COM. v. PATTERSON
392 Pa.Super. 331 (1990)
572 A.2d 1258
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
Eugene Edward PATTERSON Appellant.
Eugene Edward PATTERSON Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued December 5, 1989.
Filed April 6, 1990.
Daniel J. Brabender, Jr., Erie, for appellant, John J. Trucilla, Asst. Dist. Atty., Erie, for the Com., appellee.
Before DEL SOLE, KELLY and HESTER, JJ.
Eugene Patterson appeals from the February 17, 1989 judgment of sentence of life imprisonment entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County following conviction by a jury for the murder of a ten-year-old girl in Millcreek, Pennsylvania, on July 19, 1966. Appellant asserts that the trial court committed numerous errors. We find no merit in appellant's allegations, and we affirm.
The police were summoned when Tina was not found. One of the first to arrive, Patrolman Hammer, discovered the girl three hundred yards downstream from the bridge behind a tall bush, with her throat slashed. The police secured the area and the coroner was summoned. When the body of the victim was moved, those present observed a six-pointed star toy "deputy" badge under her. The coroner later removed hair and particles from the girl's hand and fingernails, but the results of the tests that he performed were inconclusive.
Police placed roadblocks in the area to inquire of motorists if they had observed a man or a parked automobile near the bridge. Those who responded affirmatively remembered a shiny black late-model car parked on a dirt berm near the bridge. Based on Mary Beth's description of the man and the descriptions of the car by motorists, police questioned appellant since he both matched Mary Beth's description and his automobile was a black late-model vehicle. While appellant was being questioned in a room with
During questioning by police, appellant had denied the charges and stated that he had quit his job earlier that morning and had gone fishing within a twenty minute drive of the murder scene. In the early afternoon, he had his hair cut and shaved. He subsequently showered and washed his clothes. Later in the afternoon, he picked up his wife from work. Police requested that he give them the clothes that he had worn earlier in the day and sought permission to search his automobile. Appellant consented to the search, but it revealed nothing. However, a number of people who viewed his automobile that night identified it as identical to the one that had been parked next to the bridge on the day of the murder. Two days later, police obtained fragments of the clothing that appellant had been seen burning following the murder in an open field owned by his father. Appellant explained that he burned some of his clothes and old shoes because they were covered with fish blood. N.T., 1/12/89, at 42.
Five days later, police utilized the victim's and appellant's clothing along with a volunteer dog-handler, to track the scent of the victim and appellant at the murder scene. Testimony revealed that the dogs tracked the victim to the scene of the killing and then tracked appellant's scent from the bridge to close to the scene.
Finally, trial evidence revealed that Reverend Merle Dickson, who previously had been assigned by the court to counsel appellant after his unrelated arrests for indecent exposure, telephoned the police to warn them that he would bring appellant to the station since appellant desired to confess to the murder. Appellant, however, subsequently changed his mind.
