Flight Is An Indication of Guilt
Flight does indicate consciousness of guilt, and a trial court may consider this as evidence, "along with other proof, from which guilt may be inferred." Commonwealth v. Bruce, 717 A.2d 1033, 1037-38 (Pa. Super. 1998), quoted in Commonwealth v. Miller, 721 A.2d 1121, 1125 (Pa. Super. 1998).
Nonetheless, this only holds true in cases in which the other evidence of guilt consists of more than mere presence at the scene.
Our supreme court has instructed that "mere presence on the scene both immediately prior to and subsequent to the commission of a crime and flight therefrom is not sufficient evidence to prove involvement in the crime." Commonwealth v. Goodman, 465 Pa. 367, 370-71, 350 A.2d 810, 811-12 (1976), cited in Paschall, 482 A.2d at 593 (Cirillo, J., dissenting).
"The additional element of flight, which is as consistent with fear as with guilt, does not convert presence into proof of guilt." Goodman, supra at 371, 350 A.2d at 811.
In Roscioli, supra, our supreme court quoted the following pertinent reasoning of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia:
The evidentiary value of flight has depreciated substantially in the face of Supreme Court decisions delineating the dangers inherent in unperceptive reliance upon flight as indicium of guilt.
We no longer hold tenable the notion that "the wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion".
The proposition that "one who flees shortly after a criminal act is committed, or when he is accused of committing it, does so because he feels some guilt concerning that act" is not absolute as a legal doctrine "since it is a matter of common knowledge that men who are entirely innocent do sometimes fly from the scene of a crime through fear of being apprehended as the guilty parties, or from an unwillingness to appear as witnesses."
With cautious application in appreciation of its innate shortcomings, flight may under particular conditions be the basis for an inference of consciousness of guilt.
But guilt, as a factual deduction, must be predicated upon a firmer foundation than a combination of unelucidated presence and unelucidated flight.
Here there was no evidentiary manifestation that the appellant was prompted by subjective considerations related in any way to the crime.
Bailey v. United States, 135 U.S. App. D.C. 95, 416 F.2d 1110, 1114-15 (D.C. Cir. 1969), quoted in Roscioli, supra at 67 n.6, 309 A.2d at 400 n.6.
As was stated in Goodman, supra, "here, the evidence is as consistent with the inference that appellant innocently happened upon the scene and fled out of fear as it is with the inference that appellant was a participant in the burglary." Id. at 371, 350 A.2d at 812.