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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ALBERT SANTANA (09/06/83)

submitted: September 6, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ALBERT SANTANA, APPELLANT



No. 282 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Philadelphia County, at No. 636 July Term, 1977.

COUNSEL

Joseph N. Bongiovanni, III, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Jane Cutler Greenspan, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.

Rowley, Popovich and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 300]

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence by the appellant, Albert Santana, for receiving stolen property entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.*fn1 We affirm.

The facts, viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict-winner, consist of the following: At approximately 8:30 p.m. on July 8, 1977, Officers Schmidt and Dzara, of the Philadelphia police department, were patrolling the 900 block of Marshall Street when they heard a burglar alarm going off. They parked their vehicle and began checking the stores in the immediate vicinity. During this search, the officers received a call over the portable radio they were carrying. As a result of that radio call, the officers looked over to 6th

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 301]

Street, which is next to Marshall, and observed at a distance of about 100 feet "three Spanish males coming from a vacant lot, carrying air conditioners." (N.T. 16) Appellant was in possession of one unit while the two others, his brothers, were each holding an end of another air conditioner. The officers did not proceed after these individuals. Rather, following the receipt of a second radio call, the officers drove around to 921 North 6th Street, which is right next to the vacant lot, and saw that the front door to the Hahnemann Medical Center, which was shut down for repairs caused by fire damage, was broken. The lock was hanging and the door jam was apart.

After observing the front of the building, Officer Schmidt walked along the side of the structure, through the vacant lot and towards the rear. At this time, he observed three windows which were covered by a large metal screen. Holes were cut in the windows and alongside of the metal screen were parts of broken air conditioner vents hanging from the window frames. All of the windows were on the first floor, street level. Following this, Officer Schmidt and his partner walked over to and knocked on the door at 917 6th Street, which is the house next to the vacant lot and the place where the officers noticed that the appellant was carrying the unit he was holding. The door was opened by a small child and the officers could see from their vantage point an air conditioner lying on the floor of the hallway. The officers identified themselves and appellant's brother, Efran, who was standing next to the unit and was observed earlier assisting his brother Richard hauling it across the lot, ran upstairs. Officer Dzara pursued Efran upstairs and arrested him along with the appellant, who was about to take a bath in the second floor bathroom. Also, a second air conditioner was located upstairs and confiscated by the police. During this time, Officer Schmidt checked the first floor restroom and found Richard washing his hands. He also was arrested.

Both officers testified to having an unobstructed view of the trio as they made their way across the vacant lot with

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 302]

    air conditioners in hand. In fact, Officers Schmidt and Dzara gave a detailed description of what the three were wearing when they first saw them. From the verdict rendered it is obvious that the trier of fact discounted appellant's testimony denying the presence of the air conditioners (Fedders models) in the home when seized. The court also was presented with evidence that the Administrative Coordinator for the hospital identified the Fedders air conditioners as belonging to the institution. Additionally, the manager of the hospital testified that he gave no one permission to enter and remove the air conditioners from the premises. To reiterate, from the verdict, it is apparent that the judge did not believe appellant's testimony that he had not left the premises 15 to 20 minutes prior to his arrest. In fact, appellant stated that he had remained home all day.

Appellant's version of what had occurred was not persuasive and he, along with his brother Richard, were found guilty of receiving stolen property. See note 1, supra. Efran, being a juvenile, was not tried as an adult.

Following the denial of a portion of appellant's post-trial motions, sentence was imposed and this appeal was filed. The issues presented for our review by the appellant appear in his brief to this Court in the "Statement of Questions" section and consist of:

I WAS THERE SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE PRESENTED TO WARRANT THE TRIAL JUDGE IN ASSUMING THAT [THE] VALUE OF THE AIR-CONDITIONERS EXCEED[ED] $50?

II DID THE MOTION JUDGE ERR IN FAILING TO QUASH THE ARREST AND/OR SUPPRESS THE SEARCH AND SEIZURE OF A WARRANTLESS AND CONSTITUTIONALLY INFIRM ARREST AND SEARCH AND SEIZURE?