Appellant notes that prosecution under a newly-enacted law violates the ex post facto prohibition when it changes the rules of evidence, the penalties, or the elements of the offense. See Weaver v. Graham,
The Commonwealth responds that 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502(d) defines an "intentional killing" as "willful, deliberate and premeditated". Further, the elements needed to establish the crime essentially are the same, and the penalty to which appellant is subject, life imprisonment, is the same. Consequently, the Commonwealth concludes that appellant's rights were not violated since the elements of the crime, the burden of proof, and the legal consequences of his crime are equivalent. Commonwealth v. Hoetzel,
Appellant's second argument is that the trial court erred in finding that he was not prejudiced by the twenty-two year delay in prosecuting this case. Specifically, appellant contends that all of the information used in his prosecution
We note that in order to establish a due process violation for a delay in prosecution, appellant must show that the delay caused substantial prejudice and that the reasons for the delay were improper. Commonwealth v. Sneed,
In addition, the delay was not motivated by improper considerations, such as eliminating favorable defense evidence. The record establishes that appellant was prosecuted when two events occurred: another prime suspect was absolved and a witness suddenly linked appellant to the toy sheriff badge found under the victim's body. We find no factual support for appellant's assertion that the delay in bringing him to trial was deliberate or purposeful. The Commonwealth made a reasonable investigation in 1966 but failed to substantiate appellant's presence at the scene of
Appellant next argues that the prosecution failed to lay a proper foundation for admission of testimony regarding the dogs' tracking. He contends that the 1966 police report fails to eliminate certain events which may have invalidated the tracking. He alleges that the police accidently might have added their scent to the clothing and that their prior search of the area might have contaminated the trail, thereby inducing the dogs to track the policemen's scent by mistake. Appellant further contends that the tracking was questionable since one dog was guided by an inexperienced handler, one dog could not detect appellant's scent at all, and "dry, practice runs" were not made that day to test the dogs' fitness. In addition, the trail was over five days old at the time of the tracking, and according to experts' opinions, three or four days is the maximum period that a scent can be detected. Finally, appellant contends the dogs were underweight, one recently had been injured, and they were fatigued as a result of travel to the site.
The Commonwealth counters that a proper foundation had been laid under the standard set forth in Commonwealth v. Michaux,
Instantly, testimony at the suppression hearing revealed that the dog handler had over forty years experience in the field of dog tracking, the dogs were kept in an air-conditioned trailer to keep their nostrils fresh, and the dogs were primed with the victim's and appellant's clothing near the bridge where circumstances and witnesses placed them both. The dog trainer testified, contrary to accepted authority, that in his experience trails were viable for five days or more in certain similar, moist, wooded conditions. The trainer further testified that the dogs were able to track despite the travel, their reduced weight, or injury. Furthermore, to corroborate their ability to track appellant, the dogs were given appellant's scent near his dwelling, and they proceeded to his automobile, and then to the rear entrance of his apartment.
Admissibility of evidence is a matter left to the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent on abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Banks,
Next, appellant argues that his statements to Reverend Dickson were privileged and inadmissible. He argues that Reverend Dickson is a duly ordained clergyman, appellant attended his church with his wife, and communications to a clergyman are privileged under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5943;
The Commonwealth argues that not all communications to a clergymen are privileged. The privilege is limited to information told in confidence to a religious confessor or counselor. See Fahlfeder v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 80 Pa.Cmwlth. 86, 470 A.2d 1130 (1984). Reverend Dickson was appointed by the court as a counselor to appellant concerning his unrelated arrests for indecent exposure. Appellant never was a practicing member of Reverend Dickson's parish, although he had attended services there with his wife. The Commonwealth maintains that appellant never sought Reverend Dickson or indicated that his statements were to be held by him in confidence. In fact, he wanted Reverend Dickson to accompany him so that he could confess to the police. Further, the circumstances in which the statements were made were such that they were not religious, in that nothing spiritual or in the nature of forgiveness ever was discussed. Further, the Commonwealth argues that observations of the toy badge clearly are not privileged statements or communication.
We agree with the Commonwealth that our legislature did not intend a per se privilege for any communication to a clergymen based on his status. We therefore look to the circumstances to determine whether appellant's statements
As noted supra, Reverend Dickson had been appointed by the court to counsel appellant concerning appellant's indecent exposure infractions. It was Reverend Dickson who approached appellant when the clergyman concluded from newspaper articles that appellant might have murdered Tina Watson. Appellant never sought Reverend Dickson in a confessional role; further there was no evidence that Reverend Dickson was acting in any capacity other than that of counselor. Thus, the statements were not motivated by religious considerations or in order to seek the forgiveness of God. Accordingly, they were not made to Reverend Dickson in the course of his duties as a minister. Instead, they were made because he was a court-appointed counselor. Further, appellant never was a member of the church. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the fact that Reverend Dickson is ordained was not relevant to appellant's statements to him and there is no basis to conclude that appellant's statements were made confidentially or for religious, penitent purposes. Therefore, we conclude that section 5943 does not apply.
