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[U] Commonwealth v. Harriott

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
LESA M. HARRIOTT Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence January 17, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-14-CR-0000830-2012

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., PANELLA, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

MEMORANDUM

PANELLA, J.

Appellant, Lesa M. Harriott, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered January 17, 2013, by the Honorable Jonathan D. Grine, Court of Common Pleas of Centre County. We affirm.

In April of 2012, the six-year-old minor victim reported to his preschool director, Gloria Rosenberger, that his mother, Harriott, hit him in the face, causing a bruise near his right eye. N.T., Trial, 11/2/12 at 32. The victim further reported that Harriott placed her hand over his mouth so that the child was unable to breathe. Id. at 35. The victim indicated that Harriott hit him because "[s]he was watching her program and he wouldn't be quiet." Id. at 36. Based on this information, Rosenberger contacted Children and Youth Services. Id. at 34. Harriott was subsequently charged with simple assault[1] and harassment.[2]

Following a jury trial on November 2, 2012, at which the victim testified via video, Harriott was convicted of both charges. On January 17, 2013, the trial court sentenced Harriott to three to 23½ months' imprisonment, to be followed by three years of probation. This timely appeal followed.

On appeal, Harriott raises the following issues for our review:

I. Did the Court of Common Pleas err by determining that Camren Luke Harriott was competent to testify against his mother at trial?
II. Did the Court of Common Pleas err by failing to conduct a searching judicial inquiry as to the mental capacity of Camren Luke Harriott, who was a mere six years of age at the time of trial?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

We will not disturb a trial court's determination of a witness's competency absent an abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Davis, 939 A.2d 905, 906-907 (Pa.Super. 2007).

Although competency of a witness is generally presumed, Pennsylvania law requires that a child witness be examined for competency. See Commonwealth v. Delbridge, 578 Pa. 641, 855 A.2d 27, 39 (2003) (citing Rosche v. McCoy, 397 Pa. 615, 156 A.2d 307, 310 (1959) and Pa.R.E. 601). As we have recently reiterated, "this Court historically has required that witnesses under the age of fourteen be subject to judicial inquiry into their testimonial capacity." Commonwealth v. Ali, 10 A.3d 282, 300 n. 11 (Pa. 2010). "A competency hearing of a minor witness is directed to the mental capacity of that witness to perceive the nature of the events about which he or she is called to testify, to understand questions about that subject matter, to communicate about the subject at issue, to recall information, to distinguish fact from fantasy, and to tell the truth." Delbridge, supra at 45. In Pennsylvania, competency is a threshold legal issue, to be decided by the trial court. Commonwealth v. Dowling, 584 Pa. 396, 883 A.2d 570, 576 (2005).

Commonwealth v. Hutchinson, 611 Pa. 280, 289-290, 25 A.3d 277, ---(2011) (footnote omitted). Pennsylvania Rule ...


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