Com. v. Edmunds

Decision Date04 February 1991
Citation586 A.2d 887,526 Pa. 374
Parties, 59 USLW 2501, 19 A.L.R.5th 979 COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Louis R. EDMUNDS, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Jeffrey P. Shender, Defender Ass'n of Philadelphia, Theodore Simon, American Civil Liberties Union, Philadelphia, for amici curiae.

John J. Driscoll, Dist. Atty., William C. Gallishen, Asst. Dist. Atty., Greensburg, for appellee.

Catherine Marshall, Ronald Eisenberg, Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia County, Philadelphia, for amicus curiae.



CAPPY, Justice.


The issue presented to this court is whether Pennsylvania should adopt the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule as articulated by the United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). We conclude that a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule would frustrate the guarantees embodied in Article I, Section 8, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Accordingly, the decision of the Superior Court is reversed.

The defendant in the instant case was found guilty after a non-jury trial on August 18, 1987 of criminal conspiracy, 18 Pa.C.S. Section 903(a)(1), simple possession, possession with intent to deliver, possession with intent to manufacture and manufacture of a controlled substance, in violation of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 P.S. § 780-101 et seq. The conviction was premised upon the admission into evidence of marijuana seized at the defendant's property pursuant to a search warrant, after information was received from two anonymous informants.

The trial court held that the search warrant failed to establish probable cause that the marijuana would be at the location to be searched on the date it was issued. The trial court found that the warrant failed to set forth with specificity the date upon which the anonymous informants observed the marijuana. See, Commonwealth v. Conner, 452 Pa. 333, 305 A.2d 341 (1973). However, the trial court went on to deny the defendant's motion to suppress the marijuana. Applying the rationale of Leon, the trial court looked beyond the four corners of the affidavit, in order to establish that the officers executing the warrant acted in "good faith" in relying upon the warrant to conduct the search. In reaching this conclusion the trial court also decided that Leon permitted the court to undercut the language of Pa.R.Crim.P. 2003, 1 which prohibits oral testimony outside the four corners of the written affidavit to supplement the finding of probable cause.

The Superior Court in a divided panel decision, opinion by Wieand J., dissent by Popovich J., affirmed the judgment of the trial court, specifically relying upon the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Leon. Commonwealth v. Edmunds, 373 Pa.Super. 384, 541 A.2d 368 (1988). Allocatur was granted by this Court.

The pertinent facts can be briefly summarized as follows. On August 5, 1985 State Police Trooper Michael Deise obtained a warrant from a district magistrate to search a white corrugated building and curtilage on the property of the defendant. The warrant on its face also included the defendant's residence as part of the property to be searched; however, the Commonwealth now concedes that probable cause did not properly exist for the search of the residence. As the affidavit of probable cause is central to our decision, we will set it forth in full:

On the date of August 4, 1985, this affiant Michael D. Deise, Penna. State Police, was in contact by telephone with two anonymous Males who were and are members of the community where Louis R. Edmunds resides. Both anonymous males advised the affiant that while checking out familiar hunting areas off Rte. 31, east of Jones Mills and along the south side of Rte. 31. (sic) These men observed growing marijuana near a white corrugated building approximately 20 X 40 feet in a cleared off area. These men looked into the building and observed several plants that appeared to be marijuana. This affiant questioned both of these men as to their knowledge of marijuana. This affiant learned that one of these men saw growing marijuana numerous times while he was stationed in Viet Nam. The other male saw growing marijuana while at a police station. This affiant described a growing marijuana plant and its characteristics and they agreed that what they had viewed agreed with the description and also that it appeared to them to be marijuana as fully described by the affiant. The two males wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation or bodily harm. An anonymous male advised this affiant that Louis R. Edmunds lived there. Edmund's description being that of a white male in his middle thirties and he lived at the aforementioned location.

On the 5th of August, 1985, this affiant with the use of a State Police helicopter, flew over the described location and observed the white corrugated building in the mountain area and located as described by the two males. Also on this date this affiant drove past the Rte. 31 entrance and observed a mail box with "Edmunds 228" printed on it.

After obtaining the warrant from the local magistrate, Trooper Deise, accompanied by three other troopers, served the warrant upon the defendant at his residence. Though he did not place the defendant under arrest at this time, the trooper did advise him of his Miranda rights, and had him read the warrant. The trooper also explained to the defendant that the warrant was not for his residence, although the warrant itself included the residence. Rather, the trooper stated that the warrant was meant to relate to the white corrugated building, and that they were searching for marijuana in that building.

The defendant acknowledged that he owned the land in question, but stated that he leased the white corrugated building to a Thomas Beacon. The defendant, followed by the trooper, went to the second floor of his residence to obtain a copy of the lease to demonstrate that the building was in fact leased to Mr. Beacon. Trooper Deise followed the defendant to ensure that he did not obtain a weapon or otherwise endanger the officers. While accompanying the defendant to the second floor, the trooper noticed near the top of the stairs four (4) large transparent plastic bags containing what appeared to be marijuana. Based upon this discovery the trooper placed the defendant under arrest.

After producing the lease which indicated that the white corrugated building was in fact leased to Thomas Beacon, the defendant accompanied the troopers to the building, which was approximately one-quarter of a mile away, up a steep mountainous terrain, on a separate parcel of property owned by Edmunds. The record is devoid of evidence that there was marijuana growing outside the corrugated building. 2 The defendant unlocked the door of the white building and entered with the troopers. Inside the building the troopers discovered seventeen (17) growing marijuana plants, along with gardening implements, high-wattage lights, and a watering system. The marijuana was seized and the charges as recited above were brought against the defendant.

Prior to trial the defendant moved to suppress the marijuana seized in his residence, the marijuana found growing in the white corrugated building, as well as statements made by defendant Edmunds. A suppression hearing was held by the trial court on January 27, 1986, at which time Trooper Deise testified concerning the information set forth in the affidavit of probable cause. Counsel for defendant moved to suppress all of the above evidence, on the ground that the warrant was constitutionally defective, and probable cause was lacking, because the warrant failed to set forth a time frame in which the informants had observed the marijuana.

Recognizing that the affidavit of probable cause was deficient on its face, the trial court granted the request of the district attorney to convene a supplemental suppression hearing, which occurred on April 21, 1986. The express purpose of this hearing was to allow the district attorney to provide oral supplementation of the facts set forth in the written affidavit and warrant, in order to establish a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule under the auspices of Leon. The Commonwealth thus introduced evidence that the two informants had observed the marijuana on August 4, 1986, and that such date had been related to District Justice Tlumac prior to the issuance of the warrant, although it was not contained in the affidavit of probable cause or the warrant itself.

Trooper Deise and District Justice Tlumac each offered testimony consistent with that position. However, the testimony of District Justice Tlumac was somewhat ambivalent. She testified that Trooper Deise appeared in her office on August 5, 1986, and related his conversation with the two anonymous informants. She stated that Trooper Deise thereafter dictated the affidavit, which she typed verbatim. She then prepared and issued the search warrant. When asked whether Trooper Deise had indicated that the events in question had occurred the preceding day, District Justice Tlumac testified as follows: "And I felt with knowing Officer Deise over a period of fifteen, twenty years and had countless search warrants, and they were always fresh, that apparently he wouldn't (sic) bring information that just occurred, that was so fresh. The question wouldn't have even arose (sic) in my mind. And at that time I was under the impression this all occurred the day before."

Upon the close of the supplemental suppression hearing, the trial court found that, strictly adhering to Rule 2003 of the Pennsylvania Rules of...

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