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Commonwealth v. Santiago

August 28, 2009

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
v.
ARNALDO TORRES SANTIAGO, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered December 12, 2007, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, at No. CP-51-CR-0802161-2006.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shogan, J.

BEFORE: BENDER, SHOGAN, JJ. and McEWEN, P.J.E.

OPINION

¶ 1 Appellant, Arnaldo Torres Santiago, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered following his convictions of first degree murder, possessing an instrument of crime ("PIC"), and two counts of violating the Uniform Firearms Act ("VUFA").*fn1 Appellant challenges, inter alia, the admission of the murder weapon and a witness statement obtained as a result of Appellant's suppressed confession to police. We affirm.

¶ 2 The trial court aptly summarized the facts of this case as follows:

During the early morning hours of April 23, 2006, John Reed was at the home of Omar Rodriquez[, the victim,] located at 2912 Ella Street in the City and County of Philadelphia. Around 2:00am Reed saw Omar and [Appellant] arguing in the dining room about a thirty-eight revolver. [Appellant] began cursing at Omar in Spanish. [Appellant] and Omar were still downstairs when Reed headed to an upstairs bedroom to go to sleep at approximately 5:00am.

Around 8:15am Caesar Sanchez, a neighbor who lives across the street from the Rodriquez home, was drinking coffee when he heard two bangs that he thought were firecrackers. Sanchez saw [Appellant] leave Omar's home and walk down the street. Sometime later that day, [Appellant] went to the home of Samuel Gonzalez Rosario to ask if Rosario could hold a thirty-eight revolver for him until he could return to pick it up. Rosario agreed to hide the gun.

[Omar] died from a gunshot wound to the head and he also sustained a gunshot wound to the right pinky finger and a graze wound to the left wrist.

Trial Court Opinion, 7/16/08, at 1-2 (citations omitted).

¶ 3 As part of their investigation, police questioned Appellant at the police station as a potential witness. Appellant was not given Miranda warnings*fn2 because originally he was not a suspect. Initially, Appellant told police about the time frame regarding the night in question, but denied any knowledge of the crime. Several hours later, police returned to the room where Appellant was detained to clarify Appellant's statement regarding the time frame. At that point, Appellant blurted out, "I did it!" Appellant was then given his Miranda warnings. Appellant confessed and told the police where the murder weapon was located.

¶ 4 Appellant filed a motion to suppress his confession and the gun. After a hearing, the trial court determined that Appellant's confession should be suppressed because Appellant was in custody and Miranda warnings were necessary before questioning. However, the trial court concluded that the gun was admissible because physical evidence derived from the confession did not implicate Appellant's testimonial right against self-incrimination. On December 12, 2007, following a non-jury trial, Appellant was convicted of the crimes specified above. On that same day, the trial court sentenced Appellant to a term of life in prison on the murder conviction and concurrent terms of incarceration on the remaining convictions. Appellant's post-sentence motion challenging the weight of the evidence was denied. This appeal followed.

¶ 5 Appellant presents the following issues for our review:

1. Was the verdict against the weight of the evidence and was the evidence insufficient to support the verdict?

2. Did the Honorable Benjamin Lerner err, when after suppressing the statement of [Appellant] on the basis of [] Miranda violations, he still allowed the Commonwealth to produce the witness and alleged murder weapon which were discovered as the result of the now suppressed statement? Should all evidence flowing from the illegally taken statement have been suppressed? Did this violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the ...


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