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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT LARK (06/07/84)

decided: June 7, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ROBERT LARK, APPELLANT



No. 130 E.D. Appeal Docket 1983, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, No. 1571, Philadelphia 1981, dated June 24, 1983, affirming the judgment of sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Criminal Division, at Nos. 1332-1337, March Term, 1980, entered on June 11, 1981, Pa. Super. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Nix, C.j., joins in this opinion and files a separate concurring opinion. Hutchinson, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 505 Pa. Page 128]

OPINION

Appellant Robert Lark, was arrested on January 9, 1980, and charged with robbery, theft, assault, recklessly endangering

[ 505 Pa. Page 129]

    another person, possessing instruments of crime generally and various other weapons offenses in connection with an armed robbery that took place on December 28, 1979. Appellant's motion to suppress physical evidence that had been discovered at the scene of his arrest, statements that he had made to the police after his arrest, and his identification by the complaining witness, was denied. Appellant was subsequently convicted by a jury of robbery and possessing instruments of crime generally. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of ten to twenty years for robbery and two and one-half to five years for the weapons offense. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. Commonwealth v. Lark, 316 Pa. Super. 240, 462 A.2d 1329 (1983). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal and we now affirm.

The only issue in this case is whether the lower courts erred in concluding that appellant's oral statements to the police were admissible against him at trial. Our standard for reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress is well-defined.

Our responsibility on review is "to 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." . . . In making this determination, this Court 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. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 279, 361 A.2d 282, 290 (1976) (citations omitted).

Viewed in this light, the record reveals the following facts.*fn1 On the day of his arrest, appellant was wanted by

[ 505 Pa. Page 130]

    the police for robbery and murder. Based on an informant's tip that appellant was going to commit another robbery, the police set up a surveillance team around the site of the proposed robbery. Appellant did show up, but before he could be arrested he realized that he was being watched and attempted to flee. After a half-hour long chase appellant entered a private residence and took hostages. He then telephoned an attorney, Lewis Small, who went to the scene and assisted appellant in surrendering. Appellant was taken to an interrogation room in the Police Administration Building where he conferred privately with Mr. Small for approximately twenty minutes. Mr. Small then left, informing the police on his way out that appellant did not wish to make a statement.

Two detectives then went in to obtain standard background information, to inform appellant of the charges against him,*fn2 and to warn him of his constitutional rights. After reading appellant his rights, the detectives asked appellant seven questions in order to ascertain whether he did, in fact, understand his rights. According to the ...


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