Com. v. Jackson

CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBefore JONES; JONES; POMEROY; EAGEN
Citation331 A.2d 189,459 Pa. 669
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Christopher JACKSON, Appellant (two cases).
Decision Date27 January 1975

Page 189

331 A.2d 189
459 Pa. 669
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v.
Christopher JACKSON, Appellant (two cases).
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Jan. 27, 1975.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 7, 1975.

[459 Pa. 671] Jerome E. Bogutz, Philadelphia, for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, First Asst. Dist. Atty.,

Page 190

Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Division, John H. Isom, Carolyn Temin, Asst. Dist. Attys., Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Before JONES, C.J., and O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, POMEROY, NIX and MANDERINO, JJ.

OPINION

JONES, Chief Justice.

Appellant, Christopher Jackson, was indicted for murder, aggravated robbery, conspiracy and carrying a concealed[459 Pa. 672] deadly weapon. Pre-trial motions to suppress appellant's statements were unsuccessful, and, after a trial by jury, appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and aggravated robbery. Post-trial motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were filed and denied, and appellant was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment for life and from five to ten years. From those sentences these appeals followed. 1 We reverse.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. on July 11, 1972, Karl Klaiss, Sr., an off-duty railroad detective, was walking north on 56th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As he neared the intersection of 56th and Ludlow Streets, two youths approached him from behind. Moments later one of the youths shot Mr. Klaiss four times. They then fled through a driveway that connected 56th Street with 57th Street. Coincidentally an off-duty policeman, standing one-half block away, and two officers in a patrolling police van, just entering 56th Street from Chestnut Street, heard the shots and watched the assailants flee. Two of these three policemen, Officers Pourran and Ricks, gave chase but were forced to abandon the footrace--one due to a chronic back injury and the other to render assistance to the victim.

From the officers' observations and that of two additional witnesses, a description of the assailants was flashed over the police radio. The suspects were described as 5 8 in height, with medium builds, medium 5 8 in height, eith medium builds, medium to dark complexions and semi-bush haircuts. 2

[459 Pa. 673] Approximately one hour and one block from the scene of the crime, Officer John Clinkscale, patrolling in a squad car, observed a black youth receiving money from an elderly man. The man was backing away and Officer Clinkscale suspected a robbery. He stopped his car, approached the pair and asked the man if anything was wrong. The man responded in the negative. Officer Clinkscale then noticed that the youth, and appellant herein, matched the physical description of the suspects to the playing of the previous hour. Officer Clinkscale noted, however, that appellant wore light colored trousers and no shirt rather than the described dark clothing. Nonetheless, based on the remaining similarities, Clinkscale arrested the appellant.

After taking the appellant into custody, Clinkscale proceeded one-half block and arrested four other youths who also matched the description. 3 Appellant and the others arrested in connection with the slaying were taken to police headquarters. Appellant was placed in a detention room with the other suspects until the police commenced his interrogation approximately six

Page 191

hours after his arrest. Shortly thereafter appellant confessed.

Appellant raises several grounds for reversal, only one of which we need consider. He primarily contends that the arrest was without probable cause and that, therefore, his confession should have been suppressed as a product of the illegal arrest.

Any arrest must be based on probable cause. U.S.Const., amend, iv; McCray v. Illinois, 386 U.S. 300, 87 S.Ct. 1056, 18 L.Ed.2d 62 (1966); Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 83 S.Ct. 1623, 10 L.Ed.2d 726 (1963); Commonwealth v. Jones, Pa., 322 A.2d 119 (1974), and cases cited therein. In determining the presence of probable cause '(t)he crucial test is whether there were facts [459 Pa. 674] available at the time of the initial apprehension which would justify a man of reasonable caution in the belief that a crime had been committed and that the individual arrested was the probable perpetrator.' Commonwealth v. Jones, 322 A.2d at 123 (citations omitted). We find the arrest here to be clearly without probable cause. The arresting officer had only a very sketchy description consisting of height, general build, hair length and complexion shade. That the description was equally applicable to a great many individuals in the area is demonstrated by the fact that moments later the same officer arrested four additional suspects in the same block in which appellant was seized.

