from the Order April 5, 2016 in the Court of Common Pleas of
Schuylkill County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., RANSOM, J., and FITZGERALD,
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appeals from the order of April
5, 2016, granting in part Appellee Joshua Michael
Lukach's suppression motion. After careful review, we
relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as
follows. See Suppression Court Opinion (SCO),
4/2/16, at 2-18. On August 6, 2015, at approximately 5:00
a.m., Police Chief Richard Wojciechowsky of the Pottsville
Bureau of Police was called to a crime scene at South 12th
Street in Pottsville. Upon arriving, he discovered that John
Brock's body had been found in the street. Police
recovered a pair of white gloves from the alley behind Mr.
Brock's home, a wallet from Mr. Brock's dresser, and
a bank card on the bedroom floor. Chief Wojciechowsky
received information indicating that Appellee and Shavinskin
Thomas were persons of interest in the homicide and that they
had previously been involved in a crime at Mr. Brock's
home. Two officers reported seeing Appellee and Mr. Thomas
walking near the crime scene at approximately 6:00 a.m. that
11:00 a.m., Chief Wojciechowsky observed Appellee and Mr.
Thomas near the crime scene. He asked Appellee what he was
doing in the area, and Appellee responded that he was
checking what was going on. Appellee claimed that on the
preceding evening, he and Mr. Thomas walked around the city
together, stopping at an A-Plus store around 5:00 a.m. A
Pottsville police officer went to the store and reviewed
security footage from the relevant time. Still photographs
were taken of the two customers present in the store;
however, neither was Appellee.
5:00 p.m. that evening, Appellee's mother consented to a
search of her home. Police recovered box cutters from
Appellee's bedroom, aware that box cutters had been used
in the murder. Police also recovered a pair of white work
gloves which were similar to gloves found in the alley behind
Mr. Brock's home.
August 7, 2015, Appellee was arrested on two outstanding
summary offense warrants and brought to City Hall for
questioning. Chief Wojciechowsky advised Appellee of his
Miranda rights, and Appellee acknowledged he
understood them. Chief Wojciechowsky questioned Appellee
about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. At 1:25
p.m., Appellee informed Chief Wojciechowsky, "I
don't know, just, I'm done talking. I don't have
nothing to talk about." See TCO at 12.
of taking this as a request to end the conversation, Chief
Wojciechowsky advised Appellee that he did not have to speak
to police, stating, "You don't have to say anything,
I told you that you could stop." However, Chief
Wojciechowsky continued to ask questions, told Appellee that
he did not believe his story, and informed Appellee that
police officers had collected evidence from the crime scene
for processing. At 1:36 p.m., police officers confiscated
Appellee's shoes. Chief Wojciechowsky continued to pepper
Appellee with questions.
p.m., Appellee requested that Chief Wojciechowsky stop the
video tape. At 1:57 p.m., Chief Wojciechowsky turned the
videotape back on and asked Appellee whether he had been
threatened, yelled at, or promised anything while the tape
was off. Appellee responded that he had not. Appellee then
requested to speak to a representative of the District
Attorney's Office in exchange for a potential
"deal." The video stopped again at 2:00 p.m., and
the prosecutor arrived at 2:23 p.m., at which time the video
was turned on again. Appellee was again advised of his
Miranda rights by Chief Wojciechowsky.
Appellee gave a detailed statement to police, confessing his
involvement in the murder. As a result of Appellee's
statement, police obtained video surveillance of Appellee
accessing an ATM on the morning of the homicide. Police also
recovered from a storm drain the following evidence: the
victim's credit card, hat, shirt, and sunglasses.
was charged with murder. Prior to trial, he filed an omnibus
pre-trial motion, seeking to suppress statements made to
police after he stated that he "[did not] want to
talk" and was "done talking." The motion also
sought to suppress evidence recovered as a result of
Appellee's statements, including Appellee's shoes.
were held January 12, 2016, and January 13, 2016. Chief
Wojciechowsky testified that he did not interpret
Appellee's statements as an immediate invocation of the
right to remain silent and wanted to "be absolutely
certain that [Appellee] was still aware of that right."
Detective Kirk Becker testified that if the credit card had
not been recovered from the storm drain, police could have
obtained the ATM footage regardless through credit checks and
by subpoenaing Mr. Brock's account access records.
April 5, 2016, the court issued an order granting
Appellee's motion in part. The court suppressed
statements made by Appellee following his assertion that he
was done talking; Appellee's shoes and any evidence
obtained from them; and the items recovered from the storm
drain. The court admitted all statements made prior to
Appellee's assertion that he was done talking and
surveillance video from the ATM machine.
Commonwealth timely appealed and filed a court-ordered
Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement of errors complained of on
appeal. The suppression court issued a responsive opinion
adopting its April 5, 2016 opinion and order.
On appeal, the Commonwealth raises three issues for our
1. Did the suppression court err in finding that the Appellee
made a clear and unambiguous assertion of his right to remain
silent during police questioning?
2. Did the suppression court err in finding that the police
violated Appellee['s] Fifth Amendment privilege against
self-incrimination and thus err in suppressing incriminating
statements made to police?
3. Did the suppression court err in suppressing certain
physical evidence (credit card, hat, shirt, and sunglasses)