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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM MOSS (05/20/88)

decided: May 20, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM MOSS, APPELLANT



Appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court at No. 00747 Philadelphia 1985, affirming the judgment of sentenced at Nos. 257, 260, 263 and 265, September Session, 1981, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section. 351 Pa. Super. 637, 504 A.2d 363 (1985)

COUNSEL

John W. Packel, Leonard Sosnov, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Ronald Eisenberg, Chief, Appeals Div., Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Deputy Dist. Atty., Ann C. Lebowitz, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Stout, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Larsen, J., concurred in the result.

Author: Zappala

[ 518 Pa. Page 340]

Opinion

William Moss appeals by allowance a Superior Court order 351 Pa. Super. 637, 504 A.2d 363, affirming judgment of sentence imposed by Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on convictions of robbery (two counts), burglary, criminal conspiracy, possession of instrument of crime, and terroristic threats. At issue are the propriety of the decision to certify Moss for trial as an adult, the validity of the probable cause determination on which the arrest warrant was issued, and the admissibility of an inculpatory statement Moss gave to police.

The incident underlying the convictions in this case was the May 14, 1981, gunpoint robbery of Gistino and Theresa Pigna at their northeast Philadelphia home by two young men. This incident was one of a number of neighborhood burglaries fitting a pattern under investigation by police.

[ 518 Pa. Page 341]

Acting on information received from a local youth, the police arrested Moss and Matt Pettit in connection with another of these burglaries. Upon questioning, Moss denied involvement in the incident cited in the arrest warrant, attributing it solely to Pettit, but acknowledged having committed a number of other burglaries in the area, one of them being the Pigna residence.

A.

Moss's claim that he was improperly certified for transfer from juvenile to adult court may be readily rejected. There can be no dispute that the juvenile court applied the correct rules of law to decide the certification question. The Commonwealth had the burden of proving that Moss was not amenable to treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation as a juvenile through available facilities; that he was not committable to an institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill; and that the community interest required restraint or discipline, or that the offenses, if committed by an adult, would carry a sentence of more than three years. 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 6355(a)(4); Commonwealth v. Greiner, 479 Pa. 364, 388 A.2d 698 (1978).

Moss's challenge goes only to the finding that he was not amenable to treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation through available juvenile facilities. He asserts that the court's finding was made solely on the nature of the crime charged, contrary to our holding in Greiner. He further calls attention to letters of acceptance from two juvenile facilities as evidence of his amenability to treatment through available facilities.

Superior Court has consistently stated the appropriate limited scope of review of certification decisions. "Absent a failure by the certification court to advance specific reasons for its conclusion . . . we will not set aside a certification unless an appellant demonstrates that the court committed a gross abuse of discretion." Commonwealth v. Stokes, 279 Pa. Super. 361, 367, 421 A.2d 240, 243 (1980) (emphasis added). A gross abuse of discretion is not

[ 518 Pa. Page 342]

    demonstrated by merely reciting facts of record that would support a result contrary to the court's actual decision. Review of the certification hearing transcript and order indicates that the court simply weighed the evidence differently than Moss would have liked.

Before the court was evidence that Moss had several prior contacts with the juvenile system, which had been "adjusted" without formal proceedings; that he had been charged with six burglaries that were being processed through the juvenile system; and that a prima facie case had been established as to three other burglaries, including the present case, which were the subject of the certification hearing. The court took particular notice of the number of burglary charges then pending against Moss and the evidence of how the burglaries had been committed. From their timing and location, the court determined that the burglaries were not isolated incidents; in their planning and execution the court discerned a "high degree of sophistication." The court stated at the hearing that, "I don't think we have ever had a youngster with this number of arrests, burglary arrests, to say nothing of the seriousness of the three cases that I have before me, where a Court has sent him to Saint Gabriel's [one of the facilities that had "accepted" Moss]." N.T. Certification Argument, p. 13. This alone rebuts Moss's argument that the nature of the crime was the sole basis for the court's decision. Instead, the court emphasized the degree of criminal sophistication Moss had apparently developed, and found secure detention necessary, which was unavailable at any facility. It is also rather clear that the court gave limited ...


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