Argued June 30, 2015
Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, No: CP-51-CR-0012499-2012. Before LERNER, J.
Peter Carr, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.
Richard J. Giuliani, Philadelphia, for appellee.
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., BENDER, P.J.E., PANELLA, DONOHUE, SHOGAN, ALLEN, LAZARUS, MUNDY, and STABILE, JJ.
The Commonwealth appeals from the trial court's order suppressing confidential statements which Charles Davis (" Davis" ) uttered to his spouse, Nicole Walton (" Walton" ), outside the presence of third parties. After careful consideration, we affirm.
The trial court detailed the following factual and procedural background of this case as follows:
On July 19, 2012, [Davis] and his alleged co-conspirator, Ali Marsh [(" Marsh" )], were charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, possession of an instrument of crime (PIC) and violations of § § 6105,
6106 and 6108 of the Uniform Firearms Act in connection with a home invasion shooting that left a man dead and his wife seriously injured.
[Davis'] preliminary hearing was held on October 17, 2012 before the Honorable Patrick F. Dugan. Sherrell Paul, the decedent's wife, testified that she and her husband were at home sleeping on the night of the shooting. Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 pm, Ms. Paul was awakened by her husband's voice. When she went to investigate, Ms. Paul saw an unknown man in the hallway outside her bedroom. A struggle ensued. Ms. Paul kicked the unknown man down the stairs. At that point, shots rang out and Ms. Paul was struck. As she lay on the hallway floor, another unknown male ran past her and into her bedroom. Moments later, the second male came out, grabbed Ms. Paul and demanded money. When Ms. Paul responded that she did not have any, the second male shot her again, inflicting multiple gunshot wounds. (N.T., 10/17/12, pp. 13-22).
Although Ms. Paul could not positively identify the assailants, she did provide a general description of both men. The first -- the one that she struggled with initially -- she described as black with a beard, wearing [" ]a black Nike hoody." (N.T., 10/17/12, p. 15). The second man she also described as black. He too had a beard, but was thinner than the first man and had a lighter complexion. (N.T., 10/17/12, p. 17).
The Commonwealth also called [Davis'] wife, [Walton], to testify about his involvement in the shooting. Walton testified that she was at home sleeping on the night in question when [Davis] called her. According to Walton, Davis sounded anxious and told her that he needed her. Walton then drove to a pre-arranged location, where she met Davis and Marsh. She noticed that Marsh had been shot in the foot and was bleeding. Walton and Davis helped Marsh into Walton's truck. When Walton suggested taking Marsh to the closest hospital in Philadelphia, Marsh insisted that she take him to a hospital in another state. Ultimately, Walton drove Marsh to a hospital in Maryland. When they arrived at the hospital, Walton and Davis dropped Marsh off and returned to Philadelphia. Walton claimed inexplicably, that during the two hour ride to Maryland, the three of them never discussed what really happened on the night of the shooting. Instead, they discussed fabricating a story that Marsh had been robbed and shot in the foot. (N.T., 10/17/2, pp. 23-35).
The Commonwealth, over the objection of defense counsel, was permitted to illicit testimony about private incriminating conversations between [Davis] and Walton. During those conversations, which took place on the night of and a few days after the incident, [Davis] made numerous admissions to Walton about his involvement in the fatal shooting. Walton denied making the statements and claimed that they were fabricated by police.
[FN:1 Walton's statements were admitted as substantive evidence. See
Commonwealth v. Lively, 530 Pa. 464, 610 A.2d 7 (Pa. 1992). In one statement, Walton told police that after returning to Philadelphia[,] Davis told her: " [w]e got into some shit last night, Nic. It's bad. Real bad." In a second statement, Walton told police that she met Davis at 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue. Walton asked Davis if he had been involved in the murder in question. He responded: " Yeah, this shit is bad." When she then inquired why they had
shot the deceased's wife, [Davis] said " that was Ali's dumb ass. He said he got his self shot and them n--s left him there." Davis also told Walton that he had to go back into the house to drag Ali out because Ali could not move. No third parties were present during either of these conversations between Ms. Walton and Davis. (N.T., 10/17/12, pp. 27-36, 45-52, 61-64).]
On cross-examination, Walton stated that she believed the conversations with her husband were confidential and that they were not made in the presence of any third parties.
The Commonwealth and defense also agreed to several stipulations. First, the decedent, John Derek Paul, was shot to death inside his home at 3113 Cecil B. Moore Avenue on March 5, 2012. Second, there was a blood trail [that] led from the inside of the decedent's home out to the street. This blood was tested and ultimately found to match that of [Marsh]. Finally, six .45 caliber and six .40 caliber cartridge casings were found in the entryway of ...