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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Alex M. Naranjo

September 4, 2012


Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence March 25, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0005319-2009

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




Alex M. Naranjo appeals from the judgment of sentence of two and one-half to five years incarceration entered by the trial court after a jury convicted him of possession of an instrument of crime ("PIC"). We affirm.

At approximately 6:00 a.m. on January 24, 2008, Reo Dennis was found lying at the corner of Sixth and South Streets in Philadelphia by a firefighter and paramedics. Paramedics transported Mr. Dennis to Jefferson Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Mr. Dennis died of a single stab wound to the chest that caused massive internal bleeding. The police investigation led them to Appellant later that morning. Appellant admitted to stabbing the decedent, but claimed he acted in self-defense. Police charged Appellant with murder generally and PIC.

The evidence adduced at trial revealed that Appellant called the decedent's girlfriend, Valeria Moss, at approximately 2:00 a.m. on January 24, 2008. At the time, she was visiting Mr. Dennis from New York and staying at his apartment. The phone call awakened her and she asked Mr. Dennis to answer it. According to witnesses at the apartment, Mr. Dennis either answered the phone or saw that Appellant placed a voicemail on the phone and listened to the message. One of Mr. Dennis's roommates testified that Mr. Dennis ultimately instructed Appellant to cease harassing his girlfriend, whom Appellant previously dated. Appellant and Mr. Dennis then began to argue and Appellant threatened to kill Mr. Dennis. Mr. Dennis, a double black belt and bouncer, responded by asking Appellant to meet him at Fifteenth and Chestnut Streets to settle the matter. Subsequently, the victim and two roommates traveled to Fifteenth and Chestnut Streets and waited for Appellant. Appellant failed to arrive, although he exchanged several more phone calls with Mr. Dennis, in which both men traded threats.

When Mr. Dennis returned to his apartment, Appellant again telephoned. After informing Appellant that he was trained in martial arts, Mr. Dennis renewed his invitation that Appellant meet him, this time at Sixth and South Street. Mr. Dennis left his apartment at approximately 5:00 a.m. Appellant arrived at Sixth and South Street armed with three different weapons: a metal ruler with a makeshift handle made of bandages, a pair of scissors, and a multi-purpose tool that contained a pocketknife. He also wore a scarf over his face. According to Appellant, Mr. Dennis told him to stay away from his girlfriend and called Appellant a coward. Additionally, Mr. Dennis allegedly laughed at Appellant and began to taunt him based on the weapons he had brought. The two men then began to fight. Appellant claimed that he struck the victim in the chest with the scissors after the victim assaulted him. After observing Mr. Dennis stumble to the ground, Appellant stated that he retrieved the scissors and a metal rod he said the victim was carrying. Appellant then threw the weapons away and took a cab to a friend's house. Police did not find the scissors or metal rod where Appellant allegedly disposed of them. However, his multi-purpose tool, with the knife extended, and the metal ruler were located at the scene of the attack. Neither instrument tested positively for the victim's blood. The Commonwealth's expert implicitly attacked the credibility of Appellant by testifying that the scissors could not have caused the injury Mr. Dennis sustained, and opined that the pocketknife police found at the scene could have produced the fatal injury.

The jury acquitted Appellant of the homicide charges but convicted him of PIC.*fn1 Thereafter, the trial court sentenced Appellant to two and one-half to five years incarceration. Appellant timely filed a post sentence motion, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed. The court directed Appellant to file and serve a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement of errors complained of on appeal. Appellant complied, and the trial court issued its Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion. The case is now ready for disposition. Appellant raises two issues for our consideration.

I. Was the evidence sufficient to support Appellant's conviction for possessing an instrument of crime where a jury acquitted him of murder on the basis of self-defense and there was no evidence to establish that he possessed a weapon with criminal intent?

II. Did the lower court abuse its discretion in sentencing

Appellant to the statutory maximum sentence for his possessing an instrument of crime conviction where the record discloses that the court focused solely on the circumstances surrounding the crime and failed to consider all other relevant sentencing factors?

Appellant's brief at 4.

Appellant's first issue is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Our review in such matters is governed ...

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