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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT WILLIAM HANES (03/09/87)

filed: March 9, 1987.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ROBERT WILLIAM HANES, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order entered September 4, 1985 in the Court of Common Pleas of Elk County, Criminal No. 144 of 1984.

COUNSEL

James L. Martin, Ridgway, for appellant.

Vernon D. Roof, District Attorney, Ridgway, for Com., appellee.

Brosky, Kelly and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Kelly

[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 360]

In this case of first impression, we are called upon to determine whether the trial court erred in treating evidence of an alleged oral contract price for stolen property as conclusive evidence of value. We find that the trial court erred, and announce that, although proof of the retail or contract price of stolen property is prima facie evidence of value in a theft case, such evidence is not conclusive. Accordingly, a defendant may present any evidence, direct or circumstantial, which bears upon the market value of the same or similar items in the open market at the time and place of the theft to rebut the prima facie evidence presented.

Appellant appeals from his June 25, 1985 conviction for the theft*fn1 of a truckload of live red oak logs following a jury trial. The jury set the value of the stolen logs at two thousand dollars ($2,000.00); accordingly, the theft was graded as a first degree misdemeanor.*fn2

Post-verdict motions were argued and denied, and on September 4, 1985, appellant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the Elk County Prison of not less than three (3) months nor more than eighteen (18) months with the privilege of work release. He was also ordered to pay

[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 361]

    restitution to Mr. Erlanson in the amount of two thousand dollars ($2,000.00). Timely notice of appeal was filed. Although appellant has raised five issues on appeal,*fn3 we address only the issues as to the sufficiency of the evidence and the admissibility of defense evidence to rebut the Commonwealth's prima facie showing of value.*fn4

I.

Appellant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Appellant argues that the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he (and no other person) stole the logs. Appellant argues further that the Commonwealth failed to establish the value of the stolen logs beyond a reasonable doubt, in that its calculation of value was based upon estimates as to the quantity and quality of the logs stolen. We cannot agree.

In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth is entitled to all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the evidence. Commonwealth v. Reddix, 355 Pa. Super. 514, 519, 513 A.2d 1041, 1045 (1986); Commonwealth v. Duffy, 355 Pa. Super. 145, 154-55, 512 A.2d 1253, 1260-61 (1986).

A.

A review of the record discloses sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that appellant stole the logs.

[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 362]

Mr. Erlanson testified that: his was the only outfit cutting live red oak logs in the Quehanna area at the time of the theft; he passed appellant hauling a load of live red oak logs along the road leading from his logging site in the Quehanna area late in the afternoon on the day of the theft; as an experienced logger, he could tell whether the logs on a passing truck were live or dead; he knew appellant and appellant's truck from previous business dealings; he noticed that dust raised by some other truck had not yet settled along the dirt road which led to his logging site; when he arrived at his logging site minutes later, there were distinctive tire tracks from the type of truck which is used to haul timber, there were impressions left in the ground from stabilizers which are used in the loading of timber, and a load of live red oak logs was missing from the landing area; he suspected theft, but could not be sure until he checked with Mr. Monroe Johnson, who worked for Mr. Erlanson, to see if he had hauled the logs away; and his suspicions of theft were confirmed by Mr. Monroe Johnson the following day. (N.T. 6/25/85 at 14-41).

Mr. Monroe Johnson testified that the landing area was filled with live red oak logs when he left the logging site at about 4:30 p.m. on the day of the theft. He also corroborated Mr. Erlanson's testimony that an experienced logger could easily tell whether the logs on a passing truck were live or dead red oak logs. (N.T. 6/25/85 at 102-140).

Appellant admitted that he was at Mr. Erlanson's logging site minutes before he passed Mr. Erlanson's truck on the highway. (N.T. 6/25/85 at 211). Appellant explained that he had gone to Mr. Erlanson's logging site to tell Mr. Erlanson about a tract of timber which was for sale and to see if Mr. Erlanson was interested in buying the tract and hiring him to haul the timber. (N.T. 6/25/85 at 211, 255-57). Appellant claimed that the logs on his truck were dead red ...


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