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Commonwealth v. Perez

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 5, 2018

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellant
v.
CARLOS PEREZ

          Appeal from the Order April 5, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): MC-51-CR-0005268-2017, MC-51-CR-0005268-2017

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J., and STRASSBURGER [*] , J.

          OPINION

          LAZARUS, J.

         The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ("Commonwealth") appeals from the order, entered after Carlos Perez's second preliminary hearing, dismissing the criminal charges against him. The trial court twice concluded that the Commonwealth failed to establish a prima facie case that Perez committed the offenses of first-degree murder[1] and possession of an instrument of crime ("PIC").[2] We conclude that the Commonwealth's appeal is interlocutory, and thus, we quash.

         The trial court set forth the facts of this case as follows:

On August 21, 2016, [Andrew Hazleton] arrived at the Bleu Martini with Hector Martinez after drinking on the waterfront in New Jersey. . . . Martinez saw a man in a gray shirt sitting in a [booth] . . . who [sic] he identified as [Perez] at [Perez's first] preliminary hearing.
Marquis McNair was working the inside front door as a bouncer on August 21, 2016. Around 1:50 a[.]m[.], McNair and his fellow bouncer witnessed a "little push match" between two groups of people. The pushing match occurred in a small side room to the left of the club entrance, which had two C[-]shaped booths along the right wall, and a bench along the back wall under the window. When the pushing match occurred, there were no more than 30 people in the area. McNair and his fellow bouncer ended the pushing match easily, and two of the men involved said[, ] "like we know each other, " "we friends, " and "we cool, we cool." These two men were [Perez] and [Hazleton].
McNair and the other bouncer then stood about fifteen feet away from the two groups, in an area where they had a clear line of sight. Within a few minutes, another, more aggressive, pushing match occurred. The bouncers moved quickly to stop the second pushing match and McNair put himself between [Perez] and [Hazleton], while the other bouncer moved others in the area toward the door.
A few seconds after the bouncer broke up the second pushing match, McNair heard a woman scream in the crowd "they cut him." McNair then turned to [Hazleton] and saw him holding his neck. [Hazleton] removed his hand from his neck and blood gushed out of his neck and onto the floor. McNair also saw blood on his fellow bouncer's suit. McNair was unaware if anyone else got blood on them, or where [Perez] was located at this time, because his focus was on [Hazleton]. At this point, [Hazleton] walked past McNair and outside of the club.
McNair did not see [Hazleton] get stabbed. McNair did not see any weapon in [Perez's] hands, including when he got in the middle of [Perez] and [Hazleton] during the second pushing match. McNair testified that he would have been able to see if [Perez] was holding an object, regardless of the movement of [Perez's] and [Hazleton's] hands during the pushing matches. At no point did McNair see a weapon or any broken glass that could have been used to inflict [Hazleton's] wounds.
Martinez did not witness either pushing match, or any interaction between [Perez] and [Hazleton]. After he saw [Perez] get up from the booth and walk towards the group of dancers, he did not notice anything else until the bouncers quickly walked by him to break up the group. When [Hazleton] walked by him on his way out of the club, Martinez followed. Once outside, [Hazleton] removed his hands from his throat and more blood poured out. Martinez saw that [Hazleton] had been stabbed and Martinez "went berserk." He turned to go back in the club. As he tried to reenter, [Perez] attempted to leave the club. Martinez saw that [Perez] had blood on his shirt and assumed that he was the one who stabbed [Hazleton]. Martinez said to [Perez] "what did you do to my friend" and punched him in the face. [Perez] did not respond, but went back inside the club.
* * *
After the stabbing, McNair was helping the rest of the staff clear out the club when he saw [Perez] sitting at a booth by himself. [Perez] was only wearing a tank top, which is against club policy. McNair asked [Perez] where his shirt was and he responded that he had thrown it out in the bathroom because it had gotten blood on it in the earlier incident. McNair then walked [Perez] to the bathroom, made him retrieve the bloody shirt, returned him to the booth, and then continued to help the rest of the staff. McNair last saw [Perez] talking to police, while handcuffed, with his shirt on his shoulder.
Officer Stone was alerted to a stabbing at the Bleu Martini by a passerby while he was standing at 2nd and Chestnut Street. After calling medics and waiting for [Hazleton] to be taken by ambulance to a hospital, Officer Stone entered the Bleu Martini and [Perez] was pointed out to him. Officer Stone was told that [Perez] was not allowed to leave because he owed $600.00 on his tab and had been in the group involved in the earlier "fight."
Officer Stone approached [Perez] and asked him what had happened. [Perez] originally denied being a part of the fight, but after several questions, admitted to being punched in the face earlier that night. When asked where his shirt was, [Perez] pulled the bloody shirt from behind him in the booth and showed it to Officer Stone. Officer Stone saw no blood on [Perez's] hands, or anywhere else on his body. Officer Stone also never saw an object that could have inflicted the injury sustained by the victim. Officer Stone reported what he found to the detectives and was told to bring [Perez] to Central Detectives. [Perez] was released from Central Detectives and was not arrested in connection with the stabbing until February 23, 2017.
* * *
[Hazleton] sustained a stab wound in the neck, specifically the internal jugular vein on the left side at the carotid artery and ...

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