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decided: May 20, 1988.


Appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court dated February 13, 1985, at No. 689 Philadelphia 1983, reversing the grant of defendant's motion to suppress the victim's identification of the defendant by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Criminal Section, dated June 27, 1983, at Nos. 166-169, October Session, 1982, and remanding for trial. 343 Pa. Super. 616, 494 A.2d 485 (1985)


John W. Packel, Chief, Appeals Division, Karl Baker, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Frances Gralnek Gerson, Gaele McLaughlin Barthold, Deputy Dist. Atty., Ronald Eisenberg, Chief, Appeals Div., Asst. Dist. Atty., 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.

Author: Zappala

[ 518 Pa. Page 158]


On September 22, 1982, at 7:35 p.m., Joanne Woolsey was accosted, while she was carrying some packages, at the corner of Fourth and Kauffman Streets in the City of Philadelphia as she was walking toward her automobile. As she turned to her right, she observed two black males running toward her. One knocked her toward a metal fence, while his companion attempted to snatch her purse. After a struggle, one assailant managed to get control of her pocketbook and a folded paper bag. Having achieved their apparent goal, the assailants fled. Woolsey followed, never managing to come closer to her assailants than one-half of a city block. When the assailants entered the City projects, Woolsey returned to a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store and had a sales clerk contact the police.

Although the telephone call to the police was not actually made by Woolsey, she described her assailants to the clerk, who in turn advised the police of her description of her assailants as two black males, one wearing a short black jacket and dark jeans, the other wearing a maroon jacket and dark pants. Apparently, at some point a second call was made on behalf of Woolsey because two patrol cars responded to the call for help. As a result of a dragnet sweep of the projects area, individuals were returned to the 7-Eleven store area for positive identification by the victim. One of the individuals taken to the identification scene was the Appellant, who was positively identified by Woolsey.

Prior to trial, the Appellant filed a motion to suppress the identification at the scene and any in-court identification based upon the illegality of the arrest and the suggestiveness of the identification process. A hearing on this matter was held, during which both Woolsey and the Appellant testified. After taking testimony and reviewing memoranda of law, the suppression court granted the motion and suppressed the identification at the scene based upon Appellant's illegal arrest. No appeal was taken from this determination. The suppression court then gave the Commonwealth

[ 518 Pa. Page 159]

    the opportunity to offer additional evidence to demonstrate that any in-court identification would be independent of the identification at the scene. The Commonwealth declined to do so. The suppression court then suppressed all in-court identification as being tainted by the original suggestive identification process. The court concluded that, in addition to the original line-up being illegal, the inability of the victim to give any specifics of her assailants, such as height, weight or facial description, precluded a finding that any in-court identification would not be based upon the fixation of the Appellant from the original identification.

On appeal, Superior Court reversed, 343 Pa. Super. 616, 494 A.2d 485, finding that the record facts supported the independent basis of an in-court identification. Although the Superior Court stated the applicable scope of review as to whether the findings of the suppression court are supported by the record, see Commonwealth v. Webb, 491 Pa. 329, 421 A.2d 161 (1980), the court apparently reviewed the facts in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. For this reason, we granted the Appellant's petition for allowance of appeal and now reverse.

Recently, we addressed the scope of review of a Commonwealth appeal from an adverse suppression court ruling in Commonwealth v. Hamlin, 503 Pa. 210, 469 A.2d 137 (1983). Although Hamlin was not a majority opinion, its discussion of the applicable standard of review is correct, has been implicitly accepted by a majority of the Court, see Commonwealth ...

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