Commonwealth v. Merced

The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s grant of habeas corpus relief because the lower court erroneously excluded the arresting officer’s hearsay evidence from the court’s scope of review. After being held over on charges associated with allegations of sexual abuse, the defendant filed a habeas corpus petition and argued the Commonwealth had violated McClelland at his two preliminary hearings. At the habeas corpus hearing, the Commonwealth supplemented the preliminary hearing record by offering direct testimony from the victims. The trial court granted the petition in part. It held that McClelland required direct testimony of digital penetration to establish a prima facie case for aggravated indecent assault. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Superior Court reversed. The Court ruled that under McClelland’s interpretation of Pa.R.Crim.P. 542(E), the choice for the trial court was not to consider either the direct testimony of the victims or the hearsay testimony of the police officer. The court should have relied upon both types of evidence; applied them together; and viewed them in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, rather than considering the testimony of the victims as displacing or contradicting that of the officer.

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