Appellant next contests the admission of certain physical evidence, including a shirt, trousers, cowboy boots, several knives, and burned remains of a rain jacket, gloves, and boots. He argues that there is no basis to determine that these items were obtained with a lawful warrant or pursuant to any constitutional exception to the search warrant requirement. The Commonwealth was not able to produce the originals or any copies of two search warrants in this case, one for the clothing and knife found in his home and one for the burned debris obtained from his father's land, since both had been purged from the records due to their age in accordance with normal procedures. As a result, appellant contends that he is prevented from contesting probable cause supporting the warrants. He alleges that
We find that the Commonwealth did not need a warrant for the shirt, the boots, or the knife found in appellant's automobile. The record establishes that appellant voluntarily consented to his wife's delivery of his shirt and boots to the police and to the search of his automobile, claiming that he had nothing to hide. This is a valid consensual search. See Commonwealth v. Markman,
Next, testimony revealed that a warrant had been issued by District Justice Calobrese, a neutral magistrate, for the search of appellant's home. This resulted in the seizure of a different knife and a pair of trousers from appellant's home. The Commonwealth contends that appraisal by a neutral magistrate places these items under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. United States v. Leon,
Commonwealth v. Melilli,
Further, as to the legality of the seizure of the burned fragments of clothing, we conclude that appellant has no standing to contest the legality of the search, which occurred on his father's land. In order to have standing, appellant must demonstrate one of the following: 1) that he was present on the premises at a time of the search; 2) that he had a possessory interest in the evidence improperly seized; 3) that possession was an essential element of the prosecution's case; or 4) that he had a proprietary interest in the premises searched. Commonwealth v. Peterkin,
Appellant's next argument is that the trial court improperly admitted testimony by Officer Hannon regarding identification of appellant by the victim's playmate, Thomas Levis. Appellant contends that the line-up leading to this identification was suggestive and that the testimony was an out-of-court statement admitted in violation of the hearsay rule. See Stovall v. Denno,
Testimony by Chief Dever revealed that during the identification at least five white males, none in uniform, were in the room, and several were close in age and build to appellant. Officer Hannon testified that Thomas Levis never hesitated in identifying appellant, except to say that his hair was lighter in color and that he had shaved. Appellant admitted to obtaining a shave and haircut between the time of the murder and the time of the boy's identification.
Suggestiveness in an identification procedure can be determined from the totality of circumstances, which is analyzed by reviewing the opportunity of the witness to view the perpetrator during the crime, the accuracy of his description, the certainty that he demonstrated at the time of the identification, any prior misidentification, and the manner in which the identification was conducted. Commonwealth v. Thompkins,
The witness, although only six years old, clearly saw the perpetrator closely, in daylight, and accurately described him. Shortly thereafter, he identified appellant in a line-up of white men, substantially of the same age, and with essentially the same build. The boy positively identified appellant, even noting that he had shaved and had lighter color hair. We conclude from the totality of the circumstances that this identification was not suggestive or in violation of appellant's due process rights.
The trial testimony revealed that Thomas Levis positively identified appellant in the lineup, when he was six years old, but could not do so as an adult, at trial. His prior, inconsistent statement identifying appellant was admitted as substantive evidence. Appellant argues that Commonwealth v. Floyd,
Appellant next contests the admission of testimony relative to Thomas Levis's identification of appellant from a photographic array. Appellant contends that the Commonwealth must reproduce the original array so that he effectively may attack the credibility of the witness identifying him, otherwise he is denied due process. Commonwealth v. Jackson,
The Commonwealth's argument on this issue is persuasive. First, appellant was not a suspect in custody but had agreed to questioning. Therefore, Commonwealth v. Jackson, supra, and Commonwealth v. Fowler, supra, cited by appellant as requiring reproduction of the array when a suspect is in custody, do not apply. Second, Commonwealth v. Harris,
Instantly, the Commonwealth did produce the original two photograph albums used. They were books containing essentially the same photographs viewed by Thomas Levis. Thomas Levis positively identified appellant after looking at only seven or eight photographs. Furthermore, Levis had a good opportunity to observe appellant. Consequently, we find enough evidence of reliability to conclude that the trial court properly admitted the testimony. Commonwealth v. Thompkins, supra, and Commonwealth v. Jackson, supra, relied upon by appellant, are distinguishable since in those cases the prosecution presented no record of the array.
