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Commonwealth v. Woody

July 16, 2009

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT
v.
STANLEY LERON WOODY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered on December 5, 2007 at 561 MDA 2007, affirming in part and vacating in part the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County entered on March 15, 2007 at No. CP-22-CR-0004237-2006. 939 A.2d 359 (Pa. Super. 2007).

Per curiam.

ARGUED: May 13, 2009

ORDER

The Order of the Superior Court is AFFIRMED.

Madame Justice Todd did not participate in the consideration or decision of this matter.

Mr. Justice Eakin files a dissenting statement.

DISSENTING STATEMENT

MR. JUSTICE EAKIN

I respectfully dissent from the per curiam order affirming the Superior Court's order vacating appellee's escape conviction, as I believe the Superior Court and the majority define escape in a manner inconsistent with the facts and our case law.

Appellee was in a car in a bar parking lot, partially blocking the roadway. A police officer directed his spotlight into the car and saw appellee in the driver's seat and a female who arose from his lap. Appellee drove away; the officer followed. When appellee failed to properly use his left turn signal, the officer activated his emergency lights and siren. Appellee refused to stop. He ultimately abandoned his car and continued to flee on foot. The officer pursued in his patrol car, yelling for him to stop.

After appellee was apprehended, the officer retraced appellee's route and found several bags containing cocaine and marijuana near appellee's car. Appellee was charged with escape, various drug crimes, and summary driving offenses.

During trial, appellee filed a motion for acquittal arguing the Commonwealth failed to prove escape as it did not establish he was ever in official detention.*fn1 The trial court denied the motion; the jury convicted him of all charges. Appellee appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed his conviction with the exception of the escape charge.

In vacating the escape conviction, the Superior Court discussed Commonwealth v. Stewart, 648 A.2d 797 (Pa. Super. 1994). In Stewart, a uniformed police officer responding to a domestic disturbance call approached the defendant's vehicle at an intersection. The officer drew his gun, as it was reported the defendant was armed, and ordered him to turn the car off and place his hands on the dashboard; instead, the defendant drove off. The court held the defendant submitted to a show of authority when the officer approached with his gun drawn, even though the defendant drove away; this momentary submission caused the court to conclude the defendant was seized, and the escape conviction was upheld.

The Superior Court found Stewart distinguishable, as in Stewart, "there existed a momentary period in which the officer was able to demonstrate a show of authority to the [defendant]. so as to suggest to the [defendant] that he was being officially detained." Commonwealth v. Woody, 939 A.2d 359, 362-63 (Pa. Super. 2007). The facts leading to appellee's arrest, the Superior Court held, did not ...


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