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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. GARY W. RANK (04/15/83)

filed: April 15, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
GARY W. RANK, APPELLANT



No. 253 March Term 1979, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Dauphin County, 1979, No. 718 C.D. 1979.

COUNSEL

John J. Krafsig, Jr., Harrisburg, for appellant.

Rolf W. Bienk, Assistant District Attorney, Harrisburg, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Price,*fn* Wieand and Lipez, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 574]

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County refusing to grant expungement of an arrest record. The procedural history and facts relevant to the issues on appeal are as follows.

Appellant was arrested and charged with the March 22, 1979 murder of an elderly Gratz woman who was found dead in her home after being brutally beaten. Cause of death was fixed as strangulation.

At trial, both the Commonwealth and appellant presented fingerprint experts and appellant took the stand to offer explanation for the presence of his fingerprints at two places in the victim's residence. After approximately a week and a half long jury trial (The Honorable John C. Dowling, presiding) the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on September 19, 1979. Appellant then proceeded to file a petition to expunge his criminal record. A hearing was held before Judge Dowling on November 20, 1979. The petition was denied on November 27, 1979. This appeal followed.

There is only one viable issue presented to us in this appeal, and that is whether the trial court erred in imposing upon appellant the burden of affirmatively demonstrating his non-culpability and undertaking an independent evaluation of the trial evidence in the murder charge for which he was tried after he had been found not guilty by a jury.

The right of an accused to seek expungement of an arrest record is an adjunct of due process. "[A]n innocent individual has a right to be free from unwarranted punishment, a court has the authority to remedy the denial of that right by ordering expungement of the arrest record." Commonwealth v. Malone, 244 Pa. Superior Ct. 62, 366 A.2d 584 (1976). In Commonwealth v. Mueller, 258 Pa. Superior Ct. 219, 392 A.2d 763 (1978), we fashioned a two-prong standard to be implemented by hearing judges in expungement proceedings:

Accordingly, where the record shows that the Commonwealth made out a prima facie case of guilt on the part of

[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 575]

    an accused, he will then have the burden to affirmatively demonstrate non-culpability at a hearing, otherwise his petition to expunge will be denied. If, however, such a showing is made, the court must weigh the Commonwealth's interest in retaining [petitioner's] arrest record against ...


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