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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EARL JOSEPH HALL (01/20/89)

filed: January 20, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
EARL JOSEPH HALL, JR., APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered September 4, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, Criminal Division, at No. 84-2573.

COUNSEL

Leonard J. Frawley, Jr., Towanda, for appellant.

Mark Smith, Assistant District Attorney, Towanda, for Com.

Beck, Kelly and Hester, JJ.

Author: Hester

[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 9]

On September 19, 1985, appellant, Earl Joseph Hall, Jr., was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. On September 4, 1987, judgment of sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on the first-degree murder convictions and a consecutive sentence of ten to twenty-five years imprisonment was imposed on the robbery and the kidnapping convictions. This appeal followed denial of appellant's post-trial motions and of his motion to modify sentence. Rejecting all fourteen of appellant's assignments of error, we affirm.

The facts may be summarized as follows. On October 29, 1984, appellant became acquainted with Joseph McCall, the victim, while drinking at the Lehigh Tavern in Sayre, Pennsylvania. Appellant's friend, Paul Arnold, was also drinking at the bar, and the three began to converse. McCall indicated that he wanted some marijuana, and appellant and Arnold left, obtained the substance and returned to the bar. Appellant invited the other men to a marijuana party, and the three smoked the marijuana together while Arnold drove toward the party. Arnold stopped the car in an isolated area in order to perform a private function. As he performed this task, appellant dragged McCall from the car and began beating him severely. Appellant then picked up a large rock, and lifting it over his head, threw it down on

[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 10]

    the victim's head, killing him.*fn1 Later, Arnold helped appellant dispose of the body. Money was taken from the victim.

McCall's body was discovered the following day. He was identified by the bartender at Lehigh Tavern, Ruth Schoonover, who described both Arnold and appellant to the police. Schoonover knew appellant, an area resident, prior to the incident in question. Police immediately located Arnold, who related the events of the previous evening. Police apprehended appellant on October 31, 1984.

Arnold was later tried and acquitted of robbery and murder, but was convicted of tampering with evidence due to his admissions to aiding appellant in disposing of McCall's body.

Both Arnold and Schoonover testified against appellant at the trial, as did George Johnson, a friend of appellant's. Johnson testified that he was drinking with appellant at a bar, when appellant confessed to killing McCall.

The first five of appellant's issues relate to the validity of a search warrant that the police obtained in order to seize the clothing that appellant was wearing at the time he was arrested and taken into custody.

While appellant vigorously attacks the validity of the search warrant on five grounds, the fact remains that the warrant was entirely unnecessary. Appellant was incarcerated on charges of murder and robbery when police seized the clothing. Police may constitutionally seize a prisoner's clothing following arrest and detention without obtaining a search warrant. This issue was discussed extensively in Commonwealth v. Aljoe, 420 Pa. 198, 216 A.2d 50 (1966), where the defendant challenged the constitutionality of police actions when they seized his trousers following his arrest. A subsequent analysis revealed that they contained brain tissue. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated:

[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 11]

Defendant's trousers were taken (without objection) and examined for the purpose of identifying him with the slaying of Conway. Such a procedure or practice is similar to seizing any articles, instruments, fruits and other evidence of crime and similar to the Commonwealth's right to fingerprint an accused or compel him to stand in a police lineup. Such procedures and practices and tests may result in freeing an innocent man accused of crime, or may be part of a chain of facts and circumstances which help identify a person accused of a crime or connect a suspect or an accused with the crime of which he has been suspected or has been accused. The law is well settled that such actions, practices and procedures do not violate any constitutional right . . . .

Defendant does not allege that his arrest was other than valid and lawful. A search and seizure incident to a valid and lawful arrest is not unreasonable and violates no constitutional guarantees. In such circumstances, officers "* * * when making a lawful arrest with or without a search warrant may discover and seize any evidence, articles or fruits of crime found upon the prisoner or upon the premises under his control at the time of his lawful arrest."

Id., 420 Pa. at 202-03, 216 A.2d at 52-53 (citations omitted); accord Commonwealth v. Bundy, 458 Pa. 240, 328 A.2d 517 (1974) (police could validly seize defendant's coat following his lawful arrest without violating any constitutional provisions); Commonwealth v. Mason, 327 Pa. Super. 520, 539, 476 A.2d 389, 398 (1984), rev'd on other grounds, 507 Pa. 396, 490 A.2d 421 (1985) ("The law is clear that where a defendant is in lawful custody of police as a result of a lawful arrest, . . . the police are entitled to seize articles of ...


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