Challenge to the Sufficiency of the Evidence In Pennsylvania
In evaluating a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we must determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth as verdict-winner, together with all reasonable inferences therefrom, the trier of fact could have found that each and every element of the crimes charged was established beyond a reasonable doubt. Commonwealth v. Jarman, 529 Pa. 92, 94-95, 601 A.2d 1229, 1230 (1992); Commonwealth v. Swann, 431 Pa. Super. 125, 635 A.2d 1103 (Pa. Super. 1994).
"This standard is equally applicable to cases where the evidence is circumstantial rather than direct so long as the combination of the evidence links the accused to the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. Swerdlow, 431 Pa. Super. 453, 636 A.2d 1173, 1176 (Pa. Super. 1994) (citing Commonwealth v. Hardcastle, 519 Pa. 236, 246, 546 A.2d 1101, 1105 (1986)). See also Commonwealth v. Chmiel, 536 Pa. 244, 639 A.2d 9 (1994).
Furthermore, a mere conflict in the testimony of the witnesses does not render the evidence insufficient, for "it is within the province of the fact-finder to determine the weight to be given to the testimony and to believe all, part, or none of the evidence." Commonwealth v. Moore, 436 Pa. Super. 495, 648 A.2d 331, 333 (Pa. Super. 1994).
Nonetheless: to sustain a conviction, the facts and circumstances which the Commonwealth must prove must be such that every essential element of the crime is established beyond a reasonable doubt. Although the Commonwealth does not have to establish guilt to a mathematical certainty, and may in the proper case rely wholly on circumstantial evidence, the conviction must be based on more than mere suspicion or conjecture.
Commonwealth v. Roscioli, 454 Pa. 59, 62, 309 A.2d 396, 398 (1973) (citations omitted). This court has further stated that:
In assessing appellant's sufficiency of the evidence claim, we are mindful that the Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proof by means of wholly circumstantial evidence, which, of necessity, draws into play the affixing of a line of demarcation between the requisite degree of persuasion ("beyond a reasonable doubt") and impermissible speculation.
The former is required while the latter is not tolerated as the basis for a conviction.
Thus, in the Commonwealth's efforts to establish guilt predicated upon circumstantial evidence, it must be kept in mind that "the inferred fact must flow, beyond a reasonable doubt, from the proven fact where the inferred fact is relied upon to establish the guilt of the accused or the existence of one of the elements of the offense." Commonwealth v. Paschall, 333 Pa. Super. 323, 482 A.2d 589, 591-92 (Pa. Super. 1984).