The Commonwealth argues that probable cause for appellant's arrest As a murder suspect existed because the officer observed the appellant engaging in an apparent shakedown. Since the victim was also subjected to such a shakedown, the Commonwealth contends the arrest was justified by the combination of description and modus operandi. Nowhere, however, does the record of the trial reveal that the arresting officer was aware that the slaying occurred in the context of a robbery. The officer testified at both the trial and the suppression hearing that he initially stopped the appellant to investigate his suspicious activity, As a separate and distinct occurrence. Only after he had satisfied himself that nothing was amiss did he notice the appellant's similarity with the broadcast description. Since the facts known to the arresting officer 'at the moment the arrest is made' determines the legality of the arrest, Adams v....

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44 practice notes
  • People v. Lippert, No. 54682
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • February 19, 1982
    ...and bushy-hair portions, was sufficiently limited to avoid arbitrary or wholesale arrests. Cf., Commonwealth v. Jackson (1975), 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189, and Commonwealth v. Richards (1974), 458 Pa. 455, 327 A.2d 63, where general descriptions in more populated areas were held too general ......
  • Aguilera v. Baca, No. CV 03-6328 SVW(CWX).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • September 15, 2005
    ...a bare-bones description that matches an innumerable number of people. See, e.g., Grant, 315 F.3d at 1088; Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189 (1975). Nor is this Page 1229 situation like Brown in which officers are suspected of wrongdoing solely because of their membership i......
  • Juarez v. State, No. 723-85
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • September 27, 1988
    ...835, 101 S.Ct. 108, 66 L.Ed.2d 41 (1980); United States v. Wellins, 654 F.2d 550, 555 (9th Cir.1981); see also Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189 In Bell v. State, 724 S.W.2d 780 (Tex.Cr.App.1986) (a confession case), this Court observed in a confession case that the tempora......
  • State v. Hyde, No. CR-92-0289-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 9, 1996
    ...sufficient to establish probable cause); State v. Mendez, 115 Ariz. 367, 369, 565 P.2d 873, 875 (1977) (same); Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189, 191 (1975) (general description not enough to support arrest Nevertheless, Detective Chambers hurriedly sought these warrants at......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • People v. Lippert, No. 54682
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • February 19, 1982
    ...and bushy-hair portions, was sufficiently limited to avoid arbitrary or wholesale arrests. Cf., Commonwealth v. Jackson (1975), 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189, and Commonwealth v. Richards (1974), 458 Pa. 455, 327 A.2d 63, where general descriptions in more populated areas were held too general ......
  • Aguilera v. Baca, No. CV 03-6328 SVW(CWX).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • September 15, 2005
    ...a bare-bones description that matches an innumerable number of people. See, e.g., Grant, 315 F.3d at 1088; Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189 (1975). Nor is this Page 1229 situation like Brown in which officers are suspected of wrongdoing solely because of their membership i......
  • Juarez v. State, No. 723-85
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • September 27, 1988
    ...835, 101 S.Ct. 108, 66 L.Ed.2d 41 (1980); United States v. Wellins, 654 F.2d 550, 555 (9th Cir.1981); see also Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189 In Bell v. State, 724 S.W.2d 780 (Tex.Cr.App.1986) (a confession case), this Court observed in a confession case that the tempora......
  • State v. Hyde, No. CR-92-0289-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 9, 1996
    ...sufficient to establish probable cause); State v. Mendez, 115 Ariz. 367, 369, 565 P.2d 873, 875 (1977) (same); Commonwealth v. Jackson, 459 Pa. 669, 331 A.2d 189, 191 (1975) (general description not enough to support arrest Nevertheless, Detective Chambers hurriedly sought these warrants at......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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