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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. FELIX RODRIGUEZ (06/22/84)

filed: June 22, 1984.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
FELIX RODRIGUEZ, JR. A/K/A FELIX RODRIQUEZ, JR.



No. 2319 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Trial Division, April Term, 1981, Nos. 3221-3226.

COUNSEL

Steven J. Cooperstein, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Dennis J. Cogan, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Cavanaugh, Montemuro and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Montemuro

[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 297]

This is a Commonwealth appeal from an order granting appellee's motion to suppress his inculpatory statement of March 14, 1981. The lower court suppressed the evidence on the grounds that it was the fruit of an illegal arrest. We disagree, and therefore, reverse.

Recently in Commonwealth v. Lapia, 311 Pa. Super. 264, 270, 457 A.2d 877, 880 (1983), our court concluded "that an order suppressing evidence is appealable when it is apparent from the record that the order terminates or substantially handicaps the prosecution." Applying this standard to the instant case, we are satisfied that the lower court's suppression order is appealable. Appellee is charged with murder,*fn1 involuntary manslaughter,*fn2 robbery,*fn3 theft,*fn4 possessing an instrument of crime,*fn5 and criminal conspiracy.*fn6 The record reveals that the appellee's statement is the only evidence the Commonwealth has to support the charges

[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 298]

    against the appellee. Consequently, suppression of this statement would substantially handicap the prosecution.

The scope of review from an order suppressing evidence has recently been defined by this court as follows:

[W]e must determine whether the evidence supports the court's factual findings and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those findings were legitimate. This determination is made considering only the evidence of the prosecution's witnesses and so much of the defense evidence as, fairly read in the context of the record as a whole, remains uncontradicted. Commonwealth v. Kichline, 468 Pa. 265, 361 A.2d 282 (1976); Commonwealth v. Hunt, 280 Pa. Super. 205, 421 A.2d 684 (1980). Findings supported by the record and legitimate legal conclusions drawn therefrom will not be disturbed. Commonwealth v. Sparrow, 471 Pa. 490, 370 A.2d 712 (1977).

Commonwealth v. Williams, 317 Pa. Super. 456, 463-464, 464 A.2d 411, 414 (1983). See also, Commonwealth v. Webb, 491 Pa. 329, 332, 421 A.2d 161, 163 (1980); Commonwealth v. Lapia, supra.

The testimony at the suppression hearing indicated the following: On March 14, 1981, at 9:46 A.M., Detectives Suminski and Lagera located the appellee outside a junk shop at Front and Cumberland Streets. They informed the appellee that they were investigating the murder of a doctor in January. They asked the appellee if he knew of the murder and they asked if he knew Russell Weinberger. When the appellee responded that he knew Weinberger, the officers asked him if he would mind going to the Police Administration Building (PAB) to talk about Weinberger. Appellee readily agreed. Detective Suminski told the appellee that he was not under arrest nor was he a suspect and that if he wanted to go to the PAB at some other time, that could be arranged.

The appellee was transported to the PAB in the detectives' unmarked police car. He sat in the back seat while the two detectives rode in the front. The back door of the

[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 299]

    car was not capable of being locked from the outside. The appellee was not handcuffed or restrained.

On the way to the PAB, the detectives stopped at three (3) hardware stores to look for an item. Each time, the detectives went into a store together while appellee sat alone in the back seat of the unlocked car. The three men arrived at the PAB at 10:10 A.M. They entered the PAB through a door open to the general public and the appellee entered his name into a "Witness Control Book" as a witness. They proceeded to Room 104 in the PAB and then directly to an interview room in Room 104. The appellee was left alone in the room for about one-half hour before Detective Suminski entered to interview him.

The lower court, after hearing the testimony made findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(i) and submitted an opinion in support of its order granting appellee's motion to suppress. The court's findings and conclusion were as follows:

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. On January 15, 1982, Dr. Clarence Langley was found [beaten and strangled] to death in his office at [2520 Kensington Avenue], Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2. (a) [On February 9, 1981], as a result of an investigation, Homicide Detective Suminski, in company with Detective Lagera, went to the place where the defendant, Russell Weinberger, was staying; advised him that he was investigating the above crime and asked Weinberger to accompany him to police headquarters. Weinberger was transported in an unmarked police vehicle, was placed in the back thereof without handcuffs, and the rear doors of the vehicle could be opened by the passenger. The detectives were in civilian clothes;

(b) Weinberger was escorted into Homicide Detective Headquarters, first floor, Police Administration Building, and then into a small interrogation room. This room contained ...


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