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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HELEN MCKEIRNAN (01/04/85)

filed: January 4, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
HELEN MCKEIRNAN, ROBERT MICHAEL MCKEIRNAN, MICHAEL FRANCIS MCKEIRNAN, GARY FRANCIS MCKEIRNAN, ROSS WILLIAM MCKEIRNAN, APPELLEES



No. 3377 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Cameron County, Nos. 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 of 1982.

COUNSEL

Russell F. Daiello, District Attorney, Coudersport, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Joseph J. Malizia, Emporium, for appellees.

Wickersham, Wieand and Lipez, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 405]

The Commonwealth has appealed from an order suppressing all evidence and quashing informations which charged members of the McKeirnan family with assaulting and otherwise hindering members of the State Police in the performance of their duties. The only reason given for this order by the trial court was that the State Police had been illegally present upon McKeirnan land at the time of the alleged assault. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Although there is considerable dispute about the events which occurred on the evening of August 7, 1982, we accept as true and binding the facts found by the court below. However, we are not bound by the court's conclusions of law. See: Commonwealth v. Hamlin, 503 Pa. 210, 215, 469 A.2d 137, 139 (1983); Commonwealth v. Markman, 320 Pa. Super. 304, 308, 467 A.2d 336, 338 (1983).

The facts found by the trial court disclose that at or about 6:15 p.m., Trooper Sam Breniman was investigating a shooting incident on Sizerville Road in Shippin Township, Cameron County. His investigation caused him to stop at the homes of several local residents to make inquiry. He arrived at the McKeirnan home about 8:30 p.m. Here, the residence was set back from the road, and access thereto

[ 337 Pa. Super. Page 406]

    could be acquired only by using a privately owned bridge to cross an intervening creek. The McKeirnan family had celebrated a wedding reception at their home during the afternoon, and that evening family members were gathered around an outdoor pool. Breniman arrived in uniform but driving an unmarked car. When Mr. and Mrs. McKeirnan approached to ask the purpose of his visit, Breniman steadfastly refused to answer repeated inquiries. The McKeirnans then asked Breniman to leave, but he refused. He said he wanted to speak with Robert McKeirnan.*fn1 Robert was standing nearby and, in an effort to get the trooper's attention, grabbed Breniman's tie and pulled it off. Breniman told Robert that he was under arrest for destroying Commonwealth property. A scuffle then ensued during which several members of the family attempted to escort Breniman to his car. Blows were struck, and Breniman told Robert and Ross McKeirnan that they were under arrest for assault. Believing he would not be able alone to effect an immediate arrest, Breniman returned to his barracks to obtain assistance. Accompanied by Corporal Paul Mottershead and Patrolman David Shinskie, Breniman then returned to the McKeirnan residence. There, another scuffle broke out, during which Ross McKeirnan was struck on the head with nightsticks and seriously injured. Subsequently arrested, in addition to Ross McKeirnan, were his brothers, Robert and Gary, and his parents, Helen and Robert Michael McKeirnan. They were variously charged with committing assault offenses and obstructing police officers in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. ยง 5101.

Separate omnibus pre-trial motions were filed in which appellees requested, inter alia, that all evidence be suppressed and the charges dismissed because of illegal entries made by police upon McKeirnan land. The court treated the motions to dismiss as motions to quash and quashed the informations. The court also suppressed the testimony of the three state troopers.

The quashing of the informations ...


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