Com. v. Sanchez

CourtSuperior Court of Pennsylvania
Citation416 Pa.Super. 160,610 A.2d 1020
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Luis Miguel SANCHEZ, Appellant.
Decision Date03 June 1992

William T. Cannon, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Karen L. Grigsby, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for Com. appellee.

Before ROWLEY, President Judge, and WIEAND and JOHNSON, JJ.

WIEAND, Judge:

Luis Miguel Sanchez was tried by jury and was found guilty of second degree murder, rape, robbery and burglary in connection with the rape and strangulation death of an eighteen year old woman in Philadelphia on September 21, 1989. He was sentenced to prison for life. 1 On direct appeal from the judgment of sentence, he argues in the alternative that judgment should be arrested because of insufficient evidence or a new trial granted because of trial errors. Of the alleged trial errors the most significant is appellant's contention that it was prejudicial error to allow the jury to hear evidence of a post-arrest, suicidal ideation.

When police were summoned to 1804 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, on September 21, 1989, they found the body of Rosario Sosa lying on the third floor staircase with the cord from an iron drawn tightly around her neck. The medical examiner pronounced her dead at the scene and determined the cause of death to be homicide by ligature strangulation. Vaginal and rectal swabs were positive for the presence of spermatozoa, and vaginal bleeding and tearing suggested forcible rape.

Eighteen year old Rosario had remained home alone when other members of her family had gone to church. Family members leaving for church and neighbors had observed appellant seated a few doors down from the Sosa home. Appellant, therefore, was deemed a suspect. When it was learned that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, police were instructed to take him into custody. Several hours later, appellant was observed by police a block from the scene of the crime. When he was asked to approach the police car, however, appellant fled. After a short chase, in which additional officers participated, appellant was taken into custody. At the homicide unit, appellant waived his rights under Miranda 2 and gave a statement. He admitted that he had been present in the Sosa house, from which he had stolen a VCR, but he denied raping or killing Rosario. Rather, he said, he had tied her to the railing to prevent her from running away, and she had fallen and hung herself while trying to escape. Evidence was also introduced to show that bloodstains on the shirt worn by appellant, which he had attempted to discard while being chased by police, were of the same type as the blood of the victim. Moreover, appellant's blood type placed him within that group of people who were capable of producing the seminal fluid found in the victim's vagina. There was also evidence that two bedrooms in the Sosa house had been ransacked and that a VCR, two watches and $700 in cash had been taken.

Appellant argues that in the absence of an illegally obtained, inculpatory statement, there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's several findings of guilt. In advancing such an argument appellant misperceives the applicable law. A "request for a limited review of the evidence to determine its sufficiency to sustain the jury's verdict is inappropriate." Commonwealth v. DiSabatino, 399 Pa.Super. 1, 4, 581 A.2d 645, 646 (1990). " 'It is well settled ... that in determining the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict, we are required to consider all evidence actually received, whether the trial court's rulings on evidence were correct or incorrect.' " Id., quoting Commonwealth v. Pankraz, 382 Pa.Super. 116, 119-120, 554 A.2d 974, 976 (1989). See also: Commonwealth v. Smith, 523 Pa. 577, 582, 568 A.2d 600, 602-603 (1989); Commonwealth v. Manhart, 349 Pa.Super. 552, 556, 503 A.2d 986, 988 (1986). The proper test is whether, viewing all the evidence admitted at trial, together with all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as the verdict winner, the jury could have found that each and every element of the charged offenses was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. See: Commonwealth v. Smith, supra 523 Pa. at 581, 568 A.2d at 602; Commonwealth v. Hardcastle, 519 Pa. 236, 246, 546 A.2d 1101, 1105 (1988), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1093, 110 S.Ct. 1169, 107 L.Ed.2d 1072 (1990); Commonwealth v. Jackson, 506 Pa. 469, 472-473, 485 A.2d 1102, 1103 (1984). When all the evidence is so viewed, including appellant's inculpatory statement to police, it is abundantly clear that sufficient evidence was produced by the Commonwealth to support appellant's several convictions.

Appellant's inculpatory statement, moreover, was properly received and was entitled to full jury consideration. In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence,

'we must determine whether the factual findings are supported by the record. When it is a defendant who has appealed, we must consider only the evidence of the prosecution and so much of the evidence for the defense as, fairly read in the context of the record as a whole, remains uncontradicted. Assuming that there is support in the record, we are bound by the facts as are found and we may reverse the suppression court only if the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are in error.'