Appellant's next argument is that the trial court improperly denied his motion for a change of venue. Appellant argues that Erie County has a population of less than three hundred thousand people and that the case was publicized widely in print, radio, and television media. Appellant alleges that he was prejudiced by emotional references to the slaying, his past criminal record, and references to an alleged confession. He therefore argues that a fair trial could not be held in Erie County and that a change of venue should have been granted. See Groppi v. Wisconsin,
The grant or refusal of a change of venue is within the sound discretion of the trial court, which is in the best position to assess the community feeling, and it will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Tedford,
Commonwealth v. Pursell,
Instantly, individual voir dire was conducted and all jurors indicated that they had not formed a fixed opinion in the case and could apply the law as instructed. The pretrial publicity, while allegedly extensive, was not included in the record. Appellant merely appended copies of newspaper articles to his brief. Accordingly, this argument is waived. Pa.R.A.P. 1921. See also Auman v. Juchniewitz,
We note that these articles predate the trial in excess of one and one-half years, a sufficient time for a "cooling down" period. Commonwealth v. Kichline,
Appellant's next argument is that the trial court erred by admitting appellant's prior criminal record for indecent exposure. Commonwealth v. Turner,
The Commonwealth responds that evidence of a distinct crime may be introduced at the discretion of the trial court for the limited purpose of establishing motive. Commonwealth v. Duffey,
The trial court instructed the jury to consider appellant's two prior offenses for the sole purpose of indicating his
Appellant next raises two arguments concerning the trial court's exclusion of evidence and testimony in his behalf. First, he contends that the trial court improperly denied him the opportunity to admit an old photograph to show that he had light hair at the time of the murder. The trial court was prepared to admit this photograph, but only on the condition that the Commonwealth be permitted to admit a photograph of appellant with dark hair to refute it. Appellant declined this option on the basis that the Commonwealth's photograph was a "mug" shot. Appellant argues that he has a right to present evidence in his defense, without any stipulations, so long as it is relevant and not excluded by an established evidentiary rule. Commonwealth v. Boyle,
It is well-settled that the admission of a photograph is within the sound discretion of the trial court and will be reversed only for an abuse of that discretion. Commonwealth v. McCutchen,
Appellant contends that the trial court prevented him from calling numerous expert witnesses to testify that the failure to obtain the following evidence, which should have been secured at the time of the crime, reduced the implication that he murdered the victim: (1) no attempt to remove a fingerprint from the toy badge ever was made; (2) appellant's
Rulings on the relevancy of proper evidence rest within the sound discretion of the trial court. Commonwealth v. Costanzo,
Appellant's final argument is that the trial court erred by refusing to recuse itself on the following grounds: (1) the trial judge had been a prosecuting attorney with the district attorney's office when the case was an open file; (2)
We find these assertions to be devoid of merit. There is absolutely no evidence of any impropriety on the part of the tipstaff in her duties and we refuse to presume any. The trial judge was assigned by the court administrator. The trial judge stated that he had no prior knowledge of the case stemming from his employment in the district attorney's office. He further determined that he could be impartial despite his association with the prosecutors. Such a determination by the trial judge will stand absent an abuse of discretion. Reilly by Reilly v. SEPTA,
Judgment of sentence affirmed.
- No Cases Found