from the Judgment of Sentence March 2, 2018 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., McLAUGHLIN, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E.
Knox appeals from the judgment of sentence entered following
his jury trial convictions for third-degree murder and
possessing instruments of crime
("PIC"). Knox challenges the denial of his motion
to suppress, the sufficiency and weight of the evidence, and
the discretionary aspects of his sentence. We affirm.
the shooting death in November 2014 of Knox's
stepbrother, Desmond Sinkler ("victim"), Knox
accompanied Philadelphia police to a police station. The
officers read him his Miranda rights, and he
signed a form waiving them and gave a statement. They
subsequently charged Knox in the killing. Between December
2014 and September 2017, the court found Knox incompetent to
stand trial five times. However, in August 2016, correctional
officers observed that Knox "communicated effectively,
appropriately and directly with other inmates and on the
phone with relatives." N.T. Sentencing, 3/2/18 at 18.
Mental health evaluators determined that Knox was competent
to stand trial and had been malingering with respect to his
then filed a motion in December 2017 to suppress his
statement to the police, alleging that he did not knowingly
waive his Miranda rights because he was mentally ill
and could not properly understand the rights he was waiving.
Motion to Suppress, filed 9/24/17. The Commonwealth presented
the following unchallenged evidence at the suppression
day after the shooting, Detective John Harkins and Detective
James Burns went to Knox's address. N.T. Suppression,
12/15/17 at 9. Knox willingly went to the Homicide Unit with
police and they informed him of his Miranda rights,
reading them from a standard form. Id. at 11-16.
Detective Harkins testified that Knox expressed that he
understood his rights and was willing to talk with the
detectives without an attorney present. Id. at
16-17. He then told Detective Harkins that he was inside the
bar when somebody broke his window and was not present when
the shooting occurred. Id. at 20.
Knox was at the Homicide Unit, officers executed a search
warrant on his home and car and found bloody clothing in his
bedroom. Id. at 23-24. Detective Harkins confronted
Knox with this new information, and Knox told him he
"did it and he agreed to tell the truth."
Id. at 24. Knox then changed his story, apologized
for not being truthful, and was read his Miranda
rights again. Id. at 33. He again waived his right
to an attorney and gave a statement claiming self-defense.
both instances of questioning, Knox repeatedly asserted that
he understood the Miranda rights that he was waiving
and initialed forms indicating as much. Id. at
27-29. During questioning, Detective Harkins offered him
bathroom breaks, food, and water. Id. 37-38.
Detective Harkins explicitly asked Knox if he had any
difficulty understanding him during the questioning and Knox
answered in the negative. The detective testified that he
asked, "Leonard, I also notice at times that you speak
with a pronounced stutter. Do you have any difficulty
understanding me?" Id. at 46. He said that Knox
replied, "No, I just stutter a lot sometimes."
Harkins also asked Knox if he was under the influence of any
drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication during the
questioning. Knox responded: "I take prescription
medicine. I take something for acid reflux, and I take
Lizapan for bipolar disorder. I can understand you fine,
though." Id. at 32.
trial court determined that Knox had made a knowing,
intelligent, and voluntary waiver. Id. at 50-55. The
court consequently denied the motion to suppress and the case
proceeded to trial.
evidence at trial was as follows. In November 2014, Knox and
the victim drove separately to a bar where the victim worked.
On the way, Knox picked up a woman named Sophia. When they
arrived at the bar, the victim purchased a drink for Sophia,
while Knox had his own drink. Knox and Sophia eventually
returned to Knox's car. At that time, the bar was closed
but some people remained inside. Outside, three gunshots rang
out and the bar's occupants ran outside and found the
victim bleeding on the ground. Medical practitioners at
Temple University Hospital pronounced the victim dead at 2:58
a.m. Officer Raymond Andrejczak, who testified as an expert
in ballistics identification, said that the three bullets
found in the victim were 32-caliber bullets. N.T. Trial,
12/18/17 at 264.
night of the shooting, the victim's cousin, Termaine
Heard-Blackwell, informed police at the hospital that Knox
owned a .32-caliber revolver. Id. at 205-206.
Blackwell testified that the victim did not carry a gun.
Id. at 216. The victim's girlfriend, Trayeisha
Smith, testified that she was at Knox's home the night
before the shooting and she witnessed Knox remove a revolver
from his pants. N.T. Trial, 12/19/17 at 53. She also
testified that Knox had carried a gun in the past.
Id. Knox's sister, Sarah Knox, testified that
Knox did not carry a gun. Id. at 172.
medical examiner, Dr. Albert Chu, testified that the victim
suffered from three fatal gunshot wounds in the chest. N.T.
Trial, 12/18/17 at 138-144. There were also wounds to the
victim's forearm, thigh, and lower jaw. Id. at
144-146. Dr. Chu noted that there was no evidence of a
close-range shot. Id. at 141-142.
did not testify. The Commonwealth admitted into evidence
Knox's statement to police, in which he claimed he shot
the victim in self-defense as the victim kicked out the front
window of his car and attempted to assault him. Id.
at 92-103. In that statement, Knox claimed that he pulled the
gun from the victim's waistband and shot the victim with
the victim's own gun. Id.
jury found Knox guilty of third-degree murder and PIC. The
trial court sentenced Knox to 20 to 40 years'
incarceration for third-degree murder and imposed no further
penalty for the PIC conviction. Knox filed a post-sentence
motion, which the trial court denied, and this timely appeal
raises the following claims on appeal:
(1) Did the trial court err in denying the motion to suppress
(2) Was the evidence insufficient to sustain a conviction for
Third-Degree Murder and Conspiracy to Commit
(3) Were the verdicts for both counts against the clear
weight of the evidence?
(4) Did the trial court abuse its discretion by sentencing
[Knox] to twenty (20) to forty (40) years[']
Knox's Br. at 5.
Motion to Suppress
contends that the suppression court erred in denying his
motion to suppress. He claims that because he was found
incompetent one month after his statement to police,
"[i]t is clear that [Knox] did not properly understand
his Constitutional rights[, ]" and therefore the trial
court should have suppressed his written statement.
Knox's Br. at 12. He thereby claims that his
Miranda waiver was not valid. Id. at 11.
Knox also asserts that the trial court "exhibited clear
prejudice against [him]." Id. at 12.
standard of review of the denial of a motion to suppress is
limited to determining if the record supports the suppression
court's factual findings and if the legal conclusions
drawn from those facts are correct. See Commonwealth v.
Hoppert, 39 A.3d 358, 361 (Pa.Super. 2012) (quoting
Commonwealth v. Jones, 988 A.2d 649, 654 (Pa.
2010)). Here, the Commonwealth prevailed before the
suppression court, so "we may consider only the evidence
of the Commonwealth and so much of the evidence for the
defense as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of
the record as a whole." Jones, 988 A.2d at 654.
Where the record supports the suppression court's factual
findings, "we are bound by these findings and may
reverse only if the court's legal conclusions are
determining the validity of a Miranda waiver, we
employ a two-step inquiry. We first ask whether the waiver
was voluntary in the sense of being the result of an
intentional choice on the part of a defendant who was not
subject to undue government pressure. Commonwealth v.
Mitchell, 105 A.3d 1257, 1268 (Pa. 2014) (citing
Commonwealth v. Logan, 549 A.2d 531, 537 (Pa. 1988)
(opinion announcing the judgment of the Court)). If we
conclude the waiver was voluntary, we then ask if the
defendant was aware of the nature of the choice that he made
by giving up his Miranda rights, i.e.,
whether it was ...