Com. v. Whitman

Citation199 Pa.Super. 631,186 A.2d 632
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. William WHITMAN, Appellant.
Decision Date12 December 1962
CourtSuperior Court of Pennsylvania

Louis C. Glasso, Michael J. Pugliese, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Edward C. Boyle, Dist. Atty., Martin Lubow, Asst. Dist. Atty., Pittsburgh, for appellee.


The question here is the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the conviction of the appellant on the charges of possession of burglary tools 1 and violation of the Uniform Firearms Act. 2

William Whitman, James M. Cononico and William N. Graham of Warren, Ohio, were arrested in the Borough of Pleasant Hills, Allegheny County, late on the night of October 30, 1960, after being stopped by an officer because their automobile's tail light was not illuminated. The automobile was being operated by Cononico in whose name it had been licensed in Ohio. When the officer stopped the automobile, Whitman was sitting beside Cononico on the front seat and Graham was sleeping on the back seat. Two loaded revolvers were under the front seat and the 25 articles listed below were in the trunk. 3 There could be no doubt that these items, especially when considered together, came within the designation of burglary tools. One of the tools in the trunk was a sledge hammer which, according to the opinion of an expert had been used in opening a safe in a burglary which was committed in Pittsburgh several weeks before the appellant and his associates were arrested in Pleasant Hills. The three occupants of the automobile were charged with the burglary, possession of burglary tools and violation of the Uniform Firearms Act. They were tried by the court without a jury and found guilty on all charges. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgments were filed. The motion in arrest of judgment on the burglary charge was granted as to Whitman. The motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment on the other two charges against him were denied. The three defendants were sentenced. Whitman alone appealed to this Court.

The sole question before us is the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the convictions of Whitman on the two indictments on which he was sentenced.

When the three defendants were arrested, Cononico and Graham indicated their knowledge of the tools in the trunk and gave conflicting stories concerning them. Cononico said that the firearms belonged to him. Whitman said that he knew nothing about the firearms found under the front seat and the tools found in the trunk. Whitman's conviction cannot be sustained if he had no knowledge that the firearms and tools were in the automobile. But this knowledge need not be proven by his admission of such knowledge, or by testimony of his associates that he saw these articles. The defendant's knowledge of the presence of these articles may be inferred from all the surrounding circumstances.

Inference is a process of reasoning by which a fact or proposition sought to be established (here the prisoner's knowledge of the presence of the tools in the automobile) is deducted as a logical consequence from other facts, or a state of facts, already proved or admitted. Simon v. Fine, 167 Pa.Super. 386, 391, 74 A.2d 674 (1950). It has also been defined as 'a deduction of an ultimate fact from other proved facts, which proved facts, by virtue of the common experience of man, will support but not compel such deductions.' In re Dilios' Will, 156 Me. 508, 167 A.2d 571, 578 (1960). The right inference or conclusion in point of fact, is itself a matter of fact, and to be ascertained by the jury or fact finder. Simon v. Fine, supra, 167 Pa.Super. p. 391, 74 A.2d at p. 676; Neely v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co., 322 Pa. 417, 423, 185 A. 784 (1936). The inference to be drawn from the established facts is thus for the fact finder and not for us. The question we face is not whether we would draw the same inference as the trial judge, but whether under the evidence he could make such deduction as a logical consequence of other facts or whether his conclusion is a mere guess, surmise, suspicion, or conjecture.

Let us look then, to the 'facts, or state of facts, already proved or admitted.' The defendant and his two friends left their home community in Ohio 'late in the evening' and were picked up by police during the night in Allegheny County, approximately a hundred miles away. They said that they were driving from Warren, Ohio, to Cumberland, Maryland, to look for work, but apparently the judge did not believe this. They were on a joint venture, whether it was going to Cumberland to seek employment, or whether it was going to commit a burglary and break open a safe. The appellant cannot put himself into the class of cases where two persons intent on crime invite an innocent friend to join them for a ride in their automobile.

An examination of the list of the items in the trunk of the car leads one inevitably to the conclusion that a...

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40 cases
  • People v. Burke
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 16 Septiembre 1985 deduced as a logical consequence from other facts, or a state of facts, already proved or admitted. Com. v. Whitman [ (1962) ], 199 Pa.Super. 631, 186 A.2d 632, 633. Inferences are deductions or conclusions which with reason and common sense lead the jury to draw from facts which have be......
  • Com. v. Wojdak
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 18 Octubre 1983 deduced as the logical consequence from the existence of other facts that have been established. See Commonwealth v. Whitman, 199 Pa.Super. 631, 186 A.2d 632 (1950). Accord, Commonwealth v. Gladden, 226 Pa.Super. 13, 311 A.2d 711 (1973). An understanding of the nature of an inference thu......
  • Smith v. Seven-Eleven, Inc.
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    ...Wash.2d 239, 382 P.2d 264, 266(4); Norfolk Coca-Cola Bottling Works v. Krausse, 162 Va. 107, 173 S.E. 497, 502; Commonwealth v. Whitman, 199 Pa.Super. 631, 186 A.2d 632, 633(1); Mechanics' & Traders' Ins. Co. v. Himmelstein, 24 Ohio App. 29, 155 N.E. 806, 809.4 Allen v. Chicago, R.I. & P. R......
  • Hollinger v. Wagner Mining Equipment Co.
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    ...therefor. Greiner v. Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft, 429 F.Supp. 495, 498 (E.D.Pa.1977), quoting Commonwealth v. Whitman, 199 Pa.Super. 631, 634, 186 A.2d 632, 633 (1962) and Mitchell v. Machinery Center, Inc., 297 F.2d 883, 885 (10th Cir. 1961). Plaintiff may not, however, rely on innue......
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