighed against the possibility of improper prejudice against the defendant. Commonwealth v. Peterson, 453 Pa. 187, 194-197, 307 A.2d 264 (1973); Commonwealth v. Irons, 230 Pa. Superior Ct. 56, 326 A.2d 488 (1974). In this specific case, he argues the jury was improperly permitted (a) "to infer a criminal disposition on the part of the appellant due to the quantity of crimes", and (b) "to accumulate evidence of the various crimes such that they had no choice but to find the appellant guilty due to the four crimes being alleged."*fn2
The Commonwealth contends to the contrary and argues that in this specific case, the appellant was in possession of (or, at least, had exercised control over) the various goods taken in all four separate robberies. The prosecution argues this tended in turn, to prove a knowledge that the goods were stolen. Such evidence, argues the Commonwealth, would have been admissible in separate trials for each of the counts, and therefore the consolidation was proper: Commonwealth v. Morris, 493 Pa. 164, 425 A.2d 715 (1981).
Judge Thomas' opinion, citing Morris, supra and Commonwealth v. Lasch, 464 Pa. 573, 347 A.2d 690 (1975) which presented facts similar to the present case, and Commonwealth v. Rhodes, 250 Pa. Superior Ct. 210, 378 A.2d 901 (1977), concluded that consolidation was proper in this case. The court reasoned that because all ...