Commonwealth v. Whitney, 511 Pa. 232, 239-240, 512 A.2d 1152, 1156 (1986), quoting Commonwealth v. Cortez, 507 Pa. 529, 532, 491 A.2d 111, 112 (1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 950, 106 S.Ct. 349, 88 L.Ed.2d 297 (1985). See also: Commonwealth v. O'Shea, 523 Pa. 384, 395, 567 A.2d 1023, 1028 (1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 881, 111 S.Ct. 225, 112 L.Ed.2d 180 (1990); Commonwealth v. Hughes, 521 Pa. 423, 438-439, 555 A.2d 1264, 1271-1272 (1989). Contrary to appellant's argument, the police had ample probable cause to take him into custody prior to his interrogation. The evidence produced at a pre-trial suppression hearing was reviewed by the trial court as follows:

Police [O]fficer Joseph Sisca testified that the defendant and the victim's family had difficulties which predated this brutal attack. These difficulties included boasts by the defendant that he had raped two of the sisters previously. The officer also testified that the defendant told the victim's sister to keep Rosario (the victim) in the house today and not to let her out. The defendant made this statement prior to watching the family leave the house for church without the victim.

Police Officer Pedro Vargos testified that he received information concerning a possible perpetrator at the scene also and passed this information on to the detectives assigned.

Police Officer Luis Lazarde testified that at roll call he was told to be on the lookout for a "Hispanic male wearing black baseball cap, white sweatshirt, working boots, possibly wanted for a homicide, 1804 North 7th Street." This information was provided by Sergeant Richard Fehrle.

Detective Raymond Dougherty, the assigned homicide detective[,] collected all of the information at the scene concerning the suspect. This information along with a description was given to the officers at [the] scene and they were directed to pass this information along to the officers reporting for duty at midnight. Detective Dougherty also telephoned his information into homicide headquarters and at approximately 11:30 p.m. received notice that the defendant was also the subject of an outstanding bench warrant for failure to appear at a court proceeding.


Police [O]fficer Lazarde while on patrol received flash information over the radio that the defendant was being pursued by Sergeant Fehrle. Officer Lazarde took up the chase which was approximately one block from the crime scene and within several hours of discovering the victim's body. As he pursued the defendant, Officer Lazarde noticed that the defendant removed the baseball cap and sweatshirt he was wearing and discarded them. These items fit the clothing description which had been broadcast concerning the defendant.

Officer Lazarde caught up with the defendant and after a brief struggle during which the officer was knocked to the ground and injured, the defendant was taken into custody. The defendant was transported to the homicide unit of the Police Administration Building, where, after waiving his Miranda rights, he gave a statement.

"To be constitutionally valid, a warrantless arrest must be supported by probable cause." Commonwealth v. Anderson, 360 Pa.Super. 466, 470, 520 A.2d 1184, 1186 (1987). See also: Commonwealth v. Lewis, 394 Pa.Super. 403, 408, 576 A.2d 63, 66 (1990); Commonwealth v. Merriwether, 382 Pa.Super. 411, 419, 555 A.2d 906, 910 (1989).

In this Commonwealth, the standard for evaluating whether probable cause exists is the "totality of the circumstances" test set forth in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. [416 Pa.Super. 169] 213, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983). See Commonwealth v. Baker, 513 Pa. 23, 518 A.2d 802 (1986), Commonwealth v. Gray, 509 Pa. 476, 503 A.2d 921 (1985). The bench mark of a warrantless arrest is the existence of probable cause, namely, whether the facts and circumstances which are within the knowledge of the officer at the time of the arrest, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime. Commonwealth v. Wagner, 486 Pa. 548, 406 A.2d 1026 (1979).

Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 526 Pa. 268, 272-273, 585 A.2d 988, 990 (1991). See also: Commonwealth v. Fromal, 392 Pa.Super. 100, 112-113, 572 A.2d 711, 717 (1990); Commonwealth v. Butler, 354 Pa.Super. 533, 537-538, 512 A.2d 667, 669-670 (1986).

'When we examine a particular situation to determine if probable cause exists, we consider all the factors and their total effect, and do not concentrate on each...

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    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 10, 1992
    ...A.2d 71, 74 (1941) (defendant's attempt to commit suicide admissible to show consciousness of guilt); Commonwealth v. Sanchez, 416 Pa.Super. 160, 171-173, 610 A.2d 1020, 1026-1028 (1992) (defendant's post-arrest threats to commit suicide admissible to show consciousness of In reliance on th......
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    • December 30, 2022 well as suicidal ideations, may be admissible to establish a person's consciousness of guilt. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Sanchez , 416 Pa. Super. 160, 175-76, 610 A.2d 1020 (1992) (listing decisions from other jurisdictions finding suicide attempts evidence of consciousness of guilt and ......
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    • December 30, 2022 well as suicidal ideations, may be admissible to establish a person's consciousness of guilt. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Sanchez, 416 Pa. Super. 160, 175-76, 610 A.2d 1020 (1992) (listing decisions from other jurisdictions finding suicide attempts evidence of consciousness of guilt and f......
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