Com. v. McFarland

Decision Date23 May 1973
Citation452 Pa. 435,308 A.2d 592
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Clifford D. McFARLAND, Appellant. COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Roger H. TALLEY, Appellant.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Nelson M. Galloway, Harrisburg, for appellants.

Marion E. MacIntyre, Deputy Dist. Atty., LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Dist Atty., Harrisburg, for appellee.



JONES, Chief Justice.

On April 6, 1969, the apartment of Antonio Sansone of Harrisburg was burglarized. Property stolen from the Sansone apartment was valued at approximately $263,000 and included two safes, cash, jewelry and securities. On March 12, 1970, eleven months and six days after the burglary, police recovered three negotiable treasury bonds from the possession of appellants, Clifford McFarland and Roger Talley.

On September 17, 1970, after the joint trial of appellants, a Dauphin County jury returned verdicts of guilty as to each appellant, on charges of burglary, larceny and receiving stolen goods. On convictions of burglary appellants were each given ten to twenty year sentences to run concurrently with sentence of two and one-half to five years for receiving stolen goods. No sentence was imposed for either larceny conviction.

McFarland appealed to the Superior Court and the judgment of sentence was affirmed by a four-to-three decision. 222 Pa.Super. 90, 291 A.2d 903 (1972). We granted allocatur. Talley appealed nunc pro tunc to the Superior Court. Because of the identity of issues, we ordered the consolidation of these appeals prior to the Superior Court's disposition of the Talley appeal.

Appellants first allege procedural improprieties prior to trial and specifically question the lack of opportunity to challenge the grand jury array. The appellants were represented by counsel at every prosecutorial stage of this case, but did not raise these issues at trial or in post-trial motions. We will not pass upon the substantive merit of these questions because issues not raised in the court below are waived and cannot be raised for the first time on appeal to this Court. Commonwealth v. Agie, 449 Pa. 187, 189, 296 A.2d 741 (1972); Commonwealth v. Henderson, 441 Pa. 255, 260, 272 A.2d 182, 185 (1971); Commonwealth v. James, 440 Pa. 205, 209, 269 A.2d 898, 900 (1970); Commonwealth v. Nash, 436 Pa. 519, 521, 261 A.2d 314, 315 (1970).

The remaining issues raised by the appellants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the convictions of burglary and larceny 1 and the propriety of the sentences imposed. Because we reverse the burglary and larceny convictions of each appellant, we need not consider the merit of issues which are obviated by our decision. 2

Error is alleged in the refusal of the trial court to sustain the appellant's demurrers to evidence with respect to the charges of burglary and larceny 3 and the court's charge to the jury that a finding of possession of 'recently stolen' property could permit an inference that the appellants were also the thieves. 4

Evidentiary inferences, like criminal presumptions, are constitutionally infirm unless the inferred fact is 'more likely than not to flow from the proved fact on which it is made to depend.' Turner v. United States, 396 U.S. 398, 90 S.Ct. 642, 24 L.Ed.2d 610 (1970); Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6, 89 S.Ct. 1532, 23 L.Ed.2d 57 (1969); Commonwealth v. Shaffer, 447 Pa. 91, 288 A.2d 727 (1972); Commonwealth v. Swiatkowski, 446 Pa. 126, 285 A.2d 490 (1971); Commonwealth v. Owens, 441 Pa. 318, 271 A.2d 230 (1971). Where the inference allowed is tenuously connected to the facts proved by the Commonwealth, due process is lacking.

In Commonwealth v. Shaffer, this Court delineated the applicable criteria for determining whether an evidentiary inference satisfies the 'more-likely-than-not' test. The inquiry necessitates that we look to the following: 'the lapse of time between the crime and the discovery of the property; the type and kind of property; the amount and volume of the property; and the ease in which it may be assimilated into trade channels.' 447 Pa. at 109, 288 A.2d at 737. In Shaffer, the appellant was apprehended twenty-four hours after the two burglaries which were attributed to him and was found possessed of twenty-five pieces of jewelry bearing the initials and names of other individuals. Under those factual circumstances we allowed that the inference of complicity in the burglary could 'more likely than not' flow from the proved fact of possession of recently stolen, non-negotiable property.

In the present case the Commonwealth established that the burglary had been committed at the home of Antonio Sansone, that property valued at $263,000 was taken and that the appellants were apprehended eleven months and six days after the burglary, possessed of some, but not all, of the stolen securities. These treasury bonds were negotiable by delivery alone, but the Commonwealth adduced testimony that bonds of this size are not easily negotiated. The Commonwealth relied heavily upon the clandestine nature of the appellants' meetings with undercover state police agent Albert Pistone, the Commonwealth's principal witness. Agent Pistone testified that he met the appellants covertly and negotiated a purchase price of $60,000, one-half the face value of these bonds. Agent Pistone also testified to the following utterance by McFarland in the presence of Talley: 'What the hell, we'll grab it (the $60,000 offer). We've been all over the damn country spending money trying to get rid of them (the bonds).'

The Commonwealth's case does support the inference that the appellants knew the bonds were stolen property, and thus supports the verdicts of guilty on charges of receiving stolen goods, but there is not sufficient evidence to sustain the inference that appellants participated in the burglary and larceny merely because the stolen items were found in their possession over eleven months later. There is nothing in this record suggesting how the bonds came into the appellants' possession. Since the possibilities of acquisition which do not...

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4 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Robinson
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 19, 2015
    ...possession, which plainly does not satisfy the recency requirement for the Williams inference. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. McFarland, 452 Pa. 435, 308 A.2d 592, 593 n. 1 (1973) (jury instruction on “recency plus lack of explanation” was improper where the arrest occurred eleven months after ......
  • Com. v. Grabowski
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 24, 1988
    ...483, 452 A.2d 827 (1982) (car stolen 2 1/2 months prior found in defendant's possession; conviction affirmed); Commonwealth v. McFarland, 452 Pa. 435, 308 A.2d 592 (1973) (bonds stolen 11 months prior found in defendants' possession; conviction affirmed); Commonwealth v. Cohan, 177 Pa.Super......
  • Com. v. McBride
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 1, 1991
    ...447 Pa. 91, 105-06, 288 A.2d 727, 735-36, cert. denied, 409 U.S. 867, 93 S.Ct. 164, 34 L.Ed.2d 116 (1972). In Commonwealth v. McFarland, 452 Pa. 435, 308 A.2d 592 (1973), this Court set forth the test for reviewing evidentiary inferences: Evidentiary inferences, like criminal presumptions, ......
  • Com. v. Melnyczenko
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 22, 1975
    ...alone cannot stand. Commonwealth v. Turner, 456 Pa. 116, 317 A.2d 298 (1974) (larceny conviction reversed); Commonwealth v. McFarland, 452 Pa. 435, 308 A.2d 592 (1973) (convictions of burglary and larceny reversed; conviction of receiving stolen goods affirmed). See also Commonwealth v. Swi......

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