from the Judgment of Sentence May 9, 2017 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Fayette County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: BOWES, J., RANSOM, J., and STEVENS [*] , P.J.E.
Paris Raymont Murphy appeals from the judgment of sentence
entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County
following his conviction by a jury on the charges of
possession of a controlled substance/contraband by an inmate,
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5123(a)(2), possession of a controlled
substance, 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(16), and use/possession of drug
paraphernalia, 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(32). After a careful
review, we affirm.
relevant facts and procedural history are as follows: On
February 21, 2016, while an inmate at SCI-Fayette, Appellant
engaged in an altercation with another inmate. N.T., 5/3/17,
at 12-13. Several correctional officers restrained Appellant
and then searched him, finding heroin, cocaine, a synthetic
cannabinoid known as "K2, " and stamp bags.
Id. at 24, 26, 74-75.
3, 2017, represented by counsel, Appellant proceeded to a
jury trial, at which the Commonwealth presented the testimony
of four correctional officers, the investigating Pennsylvania
State Police officer, and a Pennsylvania State Police
forensic scientist supervisor. Relevantly, the Commonwealth
offered testimony that illegal drugs and paraphernalia were
found in Appellant's pockets. Id. at 24.
Appellant was the sole witness for the defense; his trial
strategy was that he and his cellmate borrowed each
other's prison clothes and the drugs/paraphernalia
belonged to his cellmate. Id. at 83.
conclusion of the testimony, the jury convicted Appellant of
the offenses indicated supra, and on May 9, 2017, he
was sentenced to an aggregate of 27 months to 7 years in
prison, to be served consecutively to the sentence he was
then currently serving in an unrelated matter. Appellant did
not file post-sentence motions; however, this timely,
counseled appeal followed. All Pa.R.A.P. 1925 requirements
have been met.
appeal, Appellant first claims the trial court abused its
discretion in admitting into evidence his admission of guilt,
which he made with regard to the possession of the instant
drugs at an administrative disciplinary hearing before the
Department of Corrections. Appellant contends his admission of
guilt during the administrative proceeding was irrelevant in
the subsequent criminal proceeding. He further alleges the
danger of unfair prejudice outweighed the evidence's
probative value in that the jury was likely to conclude that
a plea of guilt at the administrative hearing was similar to
a plea of guilt before the Court of Common Pleas, and the
evidence inflamed the jury.
we note that:
[t]he admission of evidence is solely within the discretion
of the trial court, and a trial court's evidentiary
rulings will be reversed on appeal only upon an abuse of that
discretion. An abuse of discretion will not be found based on
a mere error of judgment, but rather occurs where the court
has reached a conclusion that overrides or misapplies the
law, or where the judgment exercised is manifestly
unreasonable, or the result of partiality, prejudice, bias or
Commonwealth v. Woodard, 634 Pa. 162, 129 A.3d 480,
494 (2015) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
all relevant evidence is admissible, and evidence is relevant
if it has "any tendency to make a fact more or less
probable then it would be without the evidence." Pa.R.E.
401-02. However, the court may exclude relevant evidence if
its probative value is outweighed by a danger of "unfair
prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue
delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative
evidence." Pa.R.E. 403.
that might otherwise be inadmissible may be introduced for
some other purpose, particularly where Appellant's own
testimony "opens the door" for such evidence to be
used for impeachment purposes. See Pa.R.E. 607(b)
("The credibility of a witness may be impeached by any
evidence relevant to that issue, except as otherwise provided
by statute or these rules."). "A litigant opens the
door to inadmissible evidence by presenting proof that
creates a false impression refuted by the otherwise
prohibited evidence." Commonwealth v. Nypaver,
69 A.3d 708, 716-17 (Pa.Super. 2013) (citations omitted).
Further, it is noteworthy that trial judges retain wide
latitude as to the scope of cross-examination and will not be
reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. See
Commonwealth v. Bozyk, 987 A.2d 753 (Pa.Super. 2009).
case sub judice, the following relevant exchange
occurred between Appellant and his defense counsel upon
direct-examination at the jury trial:
Q: And in the video you were strip searched?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: During that time, to your knowledge, did
you have any synthetic marijuana?
A: No, sir.
Q: Did you have any heroin?
A: No, sir.
Q: Did you have any cocaine?
A: No, sir.
N.T., 5/3/17, at 83-84.
cross-examination at trial, the following relevant exchange
occurred between Appellant and the prosecutor:
Q: Do you recall after this incident an
Administrative Hearing regarding the same underlying facts as
this incident within the Department of Corrections?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your honor, I would just
want to object to this as to relevancy.
THE COURT: Your objection [is] noted. If
it's for impeachment, we'll permit you to continue.
[THE PROSECUTOR]: Thank you, Your Honor.
Q: Do you recall that hearing?
A: Can you repeat the question?
Q: Certainly. Do you recall an
Administrative Hearing within the Department of Corrections
pertaining to this same underlying incident?
Q: And do you recall the result or the
disposition of that ...