Before addressing the merits of appellant's claims, we need to respond to the Commonwealth's argument that neither of the issues raised has been "properly preserved

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 303]

    for appellate review."*fn2 For as it sees the question, "[a]lthough the Commonwealth does have a copy of 'boilerplate' motions filed by the co-defendant [Richard Santana], there is no record of any such motions being filed by this defendant[-appellant]." (Commonwealth's Brief at 4) In support of its position, the Commonwealth cites us to Commonwealth v. Gravely, 486 Pa. 194, 404 A.2d 1296 (1979), Commonwealth v. Blair, 460 Pa. 31, 331 A.2d 213 (1975) and Pa.R.Crim.P. 1123(a).

Initially, we note the inapplicability of Gravely, which required the submission of specific, written post-trial motions to preserve any issue for trial and appellate review, since its effective date (September 4, 1979) occurred after the alleged post-trial motions were filed on behalf of the appellant here, i.e., in January of 1979. See Commonwealth v. Davenport, 307 Pa. Super. 102, 452 A.2d 1058 (1982). Thus, we must look to the guide posts created prior to Gravely to determine whether appellant's claims have been preserved for our consideration.

At the outset, it needs to be mentioned that the standard in effect prior to Gravely has been roundly criticized as a patch-work of remedial law that gave little, if any, direction to the bench and/or bar in assessing when and if an issue was or was not preserved for review. See Commonwealth v. Jones, 478 Pa. 172, 386 A.2d 495 (1978) (NIX, J., Concurring Opinion); Commonwealth v. Lennox, 270 Pa. Super. 254, 411 A.2d 514 (1979); Commonwealth v. Roberson, 258 Pa. Super. 471,

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 304393]

A.2d 455 (1978); see also Commonwealth v. Holmes, 315 Pa. Super. 256, 461 A.2d 1268 (1983). Notwithstanding such a fact, we must decide if appellant's claims have been preserved under the pre- Gravely standard. See Commonwealth v. Lynch, 304 Pa. Super. 248, 450 A.2d 664 (1982).

In deciding what standard we are to look to in determining the question of "waiver," we note that the seemingly unequivocal statement in Commonwealth v. Blair, 460 Pa. 31, 33 n. 1, 331 A.2d 213, 214 n. 1 (1975), that, "[h]enceforth, issues not presented in compliance with . . . [R]ule [1123(a), Pa.R.Crim.P.,] will not be considered by our trial and appellate courts[,]" was short-lived. For instance, in several cases our Supreme Court refused to adhere to Blair, granting appellate review of an issue that had not been presented in a written post-verdict motion so long as it had been briefed to the lower court and the court had considered it on the merits. See Commonwealth v. Holmes, supra (citing cases).

What can be gleaned from the post- Blair and pre- Gravely line of cases is that an issue will be considered preserved, despite the failure by an accused to present it in written form to the trial court (e.g., a Motion For a New Trial and/or in Arrest of Judgment), if a memorandum of law (Commonwealth v. Grace, 473 Pa. 542, 375 A.2d 721 (1977)) raising the issue is filed and the trial court "accept[s] and consider[s] the merit of the[] assignment[] of error without objection." Commonwealth v. Grace, supra, 473 Pa. at 546, 375 A.2d at 723. Accord Commonwealth v. Brown, 489 Pa. 285, 414 A.2d 70 (1980) (citing cases); Commonwealth v. Hitson, 482 Pa. 404, 393 A.2d 1169 (1978); Commonwealth v. Pugh, 476 Pa. 445, 383 A.2d 183 (1978); Commonwealth v. Perillo, 474 Pa. 63, 376 A.2d 635 (1977). In applying this requirement of filing to the case at bar, we start by remarking that a document in any criminal matter must be filed in the office of the clerk of courts, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 2756(a), who in Philadelphia is designated the Clerk of Quarter Sessions. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 2751(c). Our

[ 321 Pa. Super. Page 305]

    review of the "Docket Entries" for the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Trial Division -- Criminal Section, discloses the receipt and recording of the following matters pertaining to appellant's case:

COMMONWEALTH : ...


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