Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Willie D. Johnson

November 28, 2011


Appeal from the Sentencing October 28, 2008, Court of Common Pleas, Erie County, Criminal Division at No. CP-25-CR-0000128-2008

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

J. A30038/11



Willie D. Johnson, III ("Johnson") appeals pro se from the judgment of sentence entered following his convictions of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver ("PWID"), possession of drug paraphernalia, and conspiracy.*fn1 For the following reasons, we affirm.

On or about November 13, 2007, Detective Donald Dacus of the Erie Police Department met with a confidential informant ("CI"), who informed Detective Dacus that three black males were selling crack cocaine out of 457 East 8th Street, Apartment #1. The CI stated that he*fn2 had purchased crack from the three men in this apartment at least eight times over the preceding 48 hours, that the men told him that they had just moved to Erie, and that the CI should tell other people that they were selling crack. Under the supervision of Detective Dacus and other members of the Erie Police, the CI performed two controlled buys from this location, which yielded a substance that tested positive for cocaine.

Based upon the information from the CI and the controlled buys, Detective Dacus conducted surveillance of the residence for a period of 24 hours, during which time he observed more than 20 people enter the residence and then exit within one to two minutes. Detective Dacus also spoke with the property owner of the building, who confirmed that these tenants had just moved in on November 10, 2007. The property owner showed Detective Dacus a copy of the lease, which contained the names Mahlon Ross, Earl Ross and Ron Ross, and indicated that they had told him that they were relocating from Michigan. Based upon all of this information, Detective Dacus sought a search warrant for the premises of 457 East 8th Street, Apartment #1 and the three occupants of the apartment.

The execution of the search yielded a substantial quantity of narcotics and led to the filing of charges against Johnson and the two other men who were living in the residence. Prior to trial, Johnson filed a motion seeking to suppress the evidence seized, arguing, inter alia, that the search warrant was defective. The trial court denied the motion, and the case proceeded to trial. Following two days of testimony, the jury found Johnson guilty of the above-mentioned crimes. He was later sentenced to 84 to 168 months of incarceration, to be followed by 78 months of probation.

While an initial appeal to this Court was dismissed upon the failure to file an appellant's brief, Johnson's direct appeal rights were reinstated on November 10, 2010. Counsel was appointed and this appeal followed. However, following a Grazier*fn3 hearing, the trial court granted Johnson permission to represent himself pro se in this appeal, and his counsel withdrew. Johnson now presents the following two issues for our review:

1. Did the [t]rial [c]court err by failing to grant [Johnson's] motion to suppress all evidence based on a warrant that authorized the search of three John Does that was unconstitutionally overbroad under Article 1 § 8 [of the Constitution of Pennsylvania] because it failed to describe with particularity those persons to be searched and did not authorize the search of all persons present?

2. Did the [t]rial [c]court err in denying [Johnson's] request to produce the confidential informant [] so that [Johnson] could refute material averments in the affidavit of probable cause?

Appellant's Brief at 2.

Johnson's first issue challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. "The standard and scope of review for a challenge to the denial of a suppression motion is whether the factual findings are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are correct." Commonwealth v. Leonard, 951 A.2d 393, 396 (Pa. Super. 2008). When reviewing the rulings of a suppression court, this Court considers only the evidence of the prosecution and so much of the evidence for the defense as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of the record as a whole. Id. When the record supports the findings of the suppression court, we are bound by those facts and may reverse only if the legal conclusions drawn therefrom are in error. Id.

Johnson argues only that the search warrant was constitutionally defective because it failed to describe the persons to be searched with particularity. Appellant's Brief at 5. He is correct that both the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania contain particularity requirements for valid search warrants. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has concluded Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affords greater protection than the Fourth Amendment, including a more demanding particularity requirement that requires that the description must be as particular as reasonably possible." Commonwealth v. Belenky, 777 A.2d 483, 486 (Pa. Super. 2001) (citing Commonwealth v. Grossman, 521 Pa. 290, 555 A.2d ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.